TOKYO – Japan’s Emperor Akihito said on Sunday he was reassured that the end of his reign had come amid peace in his country as he marked his 85th birthday, the last before his abdication.
“It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei Era (his reign) is coming to an end, free of war in Japan,” Emperor Akihito said in a press conference ahead of his birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and released on Sunday.
He also stressed the importance of not forgetting the horrors of war.
“I have believed it is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in World War II and that the peace and prosperity of post-war Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people,” he said, adding that this history should be passed accurately to the younger generations.
The emperor reminisced about the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, during the first year of his reign, and how it symbolized the end of the Cold War and brought hopes for world peace.
“Subsequent global developments have not necessarily gone in the direction that we desired. It pains my heart that ethnic disputes and religious conflicts have occurred, numerous lives have been lost to acts of terrorism, and a large number of refugees are still enduring lives of hardship today throughout the world,” Akihito said.
This is set to be the Emperor’s last message to the public through a press conference, and the last time he celebrates his birthday as the head of state before his scheduled abdication on April 30, 2019, after a reign marked with pacifism and his closeness to the Japanese people.
Akihito said that natural disasters during his reign had left an “indelible” impression on his mind and offered consolation to the victims of a series of incidents that struck Japan in 2018.
“I cannot forget the natural disasters that struck with even greater frequency than in previous years. Many people lost their lives, while many others lost the basis of their livelihoods due to disasters such as torrential rains, earthquakes, and typhoons,” said the monarch.
He hailed the spirit of volunteers and other forms of cooperation in the face of difficulties and said the public’s capacity to respond to disasters was increasing.
Akihito also paid tribute to his wife, Empress Michiko, saying next year marks their 60th wedding anniversary.
“The Empress has always been at my side, understood my thoughts, and supported me in my position and official duties as I performed my duties as the Emperor,” he said.
“Looking back, it was soon after I embarked on my life’s journey as an adult member of the Imperial Family that I met the Empress. Feeling a bond of deep trust, I asked her to be my fellow traveler and have journeyed with her as my partner to this day,” he added.
Addressing his impending abdication, the emperor said he had spent his time on the throne searching for the best way to act as the “symbol of the state” as per the constitution and intended to continue contemplating this in the remaining months of his reign.
“The Crown Prince (Naruhito) who will be the emperor in the new era, and Prince Akishino, who will be supporting the new emperor, have each accumulated various experiences, and I think that, while carrying on the traditions of the Imperial Family, they will continue to walk their paths, keeping pace with the ever-changing society,” Akihito said.