- Over 100 lawmakers paid their respects this week at the Yasukuni Shrine, honoring millions of war dead, while Prime Minister Kishida sent a ritual offering.
- The shrine is seen by China and South Korea as a representation of Japan’s brutal occupation, and both countries were quick to condemn the offering from Kishida and the visit from lawmakers.
- South Korea’s foreign ministry expressed “deep disappointment and regret” over the respect for the shrine, while a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Japan had an “incorrect attitude towards its own history of aggression.”
- Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that visiting the shrine at this time is even more important because of the war in Ukraine.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent an offering on Thursday to Tokyo’s Shinto Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead, while a group of over 100 lawmakers visited the shrine on Friday.
The shrine is seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s brutal history of occupation.
The Yasukuni Shrine honors 2.5 million war dead, including Japanese war leaders convicted as war criminals by the Allied Tribunal.
Officials from both China and South Korea condemned the ritual offerings, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin saying it “reflects Japan’s incorrect attitude towards its own history of aggression.”
He continued, “The Chinese side urges the Japanese side to earnestly keep its promises, reflect and face up to its history of aggression, completely cut itself off from militarism, and win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community with practical actions.”
South Korea’s foreign ministry shared similar thoughts, expressing “deep disappointment and regret” and urging “Japan’s responsible figures to look [directly] into their history, and show through action their humble reflection and sincere remorse of its past history.”
Prime Minister Kishida’s offering continues a trend of Japan’s leaders not visiting during Autumn or Spring Festivals; however, Kishida’s absence was well made up for by the presence of 103 lawmakers who showed up in person, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Others present included Liberal Democratic Party Policy Chief Sanae Takaichi, LDP’s Chief Election Strategist Toshiaki Endo, Senior Vice Minister of Environment Shunsuke Mutai and Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Shingo Miyake. Opposition party members from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Innovation Party and independents joined as well.
Abe stated to reporters that the visit to the shrine was particularly important because of the events in Ukraine.
“In Ukraine, many brave people are currently fighting and risking their lives to protect their country,” he said, adding that he wanted to pay his respects to those who had given their lives for Japan.
The last time a Japanese prime minister visited the shrine in person was in 2013 by Abe, a move that also sparked outrage from China and South Korea. The neighboring countries take issue with what they believe to be Japan’s lacking atonement for its wartime history. Both countries were under occupation and colonial rule by Imperial Japan before its surrender in 1945.