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News photo
Well-wishers wave to the Emperor as he appears Saturday at the Imperial Palace for his 73rd birthday.
AP PHOTO


“I believe that it is extremely important to mourn the war dead,” he said Wednesday during the customary news conference ahead of his birthday. But asked a question related to the subject, he stopped short of mentioning the Shinto shrine, where top war criminals are honored along with Japan’s war dead.
The Emperor has long placed importance on mourning the war dead. He attends the national Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead every year and has visited former battlefields in Okinawa and overseas. He has not been to Yasukuni since his enthronement in 1989.
It was reported in July that Emperor Hirohito, the current Emperor’s father and known posthumously as Emperor Showa, expressed displeasure with Yasukuni’s enshrinement of the war criminals in 1978 and cited that as the reason why he did not visit the shrine after 1975.
The reports, citing a memo from 1988 kept by a former Imperial Household Agency official, sparked fresh debate over the shrine’s role.
The current Emperor, asked if he had talked to his father about his feelings regarding mourning the war dead or about what form the act of mourning should take, said, “I had never heard – from Emperor Showa regarding the mourning of the war dead.”

On the September birth of Prince Hisahito, his first grandson and the first heir to the throne in 41 years, the Emperor said his first impression was that the prince was “a very fine and healthy baby.”

“A recent image of Hisahito I have in my mind is of him gazing up at me while I am near him,” he said.

Regarding the education of the future potential emperor, the Emperor said, “I believe that for the time being it is important for him to be reared with the loving affection” of his parents and two elder sisters.

Prince Hisahito, the first son of Prince Akishino, the emperor’s second son, and Princess Kiko, is third in line to the throne after Crown Prince Naruhito, the Emperor’s eldest son, and Prince Akishino.

On Saturday, the Emperor expressed gratitude to thousands of well-wishers who gathered at the Imperial Palace for his birthday.

“I thank you for congratulating me on my birthday . . . I hope the coming year will become a bright and happy one for you,” the Emperor said from the glassed-in balcony of the palace’s main building, while the crowd waved Hinomaru flags and shouted the traditional banzai cheer.

An estimated 16,400 people gathered for his three appearances during the morning. The estimate was 2,400 more than last year, the Imperial Household Agency said.

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