Japanese Emperor pays respects to war dead in the Philippines

The Japanese Emperor and Empress have travelled to the Philippines to honour and commemorate the biggest number of Japanese World War Two soldiers who died outside of Japan.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko travelled to Laguna province in the Philippines last week where a Japanese memorial garden is located alongside Lake Caliraya. They stood in silence and prayed at a marble cenotaph in the garden and laid a bouquet of flowers in honour of the soldiers who lost their lives.

Around 170 family members and relatives of those who died also joined the royals. No speeches were given at the ceremony. However at a dinner given by the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino III, Emperor Akihito did make comments about Japan’s aggression during the war, stating that Japan should not forget the huge loss of its own soldiers’ lives.

In the past, Emperor Akihito has spoken of the regret for World War Two, but a formal apology has never been provided. The nearest to an apology that he has given is deep remorse in a speech last year to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

One of the soldiers’ relatives, Joyce Tsunoda, said that she was proud of her father’s actions and that he gave his life for Japan.

The Emperor’s trip also included laying a wreath at Manila’s Heroes Cemetery. There are over 44,000 World War Two Filipino soldiers buried there. In total around one million Filipinos and 500,000 Japanese soldiers died during the war. Many of their remains are still littered across the Pacific region.

The Emperor’s visit is one of several trips he has been making across the Asia Pacific region and are thought to be an effort to show remorse and reinforce his commitment to retaining peace. Some of his trips have been controversial with by-standers heckling and stating their anger at him.

Today the Philippines and Japan are trading partners, with Japan providing much needed development funds and both her major allies. The reinforcement of the two countries’ commitment to peace is also seen as a message for an ever assertive China.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE