Japan marks anniversary of WW2 emperor's death

Japan's imperial family on Wednesday attended a sombre ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Emperor Hirohito.

Japan marks anniversary of WW2 emperor's death

Japan's imperial family on Wednesday attended a sombre ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Emperor Hirohito, who was seen in the West as a symbol of the country's World War Two aggression.

Emperor Akihito -- Hirohito's son -- and his wife Empress Michiko bowed before the burial mound, set in leafy grounds on the western edge of Tokyo. Prime Minister Taro Aso, other politicians and members of the imperial family also attended the Shinto ceremony.

Hirohito, once treated by the Japanese as a god, was kept on the throne by U.S. occupation forces after Japan's 1945 defeat in an attempt to maintain stability in the devastated country, though other wartime leaders were tried and executed.

Debate has simmered over the extent of his responsibility for Japan's sometimes brutal invasion and occupation of much of eastern Asia in the early 20th century.

For many around the world he was permanently associated with the war waged in his name.

Trying to reposition the imperial household as a constitutional monarchy like that of Britain, Hirohito made a post-war statement denying divine status.

Akihito's accession to the throne in 1989 helped Japan to turn the page in relations with its former colonies in Asia and forge a new identify as a peaceful nation.

In 1992, he became the first Japanese emperor to visit China, where he made a statement of regret about the war. He has also expressed feelings of kinship with Koreans, because one of his ancestors had come from there, an unprecedented statement from a Japanese royal that made front-page headlines in Seoul in 2001.

Akihito has also made efforts to get closer to ordinary Japanese, though the household remains more distant than the "bicycling royals" of northern Europe.

A decision to inform the public when Akihito was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2002 fitted into this more open mould -- a contrast to his father, whose final illness was only revealed after his death.

Events to mark the anniversary of Akihito's accession to to the throne [ID:nT306075] will be held in November. The 75-year-old and his wife also mark their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

Reuters
Last Mod: 07 Ocak 2009, 13:27
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