Tokyo war shrine priest to quit for crit­i­ciz­ing em­peror

Global Times - - World -

The chief priest at Ja­pan’s con­tro­ver­sial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo will quit after “highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage” crit­i­ciz­ing the em­peror was leaked to a mag­a­zine, the shrine said Thurs­day.

The shrine, which hon­ors 2.5 mil­lion war dead but also en­shrines top World War II crim­i­nals, has fre­quently been at the cen­ter of rows with Asian neigh­bors that suf­fered from Ja­pan’s wartime atroc­i­ties.

Se­nior Ja­panese politi­cians in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe have made ap­pear­ances at the shrine but Em­peror Ak­i­hito has never vis­ited since his coro­na­tion in 1989, while his fa­ther Hiro­hito did not re­turn to Yasukuni after war crim­i­nals were en­shrined there in the mid-1970s.

In its lat­est is­sue, the Shukan Post weekly mag­a­zine quoted chief priest Kunio Kohori, 68, as say­ing at a closed­door meet­ing in June that “the em­peror is try­ing to de­stroy Yasukuni Shrine.”

The more the em­peror goes on memo­rial trips for the war dead, the more the Yasukuni Shrine’s po­si­tion de­clines, he re­port­edly added.

Ak­i­hito, who will ab­di­cate next year, has through­out his reign hinted at paci­fist views, which are sharply at odds with the ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion­ism Ja­pan pur­sued un­der his fa­ther’s rule.

He has vis­ited for­mer bat­tle­fields in the Pa­cific islands to pray for soldiers and civil­ians who per­ished there.

Though he has no po­lit­i­cal power, the em­peror has an­noyed Ja­panese rightwingers by ac­knowl­edg­ing that his coun­try in­flicted “great suf­fer­ing” in China, and ex­press­ing re­gret over Ja­pan’s bru­tal rule of the Korean Penin­sula.

The priest also re­port­edly said Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Masako would prob­a­bly not visit the shrine as the new em­peror and em­press.

The fu­ture em­press “hates” Ja­pan’s na­tive Shinto re­li­gion, the priest claimed.

In a state­ment ob­tained by AFP Thurs­day, the shrine said Kohori will re­sign from the post of chief priest, after “highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage made in a meet­ing... was leaked.”

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