Empress Michiko, marking her 80th birthday Monday, expressed hope that peace can be brought about by removing sources of conflict ahead of the 70th anniversary next year of the end of World War II.
War-bereaved families have “consistently engaged in activities aimed toward a peaceful world, free of war,” the Empress said in a statement, referring to the many sacrifices and difficulties experienced by the public during and after World War II.
“It is important for all of us today who are enjoying the benefits of peace to continue to make every effort to nip the buds of conflict and suffering both in Japan and abroad, and to always aspire strongly toward peace in the world,” she said.
She voiced appreciation for Emperor Akihito, who turned 80 last year, saying that he “has always remained modest and humble” and “has constantly guided me and the children, at times strictly, but always with a generous heart.”
“This, I believe, is what has allowed me to come this far,” she said, looking back on 55 years of marriage.
Reflecting on her life, the Empress recalled memories including from childhood when she said she became close to nature. She also touched on her experience of having to evacuate during wartime and meeting her parents on the morning of the day she married into the Imperial family.
“Over the years, in fulfilling both my role in managing my home, including raising the children, and my official role in carrying out my duties, I have constantly received help and cooperation from so many members of the staff,” she said.
“I have also been given support by the people who have always watched over me,” she added.
On the war, the Empress said she was “struck” by a newspaper story about Tsuneo Murayama, who died after working to compile a list of Japanese who lost their lives when they were detained in Siberia afterward.
“The story reminded me of the long postwar history of each person who experienced war and each person who lost family members in the war,” she said.
She also mentioned the large number of civilian vessels that were commandeered during the war and that about 60,000 people died when their vessels were sunk while on duty.
“I believe that next year, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, will be a year when we will all think about what life must have been like for many people during and after the war,” she said.
The government has announced that it will arrange a visit by the Imperial Couple to the Pacific battlefield of Palau next year to console the souls of the war dead.
On the sentencing of Class-A war criminals, the Empress said she “cannot forget the intense fear” she felt when she heard the news, though she was still a junior high school student then and “knew little about the reasons and circumstances leading to the war and to Japan’s defeat.”
“I think it was a shuddering sense of apprehension at the realization that there are those in positions who could be held responsible for the country and its people, something above and beyond the individual,” she said.
Referring to the natural disasters that hit the nation this year, such as the torrential rain in the city of Hiroshima and the eruption of Mount Ontake, the Empress expressed her condolences to the victims.
She also displayed her appreciation and respect for those engaged in the search and rescue operations.