Emperor Akihito turns 82, pays tribute to WWII victims and people living with its legacy

Kyodo, Staff Report

Emperor Akihito turned 82 on Wednesday, paying tribute to all who suffered during World War II, including those in Japan and overseas who live with its legacy today. He said it is “most important” for Japan’s future that the war is remembered and understood.

“Looking back over the past year, I feel that it was a year in which I spent much time thinking about the war in various ways,” he said.

“With each passing year, we will have more and more Japanese who have never experienced war, but I believe having thorough knowledge about the last war and deepening our thoughts about the war is most important for the future of Japan,” he said.

The Emperor made the comments at a press conference held in advance of his birthday. Their publication was embargoed until the day itself.

The Emperor told reporters he is “beginning to feel” his age. “There were times when I made some mistakes at events,” he said, adding that he will try “to minimize such incidents by continuing to do the best I can” during official duties.

The news conference was barely that: In consideration of his age, only one question was allowed to be put to the Emperor. Last year, the press corps was allowed to throw two.

The Emperor and Empress Michiko, 81, spent parts of the year commemorating the war dead, visiting World War II battle sites and meeting with people who experienced the conflict both at home and abroad. In April, the Imperial Couple visited the Pacific island nation of Palau, the site of a major battle during the war.

“It pains me deeply to think of the many who lost their lives” during the war, the Emperor said, as they “could have led meaningful lives in various areas of society” had peace prevailed.

Recalling his trip to Palau, the Emperor said the country, when seen from the air, “is made up of beautiful islands surrounded by coral reefs,” but countless unexploded bombs remain submerged in the sea. He said, let it never be forgotten that the war “has imposed a heavy burden on the people living on those islands.”

His voice trembled as he spoke of the sinkings of many civilian vessels transporting military supplies and personnel, noting that the war took away many lives, including those of civilians such as the sailors who crewed the ships.

“In those days, Japan lacked command of the air and no battleships were available to escort the transport vessels. It gives me great pain to think of the feelings of the sailors who had to engage in transport operations under such conditions,” he said.

The Emperor also expressed sympathy for those affected by natural disasters this year, such as a volcanic eruption on Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture and heavy rain that pounded the Japanese archipelago in September. He praised the efforts of volunteers to help the victims.

Looking back on the year, the Emperor expressed the pleasure he took from two Japanese scientists winning Nobel Prizes in medicine and physics, and the successful test flight of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Japan’s first domestically produced commercial passenger jet.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute to the state of bilateral relations that continue to prosper under Emperor Akihito.

“On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I would like to take the opportunity to send my warmest wishes to the Emperor of Japan on the occasion of his birthday, and to congratulate the people of Japan on this national day of celebration,” Kerry said in a statement.

He said Washington and Tokyo share a “mutual commitment” to peace and prosperity for the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, and noted that the two nations are working as partners on matters of global concern, such as the fight against Ebola.

  • skillet

    One thing that is upsetting to me is that it is impossible for a Japanese person to get their hands on one of the most precious relics of WW2. That is the Arisaka. It is a fine battle weapon and highly acccurate.

    Our family is bi-cultural, living mainly in American but often going back and forth between both countries. When our family has a male Japanese visitor, they are always happy to go to the shooting range and fire these fine weapons of war. (The women folk stay home and have tea as the shopping is much better in Japan than the American hinterland where we reside).

    Japan needs to encourage that samurai spirit. It will add vitality to the culture. My own opinion is that many of these traditional male virtues would help problems such as the economy and birthrate.

    Women prefer strong men to well groomed sensitive men.

    The one WW2 victim that we all need to pay tribute to is the samurai spirit. Although the Japanese samuria business warrior salarymen of the 90’s still were among the best men planet earth had to offer !

    (That revival of masculinity is hard to do in an excessively urban country. That is why rather than signing TPP and selling out the farmers and agriculture, the government needs to encourage the young to revitalize the small farms. Nobody possesses the powerful male and female yin yang energies than a young farm couple at peak fertility. When I wAS teaching in the public schools, all the children used to sing WAKAI CHIKARA at undoukai or field day. That is what Japan needs to get back to.

    I see some young folks in America geting back to the land and thereby connecting with their innner vital forces. Once agaoin, it is the contact with nature and the land and thingss like firearms that bring forth masculine energies. In modern hyper-commercial Japan, this vitality is slipping away.)

    Although I personally am Christian, I think the Emperor and Emperess could preach certain spiritual virtues like the pre-war emperors did to cause Japan to re-enter the world stage like a powerful dragon !)

    • mayday

      I am of the impression that the current generation of Japanese men are pretty overworked as is.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Excellent photo of Japan’s Imperial couple in these somehwat unexpectedly trying times.

  • Nihondaisuki

    Sincere Happy Birthday wishes to the Emperor!

  • Liars N. Fools

    富國強平. A Japan at peace and anti-war is the genuinely powerful country. Felicitations to the Emperor and Empress.

    • Tachomanx

      I agree, but you missed on the part of not being afraid to fight if it comes to it.
      As a good martial artist, you don’t go around looking for a fight but you are certainly capable of giving one.

  • Peony-2000s

    Very good, and humane, royal comments from the Throne.
    I am sure that the “war” referred to in the comments means war and history from a world perspective with 21st century relevance, not simply from a Japanese one.