Emperor, Empress pay respects to war dead in Okinawa

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Emperor, left, with the Empress speaks to Naeko Teruya, a member of the bereaved family association of Okinawa Prefecture, in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on Saturday.

NAHA — The Emperor and Empress on Saturday paid their respects to the spirits of those who died in the fierce battles of World War II in the southern part of Okinawa Prefecture.

The Imperial couple visited Okinawa Prefecture by air to attend the National Cultural Festival and other events in their fist visit to the prefecture since the Emperor ascended the throne.

The Emperor and Empress followed the style established by the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita to begin their visit to Okinawa with a memorial service for the war dead.

The Imperial couple first offered flowers and a silent prayer at the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum in Itoman, which enshrines the remains of more than 180,000 people, including residents and military personnel.

After that, they listened one by one to 10 representatives of the bereaved families’ association of Okinawa Prefecture, saying them, “It must have been very hard for you,” “Who did you lose” and other things.

One of the 10 was Naeko Teruya, 86, an adviser to the association, who lost five members of her family, including her father, her younger brother and sister, in the Battle of Okinawa.

“I felt that they had inherited the spirit of the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita when I saw them looking me in the eye as they spoke,” she said.

Shusei Oshiro, 84, of Nanjo in the prefecture, who lost his father in the battle, said: “I could feel the kindheartedness of the Emperor and Empress. The people of Okinawa are also the same Japanese people. I felt that the Emperor has been thinking of us.”

The Emperor and Empress later toured the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, looking at photographs of children who were killed in the Battle of Okinawa.

A guide quoted the Emperor as saying, “It is truly tragic,” and the Empress as saying, “Such a sad event took place in this beautiful place,” in front of the bright blue ocean seen through the windows.

“We prayed for the repose of the souls of the victims of the fierce ground war in Okinawa, thinking of the hardships suffered by the people there. We heard directly from the bereaved families and thought of their respective sorrows and hardships,” the Emperor and Empress expressed their thoughts through the Imperial Household Agency on Saturday night.