Yasukuni Shrine visits face strong criticism in Japan

Updated: 2014-04-23 11:58


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TOKYO - The chief of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s coalition ally on Tuesday admonished the visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine by Cabinet ministers and throngs of lawmakers on Tuesday, describing the homage as "undesirable."

Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the ruling party's junior coalition partner, New Komeito, told a press briefing earlier Tuesday that Cabinet members' visits to the shrine are "undesirable" because they "invariably draw reprisals from neighboring countries."

Yamaguchi's comments followed around 150 ruling and opposition lawmakers along with the LDP's Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, Yoshitaka Shindo, himself a House of Representatives member, visiting the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, to pay homage during its spring festival.

Tuesday's mass visit to the controversial war-linked sanctum, which enshrines 2.5 million souls including those of 14 Class-A convicted war criminals, is a painful reminder to Japan's neighbors of its brutal, militaristic rule during World War II, and the visits have drawn a harsh backlash from neighboring countries including South Korea and China.

Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun said in its editorial released Tuesday: "(PM Shinzo) Abe claimed that commemorating those who died in war is naturally, which indeed is stealing concept. The question is not whether those people should be mourned, it is about the place."

It added that since the Yasukuni Shrine honored Class-A war criminals of World War II, the visits by government officials would certainly trigger doubts upon whether the government intend to deny the court verdict of the Far East International Military Tribune and whitewash Japan's wartime aggression.

The Japanese Communist Party said in its daily organ Shimbun Akahata the same day that: "Abe insisted on sending an offering before the upcoming US and Japan leaders summit, which let people query his position on historical issues."

The article pointed that "if Abe insists the thought of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan's isolation among the international community will only be deepened."

As the LDP's coalition ally started to take a more vocal and unyielding stance on the ill-advised Yasukuni visits by ministers and lawmakers, a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit on Monday with the Tokyo District Court against the government and the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

More than 270 plaintiffs filing suits against the government and the Shinto shrine are claiming that Abe's visit has violated the constitutional division of government and religion.

"The premier, who is building a nation which can wage war by allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, tried to manipulate the Yasukuni Shrine in order to glorify the act of making sacrifices for the country," the plaintiffs said in a statement.

As the Yasukuni issue continues to ensure that Japan's ties with its neighbors remain frayed, observers are dumfounded as to why politicians here don't pay their respects to Japan's war dead at the nationally and internationally recognized Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, which was established by the government in 1959 to house the remains of Japanese soldiers who died during WWII and is located just minutes from Yasukuni in central Tokyo.