Hirohito Recalls War, Value of Peace
TOKYO (AP) _ Emperor Hirohito, the last surviving leader from World War II and the world’s longest-living monarch, today celebrated 60 years on the throne with recollections of war and prayers for global peace.
Hirohito, who once was considered a god but now is the symbol of Japan’s thriving democracy, also marked his 85th birthday. Tens of thousands of well- wishers gathered at the Imperial Palace and a special ceremony was held at the national sumo arena.
The observances were offset by anti-Hirohito rallies at four Tokyo parks, attended by thousands of people. About 30,000 police were guarding against attacks by leftist radicals who have vowed to disrupt ceremonies honoring the man they hold responsible for Japan’s past militarism.
A bomb explosion seriously injured a young man at one of the parks before a rally began there, and four fires or explosions damaged railway communications and signal lines in western and central Japan.
By mid-afternoon, 14 protesters had been taken into custody but there were no reports of serious incidents, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.
News reports said leaders of a rally attended by about 1,900 supporters of the radical group Chukaku-ha (Middle Core Faction) in Rekisen Park claimed responsibility for the railway sabotage, which halted high-speed ″bullet″ trains between Tokyo and Osaka for about 90 minutes and disrputed local train service in Osaka.
About 2,500 people attended an anti-Hirohito rally at Miyashita Park, where police frisked participants as they entered.
Addressing about 6,000 Japanese and foreign dignitaries at the sumo arena, the scholarly, bespectacled Hirohito said, ″Looking back over the 60 years of Showa, my heart is still pained when I recall the sacrifices by the people during the war, and I am again moved by the preciousness of peace.″
Showa, which means ″enlightened peace,″ is the name given to the Hirohito era.
″I firmly believe we can open the way to a prosperous future if we only put to use, with ingenuity, the lessons learned from past experiences,″ he said.
Hirohito was worshipped as a god for the first 20 years of his reign, and was closely associated with the military that conquered wide areas of Asia and the Pacific.
But he also is credited with bringing World War II to an end, emerging from his largely ceremonial role to order the military to lay down its arms. After Japan surrendered, he renounced any claim of divinity and is now the constitutional symbol of state, holding no political power.
He delegates much of his ceremonial duties to Crown Prince Akihito, 52, and spends at least two days a week working at his lifelong pastime, marine biology.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said at the ceremony that Hirohito had guided his nation through a ″truly convulsive age,″ beginning with the worldwide depression, war, the chaos that followed Japan’s defeat and the nation’s remarkable recovery.
Earlier, more than 63,000 people passed over the ornate bridge leading into the Imperial Palace to give birthday greetings to the emperor.
Elderly people from the countryside, schoolchildren, picnicking families and uniformed right-wing groups waved flags and shouted ″banzai 3/8″ or ″long life″ as the emperor four times appeared behind the bullet-proof glass of a palace veranda.
″Thank you for celebrating with me today my birthday and my 60 years as emperor. I am happy that so many of you have come today. I hope you will all have a healthy future,″ the frail monarch told the well wishers.
He was accompanied at the window by Empress Nagako, 83, who is suffering from leg ailments and needed help to walk; Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko and two of their three children; and Akihito’s younger brother Prince Hitachi and his wife Princess Hanako.
Hirohito walks with a stoop and speaks slowly, but is reported to be in good health.
In an interview with Japanese reporters published today, Hirohito said he had lived a regimented life, and that it had led to his good health.
He also praised his wife. ″The empress has taken care of me in many ways. I will always be thankful for how she bent over backwards to raise our children. I think this has taken its toll on her, and I feel sorry that her legs have become weak,″ he said.