Emperor Naruhito followed in his father's footsteps in expressing "deep remorse" over the war Japan waged in the 1930s and '40s in his first speech at the annual ceremony commemorating the nation's 3.1 million war dead, at Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo on Thursday.

Facing an altar blanketed with white and yellow chrysanthemums, the emperor said, "Looking back on the long period of postwar peace, reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated."

The speech, given at the service marking the 74th anniversary since Japan's surrender ended World War II, was similar in style and content to those that his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, gave in previous years.