TOKYO (TR) – Visits to a controversial shrine on the 69th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II by members of the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have once again unsettled Japan’s relations with its neighboring countries.
On Friday, Yoshitaka Shindo and Keiji Furuya, the minister of internal affairs and the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, Tomomi Inada, state minister in charge of administrative reform, and roughly 80 politicians paid respects at Yasukuni Shrine, located in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward.
Under an intense August sun, more than 100,000 people — some in military uniform reading song lyrics, others carrying flags and banners in praise of the Emperor — descended on the shrine’s compound.
A moment of silence was held at noon to pay tribute to those fallen in battle. Just after, Mitsunori Agata, a top boss in the Sumiyoshi-kai organized crime group, posed with a group in front of one of the shrine’s gates before departing.
For their part, uniformed members of Japan’s right-wing groups patrolled the shrine’s grounds before opposing an anti-Yasukuni Shrine protest that extended between nearby Jimbocho and Kundanshita in the late afternoon.
Instead of visiting the shrine himself, Abe sent an aide to deliver an envelope of money in the capacity of head of the Liberal Democratic Party, and not prime minister.
“The peace and prosperity that we now enjoy have been built upon the precious sacrifices of the war dead. We will never forget this, even for a moment,” said Abe, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. “Today is a day on which we renew that pledge towards peace.”
The 145-year-old Shinto shrine 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.
Crucially for China and South Korea, both of which suffered suffered under the rule of Japan during World War II, the list of those enshrined includes 14 Class-A war criminals.
Since Abe was reinstated as Japan’s prime minister in December of 2012, both neighboring countries, which are currently engaged in territorial disputes with Japan over uninhabited islands in the Pacific Ocean, have repeatedly called upon the the hawkish prime minister to refrain from rekindling the Yasukuni issue.
As a result, Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, said the Communist nation was “firmly opposed” to Abe’s offering and the respects paid by his ministers, local media reported. Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry described the actions of Abe and his ministers as “deplorable.”
“We will carve out the future of this country for the sake of the generation that is alive at this moment and for the generations of tomorrow, facing history with humility and engraving its lessons deeply into our hearts,” Abe said.