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Reference to “facing history” disappears from PM Abe’s address at National Memorial Ceremony for War Dead

  • August 16, 2020
  • , Tokyo Shimbun digital , 6:00 a.m.
  • JMH Translation

By Shunsuke Inoue


For the first time, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe omitted a reference to “facing history” in his address at the National Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead on Aug. 15. Such a phrase has been included in his remarks every year since the launch of his second administration. Again this year, he did not refer to responsibility for the damage caused to Asian nations during World War II or the related soul-searching. He newly added the term “proactive contribution to peace,” which reflects his administration’s diplomatic and security policy. On the milestone of the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, his stance of looking toward the future rather than reflecting on the past was even more strongly evident.


In the statement he released on the occasion of the 70th anniversary in 2015, Prime Minister Abe emphasized “We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.” For seven straight years through last year, he used such phrases as “humbly facing history” or “taking the lessons of history deeply into our hearts” in his address at the National Memorial Ceremony. This year, however, he omitted any reference to reflecting on history. He has not referred to “causing damage to other nations or the related soul-searching” for eight straight years.


In contrast, for the first time he used keywords that capture his administration’s diplomatic and security policy: “Under the banner of ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace,’ we are determined to join hands with the international community and play a greater role than ever before in resolving the various challenges facing the world.” “Proactive contribution to peace” was used in the sense of actively contributing to the peace and stability of the international community. In line with this policy, the Abe administration has done such things as have security laws enacted that enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. It is unusual for a prime minister to include security matters in his address at the National Memorial Ceremony.


The structure of Abe’s address was unchanged from last year. The first half of the address, in which he expressed his sentiments regarding the war dead, was almost the same as last year’s. The “pledge not to engage in war,” which he started to add in 2015 after being criticized for not including it in his 2013 and 2014 addresses, was expressed using a phrase used in past years: “We must never again repeat the devastation of war.”

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