Naruhito, in his first appearance as emperor at an annual memorial service for the war dead held each Aug. 15, echoed his father's "deep remorse" for the millions who lost their lives in World War II.

The first memorial service in the Reiwa Era was attended by about 5,300 bereaved family members. The era began on May 1 after Naruhito's father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, abdicated the previous day.

A moment of silence was observed at noon for the approximately 3.1 million Japanese who died during the war that ended 74 years ago.

In his address, Naruhito said, "Bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never again be repeated."

Akihito first expressed deep remorse in the speech he gave at the 2015 memorial service to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again made no mention of such remorse in his speech at the memorial service this year.

Instead, he said, "The pledge to never again repeat the horrors of war will remain unchanged from the Showa and Heisei eras and continue as well in the Reiwa Era."

Since former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa first mentioned "condolences" in 1993, past prime ministers had always referred to Japan's aggression in Asia by citing "deep remorse" or offering "condolences" to Asian countries that were ravaged by Japanese troops.

However, ever since Abe began his second stint as prime minister in 2012, he has stopped short of using such expressions.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 5,391 bereaved family members had indicated their intention to attend the ceremony held at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan hall. That included five spouses all aged 85 or older, along with 339 siblings of the war dead, 2,751 children, 451 grandchildren and 140 great-grandchildren.

For the first time, more than 30 percent of intended participants were born after the end of World War II as the percentage reached 30.6 percent.

However, some of those who had planned to attend were unable to do so, due mainly to the approach of a typhoon that caused transportation chaos.

(This article was written by Keishi Nishimura and Aya Nagatani.)