Ninety-one lawmakers, including Jin Murai, head of the National Public Safety Commission, visited Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday in the wake of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s surprise visit there Sunday.
The lawmakers, members of a suprapartisan group in the Diet promoting visits to the Tokyo Shinto shrine, visited on the occasion of a spring peace festival, and 94 other Diet members sent representatives.
The 91 who visited in person included Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki, his New Conservative Party counterpart, Toshihiro Nikai, and Kenji Kobayashi of the Democratic Party of Japan.
Although Murai was the only Cabinet member who attended, several ministers voiced support Tuesday morning for Koizumi’s visit.
Former Defense Agency chief Tsutomu Kawara, the head of the group, told reporters after visiting the shrine that he appreciates Koizumi’s visit, saying it was made “in consideration of neighboring countries’ views and feelings” and out of his wish to “calmly offer prayers there.”
It was Koizumi’s second visit to the shrine since he became prime minister last April. His Aug. 13 visit, two days before the 56th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, drew strong protests from China and South Korea. The two countries also criticized his Sunday visit.
Kawara said his group thinks it would be best to have the prime minister visit the shrine on Aug. 15 but that it will not strongly demand that Koizumi do so, to show their understanding of his position.
Said Koji Omi, minister for Okinawa affairs: “It is very admirable that he made a visit to pay his respects and express gratitude to those who lost their lives for Japan. As August approaches, everybody will make a fuss. In that sense, a visit this time was good. It showed good judgment.”
Defense Agency head Gen Nakatani and health minister Chikara Sakaguchi said Koizumi visited the shrine in line with his own principles.
Nakatani said he will try to gain the understanding of Japan’s neighbors on the issue through diplomatic channels.
Atsuko Toyama, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, said she thinks the visit is based on Koizumi’s belief that a devastating war should never happen again and that the visit should not adversely affect the World Cup soccer finals and cultural exchanges between Japan and its neighbors.
The soccer event will be co-hosted by Japan and South Korea beginning May 31.
Chung Mong Joon, chairman of the Korean World Cup Organization Committee, on Monday criticized Koizumi’s visit, saying it “breached the purpose and spirit of the cohosting of the World Cup finals.”
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