In what will surely prompt an outcry from China and other Asian neighbors, two of Japan’s Cabinet ministers paid visits to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo on Sunday. The shrine is meant to serve as a monument to Japan’s roughly 2.5 million war dead, including 14 military leaders convicted as war criminals, and visits from leading politicians are condemned by South Korea and China praising of Japan’s wartime aggressions.
Taro Aso, Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, as well as Chief of the National Public Safety Commission Keiji Furuya, made their visits, albeit at different times, stating they were merely in a personal capacity and in honor of the start of a yearly spring festival. Aso was said to have bowed at the worship hall and left without comment to reporters, while Furuya stated that “it is natural for a lawmaker to offer heartfelt condolences for spirits of the war dead who sacrificed their lives for the nation.” Saturday also saw a visit from Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, who as well described his visit as a private matter.
Visits to the Yasukuni Shrine are not made often by Japanese Cabinet members, but when they are, it usually sparks outrage in China and South Korea, where claims are made that Japan has not done enough to make amends for its aggressions during the World War II occupation. In an apparent effort not to make things worse, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declined to make a visit in person, but instead made a donation of a ceremonial pine tree with his name and title attached which will be used to decorate an altar.