Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, indicated Thursday that she had recently visited war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, a move that may rile China, South Korea and possibly the United States.
She posted two undated but recent photos of the visit on Facebook. In one, she stands in front of the shrine’s main structure, and in the other she poses with the Yushukan war museum in the background. Exhibits at the Yushukan, a facility adjacent to the shrine, are often criticized for glorifying Japan’s wars in the 1930s and 40s.
“I paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine for the first time in a long time. And I also entered Yushukan,” she wrote in a comment attached to the photos. Yushukan displays many mementos of dead Japanese soldiers, and other war-related items.
“I feel pain in my chest when I read letters and farewell notes (of soldiers) left for their families,” she wrote.
“I’m really thankful for being able to live in a peaceful, rich Japan, and again have come to feel I should do what I can do for world peace,” she wrote.
Yasukuni enshrines the souls of 2.47 million Japanese soldiers who “dedicated their lives to the state.” The enshrined, however, also include Japanese Class-A war criminals from World War II, most notably wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.
The Shinto facility is thus often regarded as a symbol of Japan’s militarism before and during World War II. Visits by top Japanese politicians, in particular the prime minister, have been criticized by China, South Korea and even the United States.
Shinzo Abe visited the shrine in December 2013, drawing condemnation both at home and abroad.
Abe insisted he was visiting as a private citizen, but signed the flowers he laid there as “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.”
His visit to the shrine, however, Which he said was to pay his respects to the soldiers who died for the state and not to glorify Japan’s wartime deeds, damaged Japan’s ties with China and South Korea, ties that have only recently begun showing signs of improving.
Chinese President Xi Jinping held a brief summit meeting with Shinzo Abe in November and April.
The Japanese leader, however, has been unable to meet South Korean President Park Geun-hye in a formal one-on-one meeting.