Hundreds of rightwingers and kin of the war dead made their annual pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine and lashed out at Cabinet members who gave the contentious Tokyo landmark a miss Friday, the 63rd anniversary of Japan’s surrender.
Banners paraded at the shrine demanded that the state wage bold diplomacy, including pressing Japan’s claim to two South Korea-controlled islets known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japan and prodding Beijing to carry out a thorough investigation into tainted Chinese “gyoza” dumplings.
The shrine has been a gathering point every Aug. 15 in the postwar years for many political groups as well as relatives of fallen service members.
Ayumu Ishiguro, a member of the Shizuoka Prefecture-based rightwing group Sekishin Houkoku Doumei, said he visited the shrine out of respect for the war dead.
But he didn’t hesitate to harshly criticize Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s administration for lacking resolve.
The enshrined souls sacrificed their lives to defend Japan’s land and people, the 43-year-old said, noting the prime minister and his Cabinet “don’t even have a hint of that spirit.”
Surrounded by banners demanding a more hardline stance toward North Korea on the abduction issue, Ishiguro, clad in beige military garb along with three comrades, said the government had a lot to learn from the war dead.
“I feel we must keep demanding that the government do the right thing,” he said.
Following a silent prayer and chanting of the “Kimigayo” national anthem, Asanuma, 79, who asked that his first name be withheld, told The Japan Times that his 30th visit on Aug. 15 was paid out of respect for his enshrined brother.
“My brother’s plane was shot down over the Pacific, and his body was never found. But I feel his soul is here, in this shrine,” Asanuma said.
Pointing to the beefed up security around the shrine, the Tokyoite expressed regret that rightwingers have turned what should be a day of mourning into an occasion to raucously chant slogans.
“But politicians who were scared off visiting and paying their respects to the shrine must not forget that the sacrifices of the dead are what helped build today’s Japan,” he said.
Meanwhile, a 24-year-old Canadian visitor to Yasukuni, who asked to remain anonymous, said Japan and its neighbors must “understand and acknowledge one another’s traditions and beliefs” to overcome diplomatic tensions.
“I can understand where both sides are coming from,” he said of the dispute over visits by politicians to Yasukuni Shrine, but added that Japan’s neighbors might be better off if they avoided overreacting and viewing the visits as diplomatic statements and instead “accept it for what it is.”