(From Asahi Shimbun)
CALIRAYA, Philippines–Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko paid their respects on Jan. 29 to 520,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians who died in the Philippines during World War II to wrap up a five-day visit to the country.
The imperial couple, on their first trip to the Philippines since Akihito took the throne, bowed their heads and laid white chrysanthemums they brought from Japan at a cenotaph in the Japanese Memorial Garden in Caliraya on the outskirts of Manila.
About 150 former Japanese soldiers and bereaved family members joined the imperial couple at the memorial, and after paying their respects, Akihito and Michiko unexpectedly approached many of them to offer words of consolation and encouragement.
The ceremony was planned because the imperial couple have a strong desire to pay their respects to deceased Japanese soldiers and victims of the war overseas as well as in Japan.
“The visit is symbolic of a couple who want to remember those who died during the war even after the 70th anniversary of the war’s end last year,” said a senior official of the Imperial Household Agency.
Before departing for the Philippines on Jan. 26, the emperor promised he and the empress would “pay our respects at the monument dedicated to the souls of the Japanese war dead who perished in many parts of the Philippines.”
The cenotaph was constructed by the Japanese government in 1973 and serves as a venue for the bereaved families of Japanese soldiers to pray for the souls of the deceased.
The emperor and empress had originally been scheduled to meet eight representatives of the Japanese-Filipino community on Jan. 28. But the imperial couple requested a larger gathering, so about 90 more were allowed to attend the event. The Japanese-Filipinos who attended included children of Japanese who emigrated before the war and stayed on in the Philippines after the war. Read more