TOKYO — Tokyo marked the 70th anniversary March 10 of the U.S. firebombings of the capital during World War II, holding events to commemorate the 100,000 victims of the bombings and to pray for peace.
During a Buddhist memorial service in Sumida Ward, which was one of the badly hit downtown areas in the 1945 air raid, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to “contribute as much as possible to achieve lasting peace,” while “humbly facing up to the past and keeping deeply in mind the lessons of the tragic war.”
It is thought to be the first time that a prime minister has taken part in the annual event, according to the organizer of the service.
Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe told the ceremony attended by about 600 people that his government will “carry out its responsibility to pass on the present peace to the next generation as the city hosting (the 2020) Olympics, which is a peaceful festivity.”
Prince Akishino, younger son of Emperor Akihito, and his wife Princess Kiko made an offering of incense at the memorial hall, where the ashes of those killed in the raids are placed.
On March 10, 1945, more than 300 U.S. B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs on parts of the capital, particularly on populous residential areas in eastern Tokyo, killing an estimated 100,000 people.
Tokyo suffered more than 100 bombing raids during the war, with 60 percent of the metropolis destroyed, according to the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage.
After the March 10 raids, the United States attacked other cities and towns across Japan, before eventually dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
Japan finally surrendered on Aug. 15 that year.
Etsuzo Nukagawa, who was living in Sumida Ward at that time and lost many of his classmates in the air raid, was among those who took part in the memorial service March 10.
“I still remember clearly how people were running around in the fire. We should never engage in war again,” said the 83-year-old who now lives in neighboring Katsushika Ward.
According to the Tokyo Metropolitan government, the number of air raid victims registered on its list has increased to 80,324, as the names of 174 victims have been newly identified last year.
Designating March 10 as a “Day of Peace,” the Tokyo metropolitan government held a memorial ceremony at its building in the afternoon, with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy among the attendants.