Crown Prince Naruhito, marking his 55th birthday on Monday and ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II later this year, called for accounts of history to be handed down correctly.
“I myself did not experience the war, but it is important to look back on the past humbly and correctly pass down tragic experiences and the history behind Japan to the generations who have no direct knowledge of the war, at a time memories of the war are about to fade,” he said at a news conference prior to his birthday.
He characterized postwar Japan as “enjoying peace and prosperity after it was built with the Japanese Constitution as the cornerstone.”
“I hope this year will be an opportunity to take the preciousness of peace to heart and renew our determination to pursue peace,” the Crown Prince said.
He was speaking in response to a question about the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this summer.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to deliver a statement on the occasion, and there is speculation he may seek to recast Japan’s role in a less apologetic tone.
The Abe government has separately petitioned publishers and others to rewrite accounts of the nation’s wartime actions that it sees as incorrect and damaging to Japan’s image, sparking criticism from U.S. scholars.
The Crown Prince’s grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, was once revered as divine but accepted a modest status after the war to promote peace and democracy.
The Imperial family has no political powers but current Emperor Akihito has played an important role in working to heal the wounds of the war that was waged across Asia in his father’s name.
Abe’s statement on the anniversary will be closely watched by the United States — and by China and South Korea, where bitter wartime memories run deep — for any sign he is diluting past apologies.
The Crown Prince has reached the same age as when his father, now 81, assumed the throne. He said he feels both serious and moved.
“I will make efforts while learning from the Emperor, who has been seeking the way of existence as the symbol” of the country and the unity of the people as stipulated in the Constitution, as well as from his mother, Empress Michiko, 80, who has been supporting him, he said.
As for his 13-year-old daughter, Princess Aiko, who attends junior high school, he expressed hope she will acquire experiences little by little and deepen her understanding of the duties of the Imperial family.
On Crown Princess Masako, 51, who has been receiving treatment for a stress-induced illness for about 11 years, he said her health is getting better and that he wants his wife to broaden the scope of her activities without being too impatient.
Meanwhile, he said he is “deeply hurt” by the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and terrorism that has taken citizens’ lives — including those of Japanese nationals.
Touching on the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Crown Prince praised the activities of residents of Hyogo Prefecture to convey experiences of the disaster and a successful event for the Tohoku region’s reconstruction held by high school students in Paris.