Peace pledged at memorial ceremony

About 7,000 people attended the National Memorial Service for the War Dead, which was held Saturday at the Nippon Budokan arena in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to mourn for the souls of about 3.1 million people who died during World War II. This year's ceremony also marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

The attendees at the government-organised memorial service included mourning family members - from widows to a great-great-grandchild - and representatives of various groups in the nation.

The ceremony began shortly before noon. After the Emperor and Empress appeared on the stage, the attendees sang the national anthem.

In his address at the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: "I pledge that we shall never again repeat the horrors of war and that we shall carve out a future for the nation for the generation alive now and the generations of tomorrow."

As the clock struck noon, all the attendees offered a silent prayer for a minute. Then the Emperor gave his address.

The Emperor said, "Our country today enjoys peace and prosperity, thanks to the ceaseless efforts made by the people of Japan towards recovery from the devastation of the war and towards development, always back by their earnest desire for the continuation of peace."

The Emperor also mentioned a sense of "deep remorse" about the war and expressed deep mourning for the war dead.

Yukiko Noma, 73, from Matsubara, Osaka Prefecture, whose father died in New Guinea during the war, delivered a speech, representing bereaved family members of the war dead.

She said, "Wars are tragic and atrocious. We will firmly tell the next generation, who do not know a war, about how precious peace is and how important lives are."

Then representatives of bereaved family members of each prefecture offered flowers, followed by six great-grandchildren of the war dead aged 9 to 17, who represented the young people who are expected to pass on memories of the tragedies of the war to future generations.

Generational changes among attendees of the annual memorial service have been progressing. Among 5,525 registered attendees this year, 636, or 12 per cent, are 80 or older; 3,780, or 68 per cent, are in their 70s; and 1,109, or 20 per cent, are 69 or younger and were born after the end of the war. Members of the post-war generations were more numerous than ever among the attendees.

In terms of the attendees' relations with the war dead, 14 were widows.

The number was the lowest since 1963. The number of fathers or mothers of the war dead, which was 77 in 1990, has been zero for the fifth consecutive year. Children of the war dead numbered 3,266, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the attendees. The number of grandchildren of the war dead was the highest ever at 322. Attendees under 18 numbered 98 in total. They included 93 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild of the war dead.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, counting from 1937, when the Second Sino-Japanese War began, the war dead total 3.1 million people, including soldiers, military servicemen and civilians.