National / Politics

Ministers visit divisive war shrine on 70th anniversary of war end

by Tomohiro Osaki and Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writers

In a move likely to draw fresh criticism from China and South Korea, three members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet visited the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine Saturday, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

The three who paid homage to the war dead enshrined there, which includes Class-A war criminals, were Haruko Arimura, minister in charge of women’s empowerment, Sanae Takaichi, minister of internal affairs and communications and Eriko Yamatani, minister in charge of the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea.

“I offered my prayer in the hopes that Japan will continue to make efforts to contribute to the safety and peace of the world,” Arimura said, adding she offered tamagushi-ryo, which is money to pay for a sacred tree branch.

Arimura refrained from commenting directly on a closely observed statement released by Abe the day before to commemorate the anniversary, in which he asserted he will remain committed to Japan’s “heartfelt apology” made in the past over its wartime atrocities, but didn’t offer a fresh apology of his own.

“I believe the prime minister sincerely wrote the statement after deeply considering the feelings of many people,” Arimura said.

In separate visits, 66 lawmakers offered prayers at the controversial shrine, while an additional 94 sent proxies on their behalf as of Saturday morning.

Tomomi Inada, the policy chief for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also visited the shrine. She lauded Abe’s statement as “very meaningful,” citing its emphasis on Japan’s postwar pursuit of pacifism and its declaration that future generations who have nothing to do with WWII shouldn’t be “predestined” to keep apologizing.

When asked how she would respond to possible angry reactions from China and South Korea over her visit, internal affairs minister Takaichi said she is certain her action will not be subjected to condemnation from the rest of the world.

“I believe consoling the souls of people who died in the line of public duty is a matter for the people of each nation,” Takaichi told reporters. “It is not something that should be treated as a diplomatic matter.”

Of the 66 lawmakers who visited the shrine, 57 came from the LDP, two from the Democratic Party of Japan and four from the conservative Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party). Among the prominent figures who visited the shrine Saturday was hawkish former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.

“I strongly wish the Emperor himself will make a prayer at the shrine (at some point),” he said.