Japan marks anniversary of wartime emperor's death

Japan's imperial family 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 II aggression.


AFP - Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko commemorated the 20th anniversary of their reign Wednesday by visiting the tomb of war-time Emperor Hirohito.

Accompanied by around 80 family members and officials, the 75-year-old monarch voiced a wish at his father's grave in western Tokyo for the public's prosperity.

"I humbly ask that you watch over the country and the people and allow them to flourish further," he said before the tomb, reading a statement written in an ancient Japanese tongue, according to a palace official.

Meanwhile, Crown Princess Masako made her first appearance in more than five years at a major imperial ceremony, joining her husband Crown Prince Naruhito at a separate event at one of the most sacred sanctuaries at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo.

The former career diplomat began limiting her official duties in 2003 due to difficulty adjusting to life in the world's oldest monarchy.

Palace officials declined to comment on Masako's health, saying only that the ceremony took place in accordance with tradition.

Akihito himself has suffered health problems recently, forcing him to limit some of his public appearances.

He had prostate cancer surgery in 2003 and has suffered an irregular pulse recently.

Doctors also said last month that they had found traces of bleeding in the emperor's stomach, partly due to stress.

Akihito ascended to the throne after Hirohito died on January 7, 1989.

Hirohito was revered as a demigod until the end of World War II when he renounced his divinity. The post-war constitution defines the emperor as a national symbol and forbids him from any involvement in politics.

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