Japan’s ministers pay respects at controversial Yasukuni Shrine

A man dresses as a soldier at Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

A man dresses as a soldier at Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15

TOKYO (TR) – Visits by members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet to a controversial shrine on the 68th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II were met with mixed responses at home and abroad.

On Thursday morning, Yoshitaka Shindo and Keiji Furuya, the ministers for internal affairs and the North Korea issue, and dozens of members of parliament paid respects at Yasukuni Shrine, located in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward.

Under a blazing sun, an estimated 175,000 people — some in military uniform, others carry flags and banners praising the Emperor — descended on the shrine’s compound. At noon, a moment of silence was held to pay tribute to those fallen in battle.

“Today is a day when we pray for peace, reflecting on where we have been, quietly bowing our heads and mourning for the departed souls,” said Abe, in speaking with reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In response, China recalled its Japanese ambassador, saying the visits “harm the feelings” China’s people.

The shrine is Japan’s most notorious rallying point for nationalist sentiment. It confounds its left-leaning detractors and inspires patriots due to its enshrinement of roughly 2.5 million soldiers, airmen, and seamen, many of whom were encouraged by the belief that their spirit will be enshrined should they die in battle fighting heroically for the Emperor.

Since Abe was reinstated as Japan’s prime minister last December, China and South Korea, both of which are engaged in a territorial dispute over a group of uninhabited in the Pacific Ocean, have called upon the the hawkish prime minister, who has openly expressed an interest in revising Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution, to refrain from rekindling the Yasukuni issue.

Instead of visiting the shrine himself Abe offered an envelope of money in the capacity of head of the Liberal Democratic Party, and not prime minister.

For their part, Japan’s right-wing did not find favor with Abe’s decision to avoid the shrine. The Gishin Gokoku-kai verbally blasted the prime minister with a loudspeaker assault as their soundtruck traveled around the government area of Nagatacho.

“He’s a liar,” said Shinichi Kamijo, the leader of the Gishin Gokoku-kai, which later that afternoon clashed with riot police in opposing a left-wing march outside the shrine’s gates. “He has betrayed the people.”

Visitors at Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

Visitors at Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

Right-wing groups opposed by police outside Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

Right-wing groups opposed by police outside Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

A visitor to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

A visitor to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

A visitor to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

A visitor to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

Right-wing group Gishin Gokoku-kai just prior to a rally opposing Yasukuni Shrine

Right-wing group Gishin Gokoku-kai just prior to a rally opposing Yasukuni Shrine

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

Right-wing groups clash with police during a rally opposing Yasukuni Shrine

Right-wing groups clash with police during a rally opposing Yasukuni Shrine

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

Right-wing groups clash with police during a rally opposing Yasukuni Shrine

Right-wing groups clash with police during a rally opposing Yasukuni Shrine

(Photo by Tokyo Reporter, August 15, 2013)

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Posted by on August 16, 2013. Filed under National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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