LONDON (AP) — Like true royals, Queen Elizabeth II and Emperor Akihito just kept waving and smiling from their gilded carriage Tuesday while survivors of Japanese prison camps turned their backs and booed the newly arrived emperor.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said Japan has apologized enough for its brutal treatment of British soldiers and civilians in World War II — and reminded Britons that Tokyo now is a prime trading partner and investor.
But the demonstration by hundreds of veterans and civilians, many wearing white sashes saying “Prisoner of War Japan 1941-45," overshadowed the start of Akihito's four-day visit.
“Are they sorry? No, they're not really," said Estelle Cowley, who had pinned to her jacket a tattered piece of cloth bearing a faded 6 /148 — the number she was assigned as a prisoner at age 13.
“We had to wear this every day, parade in it, parade wearing it through snow or searing heat," the British missionary's daughter said of her days in a Japanese prison camp in China.
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The horses of The Household Cavalry, the queen's personal guard, tossed their heads at boos and whistles as the procession of carriages drove down The Mall, the boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace.
Some protesters whistled “Colonel Bogey," the tune associated with “The Bridge on the River Kwai." Many wore red gloves to symbolize the blood they said was on Japan's hands.
The 64-year-old Akihito planned to allude to the past at a Buckingham Palace banquet given by the queen Tuesday night.
“The empress and I can never forget the many kinds of suffering so many people have undergone because of that war," he said in his prepared remarks. “Our hearts are filled with deep sorrow and pain. All through our visit here, this thought will never leave our minds."
In reply, the queen planned to say that “while the memories of that time still cause pain today, they have also acted as a spur to reconciliation."