Hundreds of activists filed a lawsuit Monday with the Tokyo District Court against the government and war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, claiming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit there last December was unconstitutional.
The 273 people in the group, which includes relatives of the war dead, experts on religion and Korean people, argue that Abe’s visit to the shrine in Tokyo violated the constitutional principle of separation of state and religion. They are demanded damages of ¥10,000 each.
They also demand that Abe not make any further visits to the shrine, which honors millions of war dead, including Class-A war criminals.
The premier’s Dec. 26 visit sparked strong protests from China and South Korea — two countries that tasted Japanese militarism first-hand.
Some of Japan’s neighbors view Yasukuni as a symbol of the nation’s past militarism, which makes Abe’s offerings to the shrine in his official capacity as prime minister problematic.
The lawsuit in Tokyo follows a similar suit filed with the Osaka District Court on April 11 by an Osaka-based citizens’ group with about 540 members.
According to the suit filed in Tokyo, the plaintiffs argue that “the prime minister, who is building a nation that can wage war by allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, tried to manipulate Yasukuni Shrine in order to glorify the act of making sacrifices for the country.”
The plaintiffs also claim that his visit worsened Japan’s ties with neighboring countries and violated the right of people to live peacefully by increasing the risk of war. The suit was also filed against Yasukuni Shrine in light of Abe’s visit.