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An apology of a row: Did Akihito express regrets or not?

LONDON, May 28: The Times of London on Thursday raised doubts about whether the Emperor of Japan expressed ``deep sorrow'' about the victims...

LONDON, May 28: The Times of London on Thursday raised doubts about whether the Emperor of Japan expressed “deep sorrow” about the victims of World War II, as stated in an English translation of a key speech he made on the first day of his current state visit to Britain.

In a story splashed across the front page, the newspaper quoted language experts as saying that Emperor Akihito had actually said in a speech at Buckingham Palace: “Our hearts feel deep pain.”

But the key words were added to the English translation, which read: “At the thought of the scars of war that they bear, our hearts are filled with deep sorrow and pain,” the language experts told the London daily.

The Times said the revelation had deeply angered British former Prisoners-Of-War (POW) who have been protesting during Akihito’s visit in support of their claim for a full apology and compensation for their treatment.

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It suggested that the discrepancy may have reflected the need to avoid antagonising Japanese nationalists.

AJapanese Palace insider was quoted as telling The Times: “To have the emperor say the words `deep sorrow’ would have come unacceptably close to an apology for some people in Japan.”

However, the Japanese embassy in London strongly denied trying to mislead the Emperor’s English-speaking audience.

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A spokesman said: “The Japanese Government’s translation of his Majesty the Emperor’s response at the state banquet is the only one that reflects the true and faithful meaning and intention of the Japanese original.” “Any suggestion that the Japanese Government’s translation of the Emperor’s speech is incorrect is wholly unfounded.”

The Times conceded that the Foreign Office’s Japanese language experts agreed that the English transcript was a “fair and accurate translation between languages that often do not translate literally.”

And a journalist for the Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, told The Times that the words used in Japanese, kokoro no itami, meaning “pain in our hearts,” represented a moreprofound apology than kanashimi, “I feel sorrow”, or “I feel sadness”.

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The journalist said kanashimi was weaker in meaning, and would be used to express regret, for example at losing a ticket or bus pass.

First published on: 29-05-1998 at 12:00:00 am
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