天皇陛下比訪問 友好親善深めた「慰霊の旅」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Imperial trip to console war dead in R.P. deepens friendship, goodwill
天皇陛下比訪問 友好親善深めた「慰霊の旅」

The visit has embodied the strong feelings of the Emperor, who has repeatedly traveled to console the spirits of the war dead, keeping the memories of World War II deep in his heart.

The Emperor and Empress have returned home from a five-day official visit to the Philippines, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between that country and Japan.

It was the Imperial couple’s third trip abroad to console the spirits of the war dead, following their visit to Saipan in 2005 and to Palau last year.

About 520,000 Japanese died in the Philippines, where fierce battles between Japan and the United States took place during the war. Many Filipinos were also entangled in the fighting, with about 1.11 million people killed.

What made a deep impression during their latest trip was the Imperial couple’s first visit to the monument in Caliraya, near Manila, built by the Japanese government to mourn the Japanese war dead in the Philippines. The couple laid white chrysanthemums brought from Japan.

The Emperor and Empress later spoke to former Japanese soldiers and bereaved relatives one by one who were present, saying such words as “Please take care of yourself.” The people concerned must have been filled with deep emotion.

The Imperial couple last visited the Philippines in 1962, when the Emperor was crown prince. Anti-Japanese sentiments remained strong back then, but the couple met bereaved relatives of Filipino war dead and visited a facility for war orphans. These appearances were said to have eased somewhat Filipinos’ critical attitude toward Japan.

Squarely facing the past

The monument for the Japanese war dead was built in Caliraya in 1973. It must have been the Imperial couple’s dearest wish to visit the monument to console the souls of the Japanese war dead.

The couple also visited the national Heroes Cemetery in Manila and offered a silent prayer in front of the memorial monument. At a banquet hosted by Philippine President Benigno Aquino, the Emperor said in his speech that many Filipinos lost their lives in the war and “this is something we Japanese must never forget.”

The image of the Emperor, who faces the past sincerely, must have been imprinted onto the hearts of Filipinos.

Aquino expressed gratitude, saying that Japan as a “consistent, able, and trustworthy partner, has helped advance our people’s progress.”

The Imperial couple’s latest visit to the Philippines came at the invitation of Aquino, who visited Japan in June last year as a state guest. Aquino has known the couple since he visited Japan in 1986 with his mother, then Philippine President Corazon Aquino.

In June this year, Aquino will end his term and step down. His final year in the presidency coincides with the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The Philippines is considered to be one of the most pro-Japan countries to Japan. It is also an important partner for Japan in Asia in the economic and other fields.

We hope the latest visit by the Imperial couple to the country will further solidify the friendship and goodwill between our two countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 31, 2016)

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