Seventy-three years have passed since the end of World War II. With the Emperor’s abdication approaching next spring, this year marked the last Aug. 15 of the Heisei era. On that day, the Emperor and Empress, attended the annual memorial service for the country’s war dead. The Emperor and Empress have continued their commemorative journeys to the sites of battles.
When he was still crown prince, the Emperor said, “In Japan, there are four things that we must remember.” He listed the end of the Battle of Okinawa, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the end of World War II itself. Such thoughts and attitudes of the Emperor and Empress have been passed down to the families of Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino.
Visiting Palau on their commemorative journey to mark 70 years since the end of World War II, the Emperor and Empress placed a floral tribute at the West Pacific Ocean Monument to the War Dead on the island of Peleliu on the morning of April 9, 2015.
On Oct. 20, 2015, the Empress turned 81. For her birthday, she gave written answers to questions from the Imperial Household Agency Press Club.
She said she felt that year offered “valuable opportunities to revisit the past and deepen our understanding of Japan and the world in those days." The Empress said she saw beautiful birds flying below the helicopter that carried them to the island of Peleliu, where about 10,000 Japanese soldiers were honorably defeated. “I was overcome with emotion, as though we were encountering the souls of those who had lost their lives there.”
On Dec. 23, 2015, the Emperor turned 82. On marking 70 years since the end of the war, he said, “I feel that it was a year in which I spent much time thinking about the war in various ways.”
“The war claimed a great many lives, nonmilitary as well as military. Had peace prevailed, these people could have led meaningful lives in various areas of society,” he said. He also touched on the increasing number of people who have never experienced war, saying, “I believe having thorough knowledge about the last war and deepening our thoughts about the war is most important for the future of Japan.”
A New Year’s poetry reading by Imperial family members was held on Jan. 14, 2016, in the Matsu-no-Ma State Room of the Imperial Palace. The theme was “person.”
The Emperor’s poetry referred to his visit to Palau in April 2015 during his commemorative trip to mark 70 years since the end of the war. He read aloud his writing about the moment when he paid floral tribute at the West Pacific Ocean Monument to the War Dead on the island of Peleliu and then bowed toward Angaur Island, about 10 kilometers southwest of Peleliu.
The Emperor and Empress visited the Philippines and attended a banquet on Jan. 27, 2016, hosted by President Benigno Aquino.
The Emperor touched on the fact that the Philippines became the field of a hard-fought battle between Japan and the United States, which claimed many Filipino lives, by saying, “This is something we Japanese must never forget and we intend to keep this engraved in our hearts throughout our visit.”
The Emperor and Empress visited the Musashino Imperial Graveyard in Hachioji, Tokyo, on April 12, 2016, to pay their respects at the mausoleums of the late Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun.
According to the Imperial Household Agency, the Emperor and Empress informed their late predecessors of their visit that January to the Philippines, where they consoled the souls of the war dead.
The Emperor and Empress flew to Okinawa Prefecture on March 27, 2018, where they offered flowers at the National Okinawa War Dead Mausoleum in Itoman and met the families of victims of the Battle of Okinawa.
It was their 11th visits to Okinawa. The Emperor and Empress were welcomed at their hotel by elementary and junior high school students in the prefecture who had been dispatched to the mainland in the past as “kid reporters.”