TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's Emperor Akihito called for peace in his New Year's greeting to more than 80,000 visitors at the Imperial Palace Friday, with this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The 81-year-old monarch appeared before crowds at the palace in Tokyo with many waving small Japanese flags and shouting "banzai (live long)."
"At the start of this year, I wish for happiness and tranquillity of people in the world and our country," he said in a televised address from a glass-covered balcony, flanked by other members of the royal family.
Akihito released his New Year statement on Thursday, stressing the significance of learning from history as he recalled the carnage of the war.
"This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which cost many people their lives," he said in the statement, released via the Imperial Household Agency.
"I think it is most important for us to take this opportunity to study and learn from the history of this war, starting with the Manchurian Incident of 1931, as we consider the future direction of our country," he said.
Japanese soldiers blew up a railway in Manchuria in 1931, blaming Chinese troops as a pretext to take control of the whole northeastern region, in what became known as the Manchurian Incident.
The attack is commemorated in China every year as an act of Japanese aggression and a prelude to the war.
Emperor Hirohito, Akihito's father, was once worshipped as a living demigod and served as Japan's commander-in-chief during its stomp across Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Japanese throne is held in deep respect by much of the public, despite being largely stripped of its mystique and quasi-divine status in the aftermath of the war.