TOKYO — Emperor Akihito expressed rare “deep remorse” over his country’s wartime actions in an address Saturday marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, a day after the prime minister fell short of apologizing in his own words to the victims of Japanese aggression.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meanwhile, stayed away from a contentious Yasukuni shrine that honors war criminals among other war dead. He instead prayed and laid flowers at a nearby national cemetery for unnamed fallen soldiers ahead of the annual ceremony at Tokyo’s Budokan hall.

That ceremony started with a moment of silence at noon to mark the radio announcement by Emperor Hirohito, Akihito’s father, of Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945.

“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” Akihito said in his speech. Japanese media said it was the first time he had used the words “deep remorse” in reference to the war in his annual war-end anniversary speech.