In remarks released ahead of his 85th birthday Sunday, Emperor Akihito expressed his relief that the era of his reign is coming to an end without Japan having been drawn into fighting any wars again.

"It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in World War II and that the peace and prosperity of postwar Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people, and to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war," he said at a news conference ahead of his last birthday before his planned abdication on April 30.

"It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei Era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan," he added.