Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto reiterated “deep remorse” Friday for Japan’s wartime acts and voiced his condolences to the victims, particularly those elsewhere in Asia, on the 52nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender to the Allies.
Japan has a responsibility to “create world peace and to not repeat the tragedy of war,” he said.
Speaking at a government-sponsored annual ceremony at Nippon Budokan Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to mourn the war dead, Hashimoto said, “The last war caused tremendous pain and sorrow not only to our country but also to people in many countries, particularly those in neighboring parts of Asia.
“Accepting this fact humbly, I would like to express my profound mourning and deep regret,” he said.
The Emperor and Empress, about 6,400 relatives of the war dead and 1,000 people from the government and Diet attended the ceremony. They included Cabinet ministers, Lower House Speaker Soichiro Ito, Upper House President Juro Saito and representatives of political parties and prefectural governments.
Hashimoto said Japan must always remind itself that its prosperity was built on the sacrifices of many lives. “It is our important obligation to look back at the past with sincerity now that we have peace and prosperity, to pass on to the younger generation knowledge of the sacrifices of the war dead and build a permanent peace, in order to avoid a recurrence of the disaster of a terrible war,” Hashimoto said.
“As a nation that plays an important role in international society, we pledge here that we will make utmost efforts to realize world peace and create a better society where people can live peacefully,” he said.
This year, Hashimoto did not visit Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead. His visit to the shrine in July 1996 angered China. Instead, before attending the Budokan ceremony, he visited Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, where the remains of about 340,000 unknown Japanese soldiers are interred. One person there shouted to him, “Why don’t you go to Yasukuni?”
Leaders of the Social Democratic Party go to the cemetery on Aug. 15 every year to pray for the souls of those who were killed in the war and for peace.
Hashimoto made his speech at the Budokan just before noon, when he and nearly 7,000 participants at the ceremony offered a minute of silent prayer for the 3.1 million Japanese who died in the war, which also claimed the lives of some 20 million people in other parts of Asia as well.
After the prayer, the Emperor gave a brief speech, voicing hopes for world peace and Japan’s prosperity. “Hoping that the ravages of war will never be repeated, I offer my heartfelt condolences to those who died on the battlefield and fell victim to the war, and pray for world peace and our country’s further development,” he said. There was a record turnout of 531 relatives of the war dead aged 80 or older.
The oldest participant was Atsuko Morita, 95, of Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, who lost her husband in fighting in present-day North Korea. The youngest was Motohiro Kittsui, 17, of Kahoku, eastern Kochi Prefecture. His grandfather died in combat in the Philippines.