Yasukuni Shrine officials have reiterated their stance against enshrining war criminals at a separate site.
“Once-enshrined deities can’t be removed,” a representative of the Shinto shrine in Tokyo honors several convicted Class-A war criminals along with millions of Japan’s war dead, said in a written statement.
Visits to the shrine by political leaders always spark criticism from China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression and see Yasukuni as a symbol of the country’s past militarism.
Yasukuni began honoring wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and the other Class-A war criminals in 1978, stirring controversy in Japan and abroad.
The shrine officials, responding to written questions, also said that Japan’s engagement in past wars was for “self-existence and self-defense.”
Asked about visits by prime ministers and other Cabinet members, the officials said the shrine “welcomes anyone who hopes to visit.” Yasukuni will “quietly keep waiting for an emperor’s visit,” they added. Since 1975, when Emperor Hirohito — known posthumously as Emperor Showa — visited the shrine, no emperor has gone to Yasukuni.