• Kyodo News


Eighty-seven Diet members, including 11 in government posts, visited Yasukuni Shrine during its spring festival Wednesday as part of a biannual group event.

The move came a day after Prime Minister Taro Aso admitted making an offering for the war-related shrine’s three-day festival that began Tuesday, as well as for last year’s fall festival, prompting concerns from China and South Korea ahead of his scheduled visit to China next week.

Members of Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) and New Party Daichi were among the 87 participants Wednesday.

The group included three senior vice ministers — Wataru Takeshita from the Finance Ministry, Toshio Yamauchi from the education ministry and Sanae Takaichi from the trade ministry — and eight parliamentary secretaries, according to Yoshinobu Shimamura, an LDP lawmaker who heads the nonpartisan group that promotes visits to Yasukuni by Diet members.

Shimamura praised Aso’s offering as “a good thing.” The prime minister “expressed his will, I think, by (making an offering), since he was unable to attend (the event) because of his position,” he said.

Aso presented a “masakaki” — potted branches of the “sakaki” evergreen tree considered sacred in Shinto — to the shrine under the name “prime minister” and paid the cost himself, sources close to the prime minister said Tuesday.

Yasukuni, a shrine dedicated to the war dead, is viewed by other parts of Asia as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past because it also honors convicted war criminals, including Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.

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