Emperor, empress offer flowers at memorial cenotaph in Hiroshima

by Masanori Wada, Staff Writer

The emperor and empress visited Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward on December 4 and laid flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. The visit was one of several trips the couple is making to war-related sites prior to next year’s 70th anniversary of the A-bombing. They visited Okinawa and Nagasaki earlier this year.

Light rain was falling as the imperial couple, escorted by Mayor Kazumi Matsui, proceeded along the central approach to the cenotaph, where they offered a bouquet of white chrysanthemums. The emperor and empress then bowed deeply and paid their respects to those who died. On their way to and from the cenotaph they waved and smiled to the large crowd that had gathered in the park.

Afterwards the couple traveled in a special car to Yano Orizuru-en, a nursing home for survivors of the atomic bombing in Aki Ward. Isamu Kakida, its director, described the facility, which accommodates about 100 residents, to the imperial couple. The emperor asked Mr. Kakida several questions about the residents’ health and the effects of the A-bomb.

The emperor and empress also chatted with ten representatives of the residents, who ranged in age from 78 to 101. The empress greeted each of them warmly, and urged them to take care not to catch cold as the weather grows colder. After speaking with the residents, the emperor said, “I can imagine what truly hard times you must have had. I hope you will be able to mark next year’s 70th anniversary of the end of the war in good health.”

According to the Imperial Household Agency and Hiroshima Prefecture, this was the tenth visit to Hiroshima by the emperor, including visits he made while crown prince. On his first visit to Hiroshima in April 1949 at the age of 15, the then crown prince talked about his desire for peace.

It was the first visit to Hiroshima by the imperial couple since October 1996, when they traveled to the city for the national athletic meet. In the afternoon the couple returned to Tokyo from Hiroshima Airport in a special aircraft.

(Originally published on December 5, 2014)