Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit Okinawa in March to honour those who were killed in battle during the Second World War, according to sources close to the Imperial Household.
The Battle of Okinawa took place from 1 April to 22 June 1945, resulting in Allied victory. The Americans controlled the island after the war until control was given back to Japan in 1972. Roughly 240,931 people were killed during the Battle of Okinawa. Currently, Okinawa is home to a large American military base. There have been tensions on the island since the war due to the American base.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum in Itoman on 27 March. They will then spend the night at Naha, the capital of Okinawa, and will then travel to Yonaguni Island to visit a stone monument at Japan’s most western point before they fly back to Tokyo.
Then-Crown Prince Akihito and his wife visited in July 1975, to tense reception from residents. When the royal couple visited the Himeyuri War Memorial at the Okinawa battlefield, activists threw a firebomb.
The Emperor and Empress of Japan have visited Okinawa 10 times in total, most recently in 2014 ahead of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War the next year. They have visited as Emperor and Empress five times.
They observe four war-related anniversaries each year, marking the days with a silent prayer for past horrors. Those days are 23 June, the day the Battle of Okinawa ended; 6 August, the day the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima; 9 August, the day the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki; and 15 August, when then-Emperor Hirohito announced the end of the war.