A high court Thursday upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a claim by some 450 citizens that a 2013 visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine violated the constitutional separation of state and religion.
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Toru Odan of the Tokyo High Court said the prime minister’s visit to the shrine did not interfere with the faith of the plaintiffs or violate their religious freedom, and dismissed the plaintiffs’ compensation demand.
The judge also said that Abe’s statement, released following the visit, can be regarded as an expression of remorse for the past and a pledge renouncing war.
The plaintiffs maintained that Abe’s visit to the shrine, which honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead, has heightened international tensions and infringed their right to live their lives peacefully. They are planning to appeal the ruling.
Chieko Seki, an 86-year-old plaintiff, told a news conference that the ruling was too considerate of the circumstances surrounding the Abe government.
Yasukuni Shrine is often seen by neighboring countries as a symbol of the nation’s militarist past, and visits by leaders have riled those who suffered under Japanese occupation or colonialism before and during World War II.
In a separate lawsuit over the prime minister’s 2013 visit to the shrine the Supreme Court rejected in December 2017 a damages claim by families of war dead and others, upholding lower court rulings that it did not interfere with other people’s beliefs or lives.