Critics of Shinzo Abe have to concede that he used the right buzzwords in his address marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. He talked of Japan's "shinryaku" (aggression), "shokuminchi shihai" (colonial rule), "tsusetsu na hansei" (deep remorse), and finally used the magic word "owabi" (apology).

But did he really mean the words? The next day queues of people lined up to pay their respects to the war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the souls of convicted and hanged war criminals are enshrined with 2.466 million others who died in wars for Japan from the Meiji Era.

A fancy dress parade of people in Imperial Army uniforms marched to the outer shrine proclaiming Japan's war glories and asserting that the country had done no wrong. Three members of Abe's Cabinet, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's influential policy chief Tomomi Inada and 67 Diet members went inside the shrine to pray. Abe himself did not visit, but sent a ritual cash offering with a close aide, who visited on his behalf, which surely renders Abe open to a charge of hypocrisy. The clear message was that Abe was there in spirit, although he did not want to provoke another open row with China and South Korea by turning up in person.