A Shinto priest (R) leads Japanese lawmakers to the altar of Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on April 22, 2016. ©AFP
A group of Japanese lawmakers have paid a visit to a controversial war shrine in the capital Tokyo, in a move viewed by critics as the glorification of Japan
’s past militarism and colonial record.
Some 90 lawmakers from various parties visited Yasukuni Shrine during an annual spring festival on Friday to honor millions of Japanese killed in the World War II, including those convicted of war crimes.
The shrine has been a source of diplomatic friction for countries, including China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan’s aggression and colonialism early in the 20th century.
Japan’s senior politicians usually visit the shrine during spring and autumn festivals and on August 15, which is the anniversary of Tokyo’s surrender in World War II. The visits spark angry reactions from China and South Korea.
The recent visit came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered a ceremonial tree to the shrine. He did not visit the location in an apparent effort to avoid a diplomatic rebuke in Asia
ahead of Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s upcoming visit to China.
Shinto priests walk towards the outer shrine on the first day of the spring festival at the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on April 21, 2016. ©AFP
A day before the visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing wants “Japan to honestly and deeply reflect on its invasion history, demarcate a complete boundary on militarism, and take practical actions to win back the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community.”
The shrine is a revered site for the Japanese, commemorating about 2.5 million people who lost their lives from the Boshin War of 1867 through the end of World War II.
Some 14 high-ranking officials executed after the war for committing war crimes are also buried at the shrine.
Abe visited to the controversial site in December 2013 to mark his first year in office, drawing anger from Japan’s neighbors as well as the United States that said it was “disappointed” by the visit.