Japanese media sides with the Emperor

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The Independent Online
WHILE the British press gives front-page coverage to the veterans and their protest against Emperor Akihito's visit, the average Japanese newspaper reader is probably barely aware of it.

Japan, like Britain, has its right-wing press. The Sankei and the Yomiuri, both staunchly monarchist and with a combined circulation of 12 million, described the PoWs' protest as an insult to the Emperor and attacked Britain for its barbarous colonial rule.

But, says Satoshi Hashimoto, London bureau chief of the mainstream Asahi newspaper, "Most Japanese do not feel offended or insulted. Emperor Hirohito [Akihito's father] was special for Japanese, especially the older generation. But to Akihito we feel indifference. People are more interested in the World Cup.

"The Japanese government will never make direct payment to the prisoners of war. But they could make the gap smaller. The Japanese should understand the agony and strong feeling of the PoWs. This is the same for Queen Elizabeth. She should apologise to the Boer War victims and to the Chinese people for the Opium Wars."

Yesterday's Asahi gave front page coverage to the Emperor's visit, with a picture of the Emperor and Empress standing with the Queen and Prince Philip and the headline "Imperial couple welcomed to Britain". Only on the back pageis there a picture of PoWs turning their backs in protest.

Apart from the World Cup, the big stories in Japan yesterday were the conviction of a member of the Aum cult responsible for the Tokyo subway gas killings and the glitzy wedding of pop megastar Seiko Matsuda. As for the PoWs - old news and fairly irrelevant to modern Japanese.