Yasukuni Shrine

Cabinet minister Takaichi and 90 other Japanese lawmakers visit Yasukuni war shrine

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 10:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 2:03pm

Cabinet minister Sanae Takaichi and some 90 other lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties visited the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Friday, a move that may again trigger criticism from China and South Korea.

“I prayed for the peace of the souls of those who died for the country, as well as for health of bereaved families,” Takaichi, minister of internal affairs and communications, told reporters after the visit. “It can never be a diplomatic issue.”

The Shinto shrine has been a source of diplomatic friction particularly with China and South Korea, which see it as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism as it honours convicted war criminals, along with millions of war dead.

Japan’s Abe makes another ritual offering at controversial war shrine

The visit by Takaichi, a regular visitor to the shrine, came hours after a visit by a group of about 90 lawmakers led by Hidehisa Otsuji, a veteran lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

It also came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a ritual offering to the shrine. Abe did not visit in an apparent effort to avoid antagonising China and South Korea, as well as the United States.

Abe last visited Yasukuni in December 2013, angering Beijing and Seoul. The visit also prompted Washington to express disappointment with Tokyo’s exacerbation of tensions with its neighbours.

Instead, the premier dedicated a “masakaki” tree offering to the shrine on Thursday, the first day of the shrine’s three-day spring festival, as he has done at past spring and autumn festivals.

Speaking to reporters after Friday’s visit, Otsuji voiced regret at Abe’s failure to visit the shrine, but expressed his understanding as Abe is currently tied up with relief work in response to a series of strong earthquakes hitting southwestern Japan since last week.

The group of lawmakers included members of Abe’s LDP as well as the main opposition Democratic Party and the Initiatives from Osaka party.

Shuichi Takatori, senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office, and Yoshitaka Ito, senior vice agriculture minister, joined the group.

The group’s members usually visit Yasukuni during the spring and autumn festivals as well as on the August 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the second world war.

Last year, 106 members of the group visited the shrine in spring, 71 in the fall and 67 on the war anniversary.

On Thursday, Seiichi Eto, a special adviser to Abe, and Keiji Furuya, a former minister in charge of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals, also paid a visit to the shrine.