Koizumi vows lasting peace
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi marked the 56th anniversary of the end of World War II on Wednesday with a pledge that Japan would do its utmost to achieve a lasting peace.
Speaking at a government-sponsored ceremony, Koizumi said, "We will make wholehearted efforts to work toward eternal world peace and to realize a society where people are full of hope, and live spiritually rich lives."
The ceremony was held at the Nippon Budokan in Kitanomaru Park, in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, with the Emperor and Empress attending.
About 5,300 relatives of those who died in the war, and about 1,000 dignitaries from political, bureaucratic and business circles--including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the House of Councillors--attended the ceremony, which started shortly before noon.
They offered a prayer for the souls of about 3.1 million Japanese who were killed in the war, and renewed their pledge to maintain peace in the 21st century.
A monument on which the phrase, "For the souls of the war dead all over the nation," was inscribed was placed at the center of the ceremony stage, which was decorated by about 25,000 white and yellow chrysanthemums.
The ceremony began at 11:50 a.m. After the attendants sang the national anthem, "Kimigayo," Koizumi delivered his speech.
This year, the prime minister mentioned Japan's Asian neighbors in his speech, perhaps due to the fact that China and South Korea have expressed negative feelings toward Japan over Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Monday and the controversy over a middle school history textbook.
"Japan bears the responsibility to maintain and develop friendly ties with neighboring countries and to establish eternal world peace," Koizumi said in the speech.
Past prime ministers' speeches at the previous ceremonies referred to, "that war," which inflicted much suffering on other Asian countries.
But for the first time this year, Koizumi departed from ambiguous language, admitting that, "our nation" caused the suffering.
He also expressed "a deep remorse" and "a feeling of sorrow" for war victims in Asian countries.
From noon, attendants offered a one-minute silent prayer, followed by a speech from the Emperor.
"I sincerely hope that the tragedies of war will not be repeated. Together with all the Japanese people, I express from the bottom of my heart mourning for the victims who were killed on the battlefield and in war-related incidents. I pray for world peace and our nation's further development," the Emperor said.
Minoru Masuya, 61, from Matsushigecho, Tokushima Prefecture, whose father died of disease in China during a military mission, delivered a speech representing bereaved family members.
"I reiterate my pledge to make efforts for world peace and freedom, for which the victims desperately hoped. I swear that we will live up to the wishes of the war dead," Masuya said.
The attendants offered flowers in front of the stage while an orchestra played Beethoven's Eroica Symphony and other classical pieces.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 5,274 bereaved family members attended the ceremony. About 2.3 million Japanese soldiers and paramilitary servicemen and about 800,000 Japanese civilians were killed in World War II, according to government statistics.
source: Daily Yomiuri On-Line, Aug. 17, 2001