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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japanese Royal To Visit Sites Of War's Grief

TOKYO -- For the first time ever, Emperor Akihito will visit sites of some of World War II's worst suffering -- Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa -- in order to pray for those who died there.

The visits are meant to help heal the war's wounds. But they're also the latest sign of deep divisions over how to commemorate a conflict most Japanese would prefer to forget.

Those divisions are reflected in an ongoing and often bitter political debate in parliament: Though liberals led by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama believe the government should issue a strong statement of regret over the war and vow never to make the same mistake again, many powerful conservatives believe Japan need not apologize.

Akihito is the son of the late Emperor Hirohito, in whose name Japan fought, and was still a child when the war ended. But since assuming the throne in 1989, he has made healing the wounds of war a focus of his reign.

Because of the sensitivities surrounding the issue, the imperial trips, to be held separately over the summer, will be carefully timed to avoid anniversaries of key attacks and battles. And the palace said Thursday that no similar battleground pilgrimages were planned to sites of war suffering outside Japan.

Along with the visits to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa, where the war's final land campaign was waged, the emperor and Empress Michiko will also pray at a temple in Tokyo dedicated to the victims of a devastating firebomb attack that is believed to have killed some 100,000 people in just one night.