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Japan Celebrates Emperor Akihito’s 20th Anniversity as Emperor

Thursday in Tokyo, a parade was held for the 20th anniversary of the coronation of Emperor Akihito.

More than 50,000 people gathered around the Imperial Palace for the parade, a concert and other events marking Akihito’s ascent to the world’s oldest hereditary throne. Akihito and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama spoke at a celebration later in the day where Emperor Akihito urged the Japanese not to forget the lessons of World War II. The 75-year-old monarch said he was worried young people are forgetting their history. Akihito said Japan must not forget its past — and especially the turbulent years his father, Emperor Hirohito, was on the throne that included the country’s invasion and occupation of several of its neighbors.

“What worries me most is that the history of the past will gradually be forgotten,” he said. “The reign of my father began at a very difficult time,” he added, noting that Japan invaded Manchuria six years after Hirohito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne.

“There are many lessons that we can learn from the 60-some years of his reign.”

“He viscerally knew the importance of peace,” Akihito said.

“Some 3.1 million Japanese died in the war, and many lives of foreigners were also lost,” he said. “We must not forget that today’s Japan is built on those many sacrifices of the past.”

Akihito assumed the throne after the death of his father on Jan. 7, 1989, but was not coronated until later that year because the country was officially in mourning.

Japan has often been criticized by its neighbors — who bore the brunt of Japanese colonialism — for whitewashing the country’s role in World War II in its school textbooks. Although Akihito has visited China, he has yet to travel to South Korea, largely because of lingering animosities over the war.

Until Japan’s surrender in 1945, Hirohito was officially considered a living god and loyalty to the throne was used to rally the nation behind the war.

Source: AP NEWS