Japan holds first National Memorial Service for War Dead in the Reiwa era

Emperor Naruhito said he felt ‘deep remorse’ because of World War II and quoted his father during a speech to honor the fallen

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Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako pay their respects to war dead. (AP photo)

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako pay their respects to war dead. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The first National Memorial Service for War Dead in the Reiwa era (令和) was held on Thursday (Aug. 15), the 74th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, NHK reports.

Around 6,500 people participated in the memorial service, including Emperor Naruhito (徳仁) and Empress Masako (雅子). It was the first time for both Naruhito and Masako to attend the annual memorial, which is held at Nippon Budokan (日本武道館).

Naruhito said that it had been a difficult journey for the nation’s people to build prosperity and peace after the end of the war. He quoted from his father, the abdicated Emperor Akihito (明仁), that he sincerely wishes with “deep remorse” the same tragedy will not happen again.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (安倍晋三) mentioned the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, air raids on Tokyo, and the battle of Okinawa. He said that his pledge was to “prevent the tragedy of war from happening again” and this would remain unchanged in the Reiwa era.

More than 50 representatives and councilors paid their respects to the war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine (靖國神社). This, however, has been considered controversial, as the shrine includes 14 A-Class war criminals, including Hideki Tojo (東條英機), who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Abe has not visited the Yasukuni Shrine since 2013 and no other minister-level officials have done so either since 2017, possibly for fear of worsening the relationship with China. However, Tomomi Inada (稲田朋美), special advisor to the Liberal Democratic Party president, visited the shrine and offered a “tamagushi fee” (玉串料), a form of Shinto offering, on behalf of Abe.

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Prime Minister Shizo Abe at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery. (AP photo)