Gathering mourns Nanjing Massacre victims

Updated: 2013-08-16 08:01

By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai and Chen Lili in Nanjing (China Daily)

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Japanese activists visit city to pay tribute to China's wartime dead

A group of Japanese citizens from cities and prefectures including Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa and Kyoto took part in a gathering in Nanjing on Thursday to honor the victims killed by Japanese forces, especially those killed during the Nanjing Massacre.

The assembly by 37 Japanese and hundreds of Chinese at the Memorial Hall of the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Invaders - on the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II - took place as dozens of Japanese cabinet ministers and lawmakers paid their respects at Yasukuni Shrine, seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Gathering mourns Nanjing Massacre victims

A Japanese woman attends an assembly to mourn for victims in the tragic Nanjing Massacre at the Memorial Hall of the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Invaders in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province, Aug 15, 2013. [Photo/Xinhua]

The annual gathering in Nanjing, as in years past, also attracted Nanjing residents, local officials and travelers from around the world to mourn the war dead, especially the at least 300,000 victims that died in the 1937 massacre.

"We came here to apologize and memorialize," said Reiko Goto, a Japanese lawyer from Kobe.

Yasunori Takazane, a professor emeritus at Nagasaki University and head of the 11th Nagasaki "Wing of Hope" Japanese-Chinese delegation, said history should not be forgotten.

"Standing on the land of Nanjing brought me vivid memories of the massacre launched by Japan. It made me feel very painful," he said during the assembly.

The gathering stood in stark contrast to visits by at least two cabinet ministers to Yasukuni Shrine. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also sent a ritual offering to the controversial shrine on Thursday.

The visits annually outrage China as well as South Korea because the shrine honors Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes during World War II, though it also honors anyone who died on behalf of the Japanese Empire.

Their arrival also came at a time when polls showed people in China and Japan are pessimistic about future economic cooperation between the two countries as bilateral relations worsen.

"Because relations between China and Japan have been strained this year, I feel more obliged to come to this peace assembly," said Matsuoka Tamaki, head of the Japan and Nanjing Eternal Gratitude Club.

Tomita Minori, a Japanese graduate student at Nanjing University, said: "This is my first time to come to the peace assembly. If I have the chance to come next year, I will definitely come again.

"If I am not staying in China then, I will give my condolences to the victims in the war in other ways."

Thursday's assembly started with the offering of wreaths, followed by a moment of silence and speeches from Chinese and Japanese scholars.

Zhu Chengshan, director of the memorial hall in Nanjing, applauded the efforts of the group of Japanese.

"Their spirit of upholding justice and desire for peace is admirable," he said.

Since 2002, Nanjing has held an annual assembly calling for people to oppose war and promote peace.

Memorial services are also held every year in Nanjing on Dec 13, the anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre.

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