In a solemn, silent tribute, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented a white chrysanthemum wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific today, bowing his head slightly as a gentle rain fell.
The brief stop at the cemetery, commonly known as Punchbowl, is a prelude to his meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday and their visit to the Arizona Memorial.
Not a word was spoken during the ceremony. The only sounds were the clicking of camera shutters and the rustling of leaves in the stately banyan trees. The cemetery is the final resting place for tens of thousands of American servicemen, many of whom served in World War II.
Jim Horton, director of the cemetery, stood beside Abe as a combined military band from all bases on Oahu played the national anthems of the United States and Japan. An honor guard stood at attention, bookended by the flags of the two countries, damp but wafted by the wind.
Abe has said his visit is intended as a show of reconciliation and respect for the war dead, in hopes of never repeating the tragedy of war.
A seven-member rifle team fired three volleys, shattering the silence, before a bugler launched into Taps. The sprinkling rain fell a bit harder as the mournful strains of the melody filled the Honolulu Memorial.
Abe signed the cemetery’s guest book then stopped to lay another wreath at the gravesite of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.
The prime minister arrived this morning from Tokyo. He was accompanied to the ceremony by Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, among other dignitaries.
U.S. officials in attendance included Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of Pacific Air Forces, Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Japan, and Gov. David Ige.