81 lawmakers visit Yasukuni ahead of festival

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

A total of 81 Diet members visited Yasukuni Shrine on Friday, one day before the controversial Tokyo institution starts its annual Reitaisai spring festival.

One participant, Takashi Morita of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), is parliamentary secretary of general affairs in the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, but no Cabinet ministers joined the visit.

The lawmakers belong to a bipartisan Diet group that makes visits to Yasukuni, which enshrines the spirits of the war dead, including Class-A war criminals.

The participants Friday included the vice speakers of the Lower and Upper houses, as well as rank and file members from the ruling and opposition parties.

Since its inception in 1981, the group has been visiting the Shinto shrine in Chiyoda Ward during its annual spring and autumn festivals and on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

“It’s such a pity that no prime ministers or Cabinet members have visited Yasukuni since the DPJ came to power,” said Ichiro Aisawa, a Lower House member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Yoshihiko Noda, a son of a Self-Defense Forces officer, sparked criticism last August, before becoming prime minister by saying he believes the Class-A war criminals honored there are no longer criminals because they have paid their debt to society.

After taking over as prime minister in September, however, Noda said he and his Cabinet ministers would not visit Yasukuni.