Japan honors wwii dead as virus continues to rage

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Japan honors wwii dead as virus continues to rage

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a ceremony in Tokyo on August 15th, the 77th anniversary of its defeat in World War II, as the novel coronavirus continues to rage throughout the nation, as it commemorates the war dead at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo.

Around 1,000 people attended the ceremony at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo, one-sixth the number in a normal year. The dignitaries included Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Some 600 relatives of the war dead from across the country were present at the event, up from last year's record low of 53 when the country was in the grip of the fifth wave of infections.

There were about 5,000 relatives attending each year until the pandemic hit. Japan's war dead are estimated to be 3.1 million.

All attendees observed a minute of silent prayer at noon during the ceremony.

The emperor said in his address that he earnestly hopes that the ravages of war will never be repeated while referring to feelings of deep remorse as he reflected on the nation's past, just as he did in previous speeches for this occasion.

He also touched on the ongoing pandemic that continues to disrupt life across the country.

While we are currently faced with various difficulties caused by the spread of COVID 19, I sincerely hope that we all work together with a unity of mind to overcome this difficult situation and to continue to seek happiness for the people and world peace, he said.

Before the silent prayer, Kishida pledged not to have the horrors of war repeating itself, and mentioned Japan's efforts to push for pacifism, an expression first used by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the 2020 ceremony.

Kishida, however, did not refer to Japan's responsibility for the war during his speech, following in the steps of Abe, who was murdered last month, and Yoshihide Suga, his immediate predecessor.

Since Abe took power for a second term in 2013 the reference has been gone. Up to that point, all of the previous prime ministers had expressed their thoughts on the nation's wartime aggression and offered condolences to victims of other Asian countries.

Kenichi Otsuki, an 83-year-old man from Okayama Prefecture, gave a speech on behalf of the bereaved families that described the hardships he endured after the war without his father.

He said his father, Katsumi, was sent to China and killed in the firefight in Hebei province. It happened just 16 days before Otsuki was born.

Kenichi, his mother and sister, struggled to survive through farming, toiling in the field until late in the evening when they would return to their unlit home.

When I was a child, I remember crying with my mother and wondering why we have to endure such misery, he said.

He noted that victims of war are still being produced in the world, such as Ukraine, even 77 years after World War II.

More than one-third of the families expected to attend the ceremony were born after the war, representing a change in attendance, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Of the relatives in attendance, 215 were born after the war, representing a record 36.3 percent and an increase of more than 10 percentage points from the ceremony five years ago.

One spouse was expected to attend this year's ceremony, according to the ministry.

Spouses accounted for 10 percent of the relatives showing up in the 2000 event.