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Abe reportedly won’t visit controversial shrine for spring ceremony

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not likely to visit Yasukuni Shrine during an important Shinto ceremony this spring but instead will dedicate a ritual implement to the controversial Tokyo shrine, which honors the nation’s war dead, including Class-A war criminals, government sources indicated Friday.

On Friday, major media outlets reported Abe has decided not to go to Yasukuni during this spring’s Reitaisai. The shrine holds two Reitaisai festivals each year, the other in the fall.

A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, didn’t deny the reports, indicating Abe is not likely to go to the shrine in Chiyoda Ward this spring.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Abe will dedicate to Yasukuni a “masakaki,” a decorated wood stick in which the wishes of the donor are believed to reside.

“I think what was reported is true,” Suga said of a report that Abe will dedicate the masakaki. Suga said he didn’t know whether Abe will visit the shrine.

Yasukuni spokesman Takahiko Suzuki said the shrine had not received any notification from the prime minister on his plans.

According to Suzuki, Abe dedicated a masakaki to the shrine in spring 2007, during his first stint as prime minister. The dedication fee is ¥50,000.

The strategy appears aimed at not provoking China or other countries that are offended by high-level visits to the shrine while at the same time catering to his core domestic supporters, who demand that he show respect to the Japanese war dead enshrined there.

Yasukuni enshrines millions of war dead as well as Class-A war criminals from World War II, including Prime Minister and Gen. Hideki Tojo. It has been regarded by many foreign countries as a symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism of the 1930s and ’40s.

Concerns have grown that Abe will pay a visit to the shrine to drum up nationalist fervor. Since taking office he has refused to comment on whether he will visit, saying the matter should not be turned into a diplomatic or political issue.