TOKYO (TR) – Two ministers from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s cabinet honored the nation’s war dead at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Wednesday, the 67th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II.
Yuichiro Hata, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and Jin Matsubara, the Minister National Public Safety Commission Chairman, both claimed to be participating in a private capacity.
“I followed my principles as a Japanese citizen,” said Matsubara.
Highly out-spoken Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara also made a pilgrimage. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose administration extended for 12 months between 2006 and 2007, attended a separate ceremony on the shrine’s grounds.
Yasukuni Shrine, located in Chiyoda Ward, 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.
Yasukuni also memorializes 14 Class-A war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. Visits to the shrine on August 15 by Japan’s high-ranking officials routinely raise tensions with Japan’s Asian neighbors, including China and Korea, two countries that suffered the wrath of the Imperial Army over a half-century ago.
The visits by the Japanese cabinet members are certain to elevate tensions in Asia at a time when China and Korea have in recent months been engaged in territorial disputes with Japan. Last week, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the contested island of Takeshima (in Japanese and Dokto in Korean) in the Sea of Japan. On Wednesday, a group of protesters made a journey to the same island by swimming.
That same day, a group of 14 from Hong Kong sailed to the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese), located in the East China Sea and controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. Japanese authorities arrested five members of the group.
Prime Minister Noda acknowledged the tremendous damage and pain that Japan caused during the war and pledged to maintain its war-renouncing policies. “We deeply regret that and sincerely mourn for those who were sacrificed and their relatives,” Noda said. “We will not repeat the same mistake.”
The photographs below depict some of the activities at the anti-Yasukuni Shrine demonstration held in nearby Kudanshita, in which right-wing groups attempted to hassle left-wing protesters for their vocal disregard for the shrine.