Japanese people were surprised by the news that Emperor Akihito has stated that he was planning to let his son, the prince, take over in the near future. The Emperor had a heart operation four years ago, but even now at 82 years old is kept busy performing his official duties, which include going on visits around Japan and overseas. The Japanese imperial family is the only royal family in the world that can trace its bloodline back more than 1,500 years. Japanese people have a strong emotional tie to their Emperor. However, there have been times when the Emperor’s authority was used by others. After Japan was defeated in World War Two, the constitution stipulated that the Emperor would be a symbolic figure without any involvement in politics. The current Emperor has visited the site of a fierce battle in Okinawa several times. He has also visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were both hit by atomic bombs. But he hasn’t restricted himself to Japan, he has also visited China and South East Asian countries which suffered at the hands of Japan. Last year he visited the site of a fierce battle in Peleliu Island, Palau and this January he visited the Philippines. One of the causes for World War Two in Asia was the reckless advance of the Japanese military, which during the reign of the former Emperor plotted to expand its territory, as western nations had done. Unable to disown these actions, the Japanese government established the puppet nation of Manchuria in the northern part of present day China in 1932. Their passions inflamed by the media, Japanese citizens took pride in a sense of their nation’s greatness. Japan repudiated an investigative report on the invasion carried out by the League of Nations, and left the league. After that Japan became increasingly militaristic. Despite the former Emperor not wanting war, Japan was caught up in the headlong rush to war, with disastrous results. The current Emperor has continued to pay his respects to those who died in the war, as if it were his own responsibility. His attitude is that Japan has become a model of a peaceful country by learning from the lessons of the war.
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