TOKYO: Dozens of Japanese lawmakers on Tuesday made a pilgrimage to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which neighbours China and South Korea see as a symbol of Tokyo’s militaristic past.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refrained from sending an offering, as he has done in the past, a shrine official told AFP. There were no ministers among the group, according an official in the upper house of parliament.
The shrine honours millions of Japanese war dead, but also senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II.
In total, 61 MPs—mainly from Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party—attended the war shrine and 76 sent a representative, he said.
Beijing and Seoul view it as a symbol of Tokyo’s past aggression.
The site 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. In October, Abe sent a ritual offering to the shrine but did not visit, a move seen as an effort to minimise protests from neighbours over the issue.
The group postponed their annual autumn visit to Tuesday as they were busy with campaigns for a general election in October.
“I made a prayer hoping that no one else will be enshrined” given the tensions in North Korea, said Hidehisa Otsuji, former upper house member and president of the group.