It has been revealed that Japan’s former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, yesterday visited Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo for the second time in under a month since resigning his post for health reasons.
The visit comes just a few days after Mr. Abe’s successor as prime minister, Yoshihide Suga sent an official offering as prime minister to the shrine as part of celebrations surrounding an important autumnal festival.
After his visit was made public, Mr. Abe said “I visited the shrine to show my sincere respect to the spirits of the war dead,” – a move that will almost certainly come with repercussions in the form of now routine objections by Japan’s neighbours South Korea and China; the shrine is seen in Seoul and Beijing as glorifying Japan’s militaristic past.
The shrine itself dates to 1869, when it was constructed in a bid to honor those killed in the largely domestic Boshin War of 1868 – 1869, although it now contains the spirits of war dead interred as late as the First Indochina war from 1946 to 1954.
2,466,532 internees in all are honoured at Yasukuni, including 27,863 Taiwanese, and 21,181 Koreans who fought for Japan in World War II.
The shrine also honours a number of senior Japanese military figures and political elites convicted after WWII of war crimes.
When he was asked about Mr. Abe’s visit to Yasukuni, current Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato essentially shrugged off the visit as the actions of a private individual.
When serving as prime minister, Mr. Abe paid an official visit to Yasukuni Shrine in late 2013, in a move that irked many in Seoul and Beijing. As a result he opted not to pay any further official visits as prime minister, but did send offerings to important festivals as a private citizen.