Consoling the souls of the war dead appears to be one of the important tasks that Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have assumed. Their visit to Palau this week on the 70th year from the end of World War II marks a culmination of their series of journeys to pray for both soldiers and civilians who have died as a result of war.

In 1994, the Imperial Couple visited Iwojima to pray for the souls of both Japanese and American soldiers who were killed in the fierce battle on the island that lasted more than a month from February 1945. In 1995, the 50th anniversary year of the war’s end, they visited not only the atomic-bombed cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima but also Okinawa, where about 200,000 people, including some 12,500 U.S. soldiers, died in 1945 in the major battle there. That same year they also visited a cenotaph in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward to pray for the victims of the March 1945 Great Tokyo Air Raid. In 2005, they visited Saipan Island to pray for Japanese, Koreans and Americans who were killed in the violent battle there in 1944. Last year, they again visited Okinawa, Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

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