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Emperor, on 20th anniversary of accession, concerned young people forgetting history

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Emperor Akihito, marking the 20th anniversary of his coronation Thursday, says he is concerned young people are forgetting their history.

Akihito said Japan must not forget its past — and especially the turbulent years his father, the late Emperor Hirohito, was on the throne — if it is to learn from its mistakes.

"What worries me most is that the history of the past will gradually be forgotten," the 75-year-old monarch said at a brief news conference before Thursday's anniversary. He said it was regrettable Hirohito will be remembered by history for World War II and Japan's military advances into Asia prior to its defeat in 1945.

"The reign of my father began at a very difficult time," he said, noting that Japan invaded Manchuria six years after Hirohito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne. "There are many lessons that we can learn from the 60-some years of his reign."

"He viscerally knew the importance of peace," Akihito said.

Japan has often been criticized by its neighbors — who bore the brunt of Japanese colonialism — for whitewashing the country's role in World War II in its school textbooks. Although Akihito has visited China, he has yet to travel to South Korea, largely because of lingering animosities over the war.

Until Japan's surrender, Hirohito was officially considered a living god and loyalty to the throne was used to rally the nation behind the war, though historians generally agree that it was more often the generals, admirals and politicians who made the major decisions that set the country's disastrous course.

Over the past 20 years, Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko, 75, have grown quietly into their roles as ceremonial symbols of the nation, a definition of the Japanese monarchs imposed by U.S. military leaders during the Japanese occupation.

Akihito's primary role is that of a figurehead. He presides over rituals at the palace shrines, gives out awards, meets foreign dignitaries and swears in new cabinets.

His public comments are famously circumspect, avoiding subjects that might have political implications, and off-the-cuff remarks are almost unheard of. The questions he answered at the pre-anniversary news conference were submitted to the palace well in advance, and he had written answers prepared.

Akihito was coronated nearly a year after Hirohito died on Jan 7, 1989 because the country was officially in mourning.

The emperor also said it is necessary to take note of the views of Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino in deciding on the future of the imperial family. ''I think it is important that the views of the crown prince and Prince Akishino, who supports him, are respected'' concerning the ideal role of the imperial family in the future, Akihito said, adding that the issue of the system of imperial succession should be left to deliberations in the Diet.

''They have both spent a great deal of time with me and supported me throughout these years, and I am sure they have been developing well-considered views on the ideal role of the emperor,'' he said.

Sharing that view, the empress told the press conference, ''Believing that they will continue to respect and complement one another and that their respective families too will certainly support them with all their heart, I entrust the future of the imperial family to the generations ahead.''

The two princes have been able to ''deepen their awareness of their respective responsibilities'' by spending time with their grandfather Emperor Hirohito and by closely observing their father Emperor Akihito as they grew up, the empress said.

The emperor also touched on some difficulties people in Japan are facing today, telling reporters, ''I am deeply concerned about people's welfare as Japan today is becoming a rapidly aging society at a time of severe economic conditions.''

''I would like to see a society where everyone supports one another,'' said the emperor, adding it is encouraging to see an increasing number of people caring about the elderly and those in need of nursing and who are making efforts to support them.

''I am delighted to see so many people celebrating this 20th year of the Heisei Era. I am grateful to them and take this opportunity to express my wishes for the peace and security of Japan and the health and happiness of the Japanese people,'' the emperor said.

On his health and duties, the emperor said, ''There has been a reduction in official duties over the past year and I think that this did indeed have the effect of lessening my burden. However, if my health continues as it is, I should like to continue with the current level of official commitments.''

''As for the empress,'' the emperor said, ''I am very happy to know that her knee is recovering,'' referring to a ligament injury in her left knee she sustained while playing tennis in February.

The empress said, ''Although I occasionally wish it to heal much faster, I think I must learn from the baseball player Hideki Matsui and wait patiently for it to improve,'' referring to the New York Yankees hitter, who overcame two knee operations on his way to becoming the latest World Series MVP.

The governmental ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the accession is scheduled to be held at the National Theatre of Japan in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon with the participation of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and other dignitaries from various fields.

At around 9:30 a.m., people began signing their names in registers in commemoration of the anniversary at designated spaces in front of the Imperial Household Agency building in the Imperial Palace.

About 50,000 people are expected to attend another ceremony hosted by business organizations and a group of lawmakers in the Imperial Palace Plaza, with popular vocal and dance group Exile performing a new song written for the event.

© Wire reports

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


39 Comments
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There is a HUGE television screen set up in his yard for the festivities today. Looks to be a huge bash. Maybe I will wander over and see if they will give me a flag to wave.

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there is no future for the royal family, eventually japan will enter the 21st century and they will have to figure out why women cant take this posistion and the excuse of culture wont wash. They will also realise that nobody cares about them, just like the brits couldnt give a toss about the royal family. Then they will be just live off their name like harry and william do.

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If the aspects of Japanese history that the Emperor is talking about, aren't mentioned in the history books at school, nobody will "forget" it happened. It just never, ever happened. The amount of young people who are bewildered about why Japan isn't loved and adored by China amazes me.

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they will have to figure out why women cant take this posistion and the excuse of culture wont wash.

One other "excuse" as it were is that the Imperial family (not royal) is supported taxes paid by people in Japan. If the law were changed to allow an Empress on the throne again, taxes would have to pick up the tab for all the other female members of the Imperial family. That means ALL the offshoots. Which is a LOT of poeple. Which means a HUGE tax burden.

Are you going to help pay for that?

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knackerz is right, you can't forget what you never knew. For many people Japanese history seems to stop at the Meiji Restoration and The Last Samurai.

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Forgetting history is almost inevitable, given the way history is taught in most schools.

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Japan as a country doesn't really have a unified history before Meiji anyway.It's like everything here has just been been made up after the war.

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I don't think Japanese people have ever been taught history correctly, so how can they forget it?

When I met some Japanese in Australia a few years ago in front of some war memorial, they asked me what it was. I told them the story behind that memorial (the Centur hospital ship) and they were surprised as they never Australia and Japan fought each other in WW2.

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THis is MaDneSs

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“He viscerally knew the importance of peace,” Akihito said.

Classic! So, that's why he decided to invade the rest of Asia. What a headcase!

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Akihito is correct but his concern comes too late.

Now, this could be addressed if each PSP, Nintendo DS, and ipod sold in Japan came with the appropriate historical games or podcasts already installed. (And manga and cell phones).

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He could also be referring to the Japan of days gone in which people worked hard and studied hard. Now the young people are frivilous, easily bored and uninterested in anything for more than 2 minutes.

If he thinks it's bad now, wait until the kids of today have their own kids- we haven't even begun to see the worst yet.

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It's not just young people. Most people I talk to are pretty vague about just about everything. My boss didn't even know yesterday was Armistice Day.

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Most Japanese I know have absolutely no idea about Japans dark past.. They only seem to be taught the Disney (fantasy) version of their history. What amazes me most, is when you try to enlighten them on the real facts about Japans past, they go into this collective (Borg like) defensive & denial mode...

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eventually japan will enter the 21st century

one century at a time...lets wait til they enter the 19th first

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I didn't know yesterday was Armistice Day either, because it is not something that is emphasised in my home country (we celebrate Anzac Day- heard of it?.) I wouldn't say however, that that makes me "pretty vague about everything", and neither does it make most people here pretty vague. Some awfully racist comments coming up here.

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Just to add, can I ask why the average Japanese person should be expected to know when WWI, which Japan wasn't involved in, ended? How much Japanese history does the average American know?

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Japan was involved in WWI. They were one of the Allied Powers.

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Apsara-- I agree with you for the most part. There are Americans who don't know a darn thing about WWI. Or much of anything in history that our country was actually apart of, outside of maybe the civil war. And even then, I can say that most of the kids in my high school gauged knowing about American history by how many confederate flag stickers they could put on the back windows and bumpers of their pickup trucks.

I think it does have a ton to do with how kids are taught in schools. Though I don't think it's necessarily strange to expect kids to learn and know about world history as a whole. I used to hate that back in middle school and high school, we learned the same things about American history over and over, but we never got to learn about the rest of the world. Even if the textbook had a section for the other countries, that would always get glossed over. It'd be nice if everyone knew what happened and when for every country, but that's not realistic. Expecting them to know vaguely about something as huge as a World War though, that's a little different. And I'm not saying the Japanese are deliberately uninformed on the matter, because most people, particularly the younger generation, aren't brought up to care, and that's all over the world, not just here.

...So basically I agree with the Emperor here too, haha.

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What history, Your Highness? After the textbook censors at the Ministry of Truth are finished snipping and pasting, practically nothing of substance, and certainly nothing controversial, gets taught anyway. What passes for "education" is two weeks of cherry-picked documentaries shown every Aug. 1-15 on NHK. I can almost cite the dialogue from "Biruma no Tategoto" from memory.

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THis is MaDneSs

This...is...JAPAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!

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Like many constitutional monarchs, he is not free to say exactly what he thinks. To me this sounds like a move in the right direction. He could probably not have said even this under the LDP.

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...u better concern that, Japan will be come a republic in the near future...after the NWO...

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The fact that the emperor has never visited Yasukuni shrine after it enshrined the souls of Class A criminals despite right winger's calls every year for him to pay homage in Yasukuni is very tale-telling about the emperor's understanding of history. I think he's a strong man despite his life is so restricted. I wish his heir son had his strength. Young (Japanese) people are forgetting history alright, or never learning it altogether. Perhaps under this new regime the situation may change.

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Japan's inability to resign itself from being part of the Iraq War in order to maintain good ties with Washington pretty much sums up how serious this nation is devoted learning from WWII.

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Japan's inability to resign itself from being part of the Iraq War in order to maintain good ties with Washington pretty much sums up how serious this nation is devoted learning from WWII.

My bad, it DID learn from the war that upsetting Washington=Japan in trouble.

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The Emperor IS living history. Growing up in the imperial palace during war time must have been difficult, especially being the target of US bombs.

I read different versions of this article on other websites, and both the Emperor and Empress try to connect with the common person. At a disaster relief center, they sat on the floor and talked with victims, holding the victims' hands at the surprise of the Imperial Household Agency and those around the Imperial couple.

As for his father's role in World War II, historians are still divided as to whether Hirohito (Showa) started many of the problems, or if he was the fall guy for the politicans and military leaders of the time. When Hirohito (Showa) was young, he went to the battlefields of World War I (Verdun) and saw what war could do.

I believe the Emperor when he talks about his father and how he felt. None of us (or the Japanese) really know how Hirohito (Showa) felt about war and peace. The only one who really knows is his son.

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Does the IHA know he said this? Did the IHA approve of this before hand? If not he'll be grounded for a while. No more walkies round the big pond, and they'll take away his microscope too.

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Seeing countless numbers of brainwashed nationalistic Japanese on popular websites such as YouTube, it is right that the emperor's message should be said.

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"Although Akihito has visited China, he has yet to travel to South Korea, largely because of lingering animosities over the war."

If the Emperor did visit SK, he'd find that young Koreans are forgetting (or ignoring) their history too, and that the animosity is dissipating.

However, the Emperor is displaying the very thing he is worried about: a reluctance of confronting an external viewpoint of Japan.

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The people who are conerned with Japan's "whitewashing" of history might be interested to know that the average highscool kid knows zero about history either reality or the whitewashed version. Aorund the world kids are ignoarant about world history. Without knowledge of the past we are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes.

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One other "excuse" as it were is that the Imperial family (not royal) is supported taxes paid by people in Japan. If the law were changed to allow an Empress on the throne again, taxes would have to pick up the tab for all the other female members of the Imperial family. That means ALL the offshoots. Which is a LOT of poeple. Which means a HUGE tax burden.

Are you going to help pay for that?

hell no, get a bloody job like the rest of us. OR they could just give the tax money to the top guys and girls and not everyone which is what happens in the UK, where my tax money also goes to help the already rich get richer. But lets face it even if they all got a bit of money its not exactly going to hugely increase the tax bill of 120 million people is it?.

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Growing up in the imperial palace during war time must have been difficult, especially being the target of US bombs.

OT but, when was the imperial palace ever bombed?

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...They will also realise that nobody cares about them, just like the brits couldnt give a toss about the royal family. Then they will be just live off their name like harry and william do.

WRONG.

Pariliament and (for example) the expenses scandal is LIVING PROOF why we need a Monarch.

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"Coronated" is not a word, JT!

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"Coronated" is not a word, JT!

My apologies - further research suggests that it is a word. But you have to admit, it's a damned odd one, even given the noun "coronation".

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But lets face it even if they all got a bit of money its not exactly going to hugely increase the tax bill of 120 million people is it?

Take a look at the annual budget for the imperial household:

http://www.kunaicho.go.jp/kunaicho/kunaicho/yosan-ichiran.html

Those numbers you see there have a unit of 10,000.

The imperial family has an allowance of JPY 280,910,000 this year. That is just the immediate family. Add in the extended family, and that is going to be quite a sizeable chunk. And it won't just be the allowance that goes up. All the other numbers on that page will increase as well because there will be more office drones required to look after the paperwork.

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cor⋅o⋅nate    [kawr-uh-neyt, kor-] adjective, verb, -nat⋅ed, -nat⋅ing. –adjective1. having or wearing a crown, coronet, or the like.

–verb (used with object)

2. to crown (a sovereign).

Origin: 1840–50; < L corōnātus ptp. of corōnāre to CROWN, equiv. to corōn(a) crown + -ātus -ATE 1

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LFRAgain, re JT and "coronate" (Mods, don't erase this for a while as it has taken me some time to write this! Thanks. Please pass on to the writer.)

Coronate (verb) In the sense 'to crown', coronate [formed regularly from the pple of L. coronare] has been current in technical and semi-technical language, esp in botany and zoology, since the 17c. In Britain the word is never used as a synonym of 'to crown' [a monarch]. Sporadic instances of such use have been noted in the US.

Burchfield's "New Fowler's Modern English Usage" p 183

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