At a ceremony attended by Emperor Akihito and his wife, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Japan will rise from the devastation of its March 11 earthquake just as it rebuilt itself after the war.
Kan noted the “tremendous damage and suffering” that Japan caused during the war to the people of many countries, especially in Asia.
He renewed a national pledge never again to engage in war and said Japan will work for everlasting peace in the world.
Elsewhere, veterans and dozens of politicians from the conservative opposition party visited a controversial war shrine built to honor Japan’s more than 3 million war dead.
Political visits to the Yasukuni shrine are considered deeply offensive to many of Japan’s neighbors because war criminals are among those honored there.
Mr. Kan, in a break with tradition, has avoided visiting the shrine on the anniversary for the past two years.