JAPAN'S EMPEROR Akihito, just recently marked his 85 the birthday - his last before his upcoming abdication - said he feels relieved that his reign is coming to an end without having seen his country at war and that it is important to keep telling younger people about his nation's wartime history.

''It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei era is coming to an end free of war in Japan,'' Akhito his voice trembling with emotions, said at a news conference at the palace , that was recorded some weeks ago and released later.

''It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in World War II and that peace and prosperity of postwar Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people, and to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war.''

Akihito's 30-year reign of the Heisei is the only era without war in Japan's modern history.

Praying for peace and making amends for a war fought in the name of his father, Hirohito, has become a career mission for Akihito, who succeeded the throne in 1989.

Akihito is set to abdicate on April 30, to be succeeded by his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, on May 1, Sunday's birthday celebration is Akihito's last in his reign.

Tens of thousands of well wishers who gathered at  Tokyo's Imperial Palace to celebrate the occasion cheered and waved small rising-sun flags as Akihito and his family appeared on the balcony to greet and thank them.

As emperor, Akihito has made unprecedented visits to the Philippines and other Pacific islands conquered by Japan  early in World war II and devastated in fierce fighting as the US-led allies took them back.

Though Akihito has avoided direct apology, he has subtly stepped up his expressions of regret in recent years as carefully scripted statements on the war.

Akihito said he won't forget those trips with his wife, Empress Michiko and thanked those countries for welcoming them despite their bitter memories of the war.

''I am grateful each of these countries for welcoming us warm hospitality,'' he said. [Agencies]

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on Japan and the emperor continues. 


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