New Yasukuni chief priest picked

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Report

Ex-peer and businessman Takaharu Kyogoku on Monday will become chief priest at Yasukuni Shrine, the war-linked Shinto shrine said Friday.

Kyogoku, 71, former president of Kantoueisen Co., succeeds Toshiaki Nambu, who died in January. Kyogoku has never served as a Shinto priest, and neither did Nambu before his appointment.

Kyogoku’s nomination was officially decided Friday at a meeting of representatives of shrine attendees.

According to sources close to Yasukuni, the shrine had considered asking a relative of late chief priest Fujimaro Tsukuba to become head of the shrine. However, the proposal was rejected, the sources said.

Tsukuba, who died in 1978, refused to enshrine class-A war criminals at the shrine despite strong requests from Japanese veterans.

Soon after his death, new chief priest Nagayoshi Matsudaira, known for his rightwing views on history, enshrined them at Yasukuni, an act that has sparked a number of diplomatic gripes in Asia and domestic criticism.

Kyogoku’s view on Japan’s militarism and Imperial army campaigns in the 1930s and ’40s are not immediately known. After serving at Nippon Yusen K.K., known as NYK Line, Kyogoku headed Kantoueisen, a port transport and shipping firm based in Yokohama.

Both Kyogoku and Nambu were members of the “kazoku” peerage that was abolished in 1947.

Kyogoku is the 15th head of the Kyogoku family that ruled the former Tajima Toyooka clan, now part of Hyogo Prefecture, during the Edo Period (1603-1867) under the Tokugawa shogunate. Nambu was the 45th head of the Nambu family that governed the Morioka clan, currently part of Iwate Prefecture.