The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy held a memorial service during the harbour phase of Exercise KAKADU to commemorate the lives lost in Darwin by both sides during the Second World War.
More than 200 people attended the ceremony, which was held in Darwin Harbour on the flight deck of Japanese Ship Fuyuzuki.
Darwin Deputy Mayor, Bob Elix, and Commanding Officer of HMAS Coonawarra, Commander John Navin, joined the Commanding Officer of Fuyuzuki, Commander Kuniaki Orito, to lay wreaths in respect of the fallen.
Commander Orito spoke to the gathering saying Japan has deep respect for both sides of the conflict.
“It breaks my heart when I think about what was in the mind of those who sacrificed their lives for their countries,” Commander Orito said.
“Whether Australian or Japanese, all fought with the faith their country would win the war.
“I hope Japanese-Australian relations will flourish in the years to come and I offer my respects to all those who sacrificed their lives. May their spirits rest in peace forever.”
Japan lost 80 crew members in submarine I-124 when it was sunk by Australian warship HMAS Deloraine just 40 nautical miles off the Darwin coast on 20 January 1942.
On 19 February 1942, Japan began a series of air raids on Darwin and northern Australia.
From the first raid to the last on 12 November 1943, Australia and its allies lost about 900 lives, 77 aircraft and several ships. The Japanese lost 131 aircraft.
Deputy Mayor Elix said combined services are important to heal the wounds of the past.
“The commemoration was very moving and I am pleased that both nations can come together to remember the fallen,” Mr Elix said.
“I think it is an important part of moving forward. It is part of our history, it is part of their history and we will learn from the past to build a better and enduring relationship.”
Commander Navin said the service was a good reminder of how far Australian and Japanese relations have come since the end of the war.
“The ceremony reminds people what the Second World War brought to Darwin and how relations between the two countries have developed,” Commander Navin said.
Darwin Returned and Services League representative Rod Cook also attended the service, which he described as touching and inclusive.
“I appreciate the way Japan is so respectful for our dead. We can remember the war with mutual respect and condolence,” Mr Cook said.
“The RSL will be wherever there is a service to respect our fallen.”
Fuyuzuki and her crew of 190 are in Darwin to participate in Exercise KAKADU, the Australian premier maritime exercise.
KAKADU seeks to build and strengthen mutual understanding and interoperability between the 19 nations taking part. The exercise runs until 23 September.