Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Japanese 'should learn from war'

Emperor Akihito and wife
Emperor Akihito and his wife celebrating 20 years on the throne

Japan's Emperor Akihito has said his biggest worry is that young Japanese are forgetting their country's history.

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne, he said there were lessons to learn from the wartime reign of his father, Hirohito.

He said his father had opposed Japan's invasions of neighbours including China and Korea before defeat in 1945.

Historians are divided whether Hirohito supported Japan's aggression or was a puppet of militaristic leaders.

Japan's wartime record, and the country's treatment of its past, still sometimes hampers relations with China, South Korea and other Asian nations.

Emperor Akihito, who under the post-war constitution is barred from commenting on politics, said the events of the wartime era provided many lessons.

We will not lose our habit of congratulating together those who reach the venerable ages of 90, 100, or more
Empress Michiko

"I am rather worried that past history may be gradually forgotten," he said at a news conference at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo with his wife, Empress Michiko.

"I believe it is essential for us to learn from the historical facts and prepare ourselves for the future."

Analysts say the emperor's remarks coincide with moves by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to try to improve ties with the rest of Asia.

They say the prime minister's Democratic Party seems to be more willing to address Japan's wartime record than other political parties.

Empress Michiko, 75, meanwhile used the news conference to express concern about perceptions surrounding the country's ageing population.

She said it was a little disappointing that an ageing society is considered "only as a problem" and expressed the hope that "we will not lose our habit of congratulating together those who reach the venerable ages of 90, 100, or more".

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