National / Politics

Minutes found for 1980s meetings about Japan ministers' contentious visits to Yasukuni Shrine

JIJI

Minutes of 1980s panel meetings on visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine by ministers have been found at the Cabinet Secretariat, a government official said Thursday.

The private advisory body for the chief Cabinet secretary, created under the administration of then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, held a total of 21 meetings between August 1984 and August 1985.

In a report in August 1985, the panel said there could be a path for realizing official visits by Cabinet ministers to Yasukuni Shrine without breaching the principle of the separation of politics and religion.

Just after that, Nakasone made an official visit to the shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, provoking controversy.

The panel had 15 experts, including former Supreme Court Justice Taizo Yokoi, philosopher Takeshi Umehara and author Ayako Sono. Its meetings were held behind closed doors.

Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class A World War II criminals among the war dead, is regarded by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

The Cabinet Secretariat found the minutes of the second to 12th meetings in its book storeroom during its investigation launched in response to a freedom-of-information disclosure request, Noriaki Sugiyama, counsellor at the secretariat, told the House of Councilors General Affairs Committee.

He announced the discovery following a question on the matter by committee member Hideya Sugio of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Sugiyama said minutes of the remaining meetings are believed to have been created although he has no further information, including whether they have been disposed of.

Sugio criticized the secretariat, seeing a “serious flaw” in government record management.

The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, a regional newspaper in central Japan, reported about the existence of minutes of some meetings of the panel in its morning edition on May 3 this year.