Japanese Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” for Japan’s atrocities in World War II on Sunday, which marked the 76th anniversary of the country’s surrender to Allied forces.
A prevailing message: Naruhito, whose role as emperor is mostly ceremonial, is a grandson of Emperor Hirohito, the man who led Japan during the war. He delivered his message — which was largely similar from last year’s — in an annual memorial ceremony in Tokyo.
- “Looking back on the long period of post-war peace, reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never again be repeated,” said Naruhito, who attended the event for the third time as emperor, according to Xinhua.
- During the war, the Empire of Japan sided with Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy to become the major leaders of the Axis powers. It’s unclear exactly how many people Japan had killed, but its conflict with the Republic of China (ROC) alone — which predated the war and ended with its defeat in 1945 — saw the death of up to 20 million Chinese people.
A smaller audience: Due to COVID-19, the annual ceremony only had 185 attendees, the smallest audience since Japan started the event in 1963. In his speech, Naruhito said he also hopes to overcome the “unprecedented ordeal” brought about by the pandemic.
- Before his speech, Naruhito and Empress Masako offered a minute of silent prayer to Japan’s war dead. Some 3.1 million Japanese lost their lives during the war, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
- All prime ministers since Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993 have reportedly cited Japan’s wartime atrocities by voicing “deep remorse” or offering “condolences” during the ceremony. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, made no such references in nearly eight years of office.
- Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office last year, made his first appearance at the ceremony on Sunday. Like Abe, he reportedly did not refer to Japan’s wartime responsibility, but he promised that the country will never wage war again.