Empress Michiko, on the occasion of her 81st birthday Tuesday, recalled her April trip to Palau with Emperor Akihito to commemorate those who lost their lives there during World War II, saying it “has left an unforgettable impression on me.”
Concerning her health after being diagnosed with myocardial ischemia in August, the Empress said in her written responses to questions from journalists: “Thank you for asking about my health. So far, I have been able to continue as I have done before, without much change.”
Some 16,000 Japanese soldiers died battling U.S. forces in the Western Pacific nation of Palau, while nearly 2,000 U.S. troops perished there.
Referring to the “beautiful birds” she saw while flying by helicopter to Peleliu Island, scene of some of the fiercest fighting, the Empress wrote: “I was overcome with emotion, as though we were encountering the souls of those who had lost their lives there.
“I realized deeply once again how so many people in society are living with grief in their hearts and that, for them, the departed continue to live with them long after their departure.”
The Empress wrote she was “heartened” by the fact that her sons, Crown Price Naruhito and Prince Akishino, as well as their children, have taken part in events and exhibitions related to the war and have been “making the effort to think seriously about war and peace.”
With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the war’s end, she reflected anew on “what must have been on Emperor Showa’s mind at the time,” referring to Emperor Akihito’s father, who before his death was named Emperor Hirohito, and the speech he made announcing Japan’s surrender in 1945.
Looking back at the past year, the Empress said she was saddened by the natural disasters that hit Japan, such as volcanic eruptions and torrential rain.
Thinking of the numerous evacuees from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster, the Empress said she worries about the many difficulties they have to face.
She meanwhile wrote that she rejoiced to hear that Japanese scientists Satoshi Omura and Takaaki Kajita were recently awarded Nobel Prizes.
Regarding sporting achievements, she said she is looking forward to the Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan in 2019, following the three victories recorded by the Japanese national team in the 2015 tournament currently taking place in Britain.