TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Heisei era, which began when Emperor Akihito inherited the throne on Jan. 7, 1989, and ends when he abdicates on April 30, saw economic stagnation, disasters and technological change.
Generations of Japanese lived through those decades. Their differing views and experiences will shape the legacy of the Heisei years.
Decades - Haruyo - Nihei - Memories - Mothers
For decades, Haruyo Nihei kept her wartime memories locked away: mothers and infants burnt alive by incendiary bombs; herself struggling under corpses of fleeing victims; her sister’s body covered with maggot-infested burns.
But in 2002, almost six decades after World War Two ended and 13 years after Akihito took the throne, she decided to speak out. The trigger: a visit to a new museum about the March 10, 1945, U.S. firebombing that killed an estimated 100,000 people in Tokyo.
Nihei - Experience - Days - Conflict - Horrors
Nihei, now 82, still hopes that by recounting her experience as an eight-year-old in the final days of the conflict, she can convey the horrors of war to young Japanese who know only peace.
“Children today … don’t know anything about war and that’s wonderful. But if they don’t know about how Japan fought a war some 70 years ago, we may follow a mistaken path again,” Nihei told Reuters before speaking to students at the museum.
Japan - Tragedy - War - Priority - Akihito
Preventing Japan from forgetting the tragedy of war has been a consistent priority of Akihito, in the name of whose father, Hirohito, Japanese troops fought World War Two.
Nihei said she admired Akihito’s efforts, including trips to overseas battle sites such as Saipan in 2005 to pray for war dead from Japan and other countries.
Image - Emperor - Empress - Cliff - Saipan
“When I saw the image of the emperor and empress (bowing at a seaside cliff) on Saipan, I felt they were truly sorry for the sins the Emperor Showa had committed,” she said, referring to Hirohito by his posthumous name. “I was moved.”
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