Dozens of Ja­panese law­mak­ers visit con­tro­ver­sial war shrine

Shrine seen in China, Korea as sym­bol of past mil­i­tarism

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TOKYO: Dozens of Ja­panese law­mak­ers vis­ited a con­tro­ver­sial war shrine yes­ter­day in an an­nual pil­grim­age crit­i­cized by China and South Korea, which see it as a painful re­minder of Tokyo’s ag­gres­sive past. The group of about 85 politi­cians ar­rived at the leafy Ya­sukuni shrine in cen­tral Tokyo dur­ing a four-day au­tumn fes­ti­val. Led by priests, the dark-suited law­mak­ers en­tered the main shrine build­ing to pray for Ja­pan’s war dead as they bowed at the thresh­old. The visit comes a day after Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe-of­ten crit­i­cized for what some see as re­vi­sion­ist views on Ja­pan’s wartime record-sent an of­fer­ing to the shrine, but avoided a visit.

Ya­sukuni hon­ors mil­lions of Ja­panese war dead, but also se­nior mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures con­victed of war crimes after World War II. The indige­nous Shinto re­li­gious shrine has for decades been a flash­point for crit­i­cism by coun­tries that suf­fered from Ja­pan’s colo­nial­ism and ag­gres­sion in the first half of the 20th cen­tury, in­clud­ing China and Korea. South Korea in a state­ment ex­pressed “deep con­cern and dis­ap­point­ment over the fact that (law­mak­ers) have once again sent of­fer­ings to and paid trib­ute at the Ya­sukuni Shrine, which glo­ri­fies Ja­pan’s past war of ag­gres­sion”.

Seoul called on Ja­panese politi­cians to “demon­strate through action their hum­ble sel­f­re­flec­tion and sin­cere re­morse for Ja­pan’s past wrong­do­ings”. While Ja­pan-China re­la­tions have been on the mend, Beijing also had a frosty response to the law­mak­ers’ visit. “We hope Ja­pan’s politi­cians can main­tain a cor­rect view of his­tory, and do more to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion with and win the trust of neigh­bor­ing Asian coun­tries,” said for­eign min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing. Ear­lier yes­ter­day four Chi­nese coast­guard ships en­tered Ja­pan’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters close to dis­puted is­lands that have been a thorn in the side of diplo­matic re­la­tions for years.

Pay­ing re­spects

Vis­its to Ya­sukuni by se­nior Ja­panese politi­cians rou­tinely draw an an­gry re­ac­tion from Beijing and Seoul. More con­tro­ver­sial than the shrine it­self is an ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­seum that de­picts Ja­pan as a lib­er­a­tor of Asia and a vic­tim of the war. Abe and other na­tion­al­ists say Ya­sukuni is a place to re­mem­ber fallen sol­diers and com­pare it to Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery in the United States. “Ev­ery coun­try pays re­spects to peo­ple who died for his or her coun­try,” said Hide­hisa Ot­suji, who headed the group of law­mak­ers.

The site at­tracts many or­di­nary vis­i­tors who come to pay their re­spects to friends and rel­a­tives who died in mil­i­tary con­flicts. “I heard that my grand­fa­ther died in the bat­tle­field so I came here to com­fort his spirit,” said Kazuya Ono, a 40-year-old busi­ness­man, who vis­ited Ya­sukuni yes­ter­day. “I prayed for him to be well in heaven.” Abe vis­ited the shrine in De­cem­ber 2013 to mark his first year in power, a pil­grim­age that sparked fury in Beijing and Seoul and earned a diplo­matic re­buke from close ally the United States which said it was “dis­ap­pointed”. He has since re­frained from go­ing, send­ing rit­ual of­fer­ings in­stead.— AFP

TOKYO: A Shinto priest leads a pack of law­mak­ers at Ya­sukuni Shrine in Tokyo yes­ter­day. — AFP

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