A man dressed as a Japanese imperial army soldier stands at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Tuesday to mark the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War Two. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
By Teppei Kasai and Chehui Peh
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender, but did not visit in person, an apparent effort to avoid upsetting China and South Korea.
Past visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged Beijing and Seoul because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with other war dead.
Masahiko Shibayama, a lawmaker from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters at the shrine that he had made an offering on Abe’s behalf to express condolences to those who sacrificed their lives in the war and pray for peace.
Asked for specific words from Abe, Shibayama added: “He said he was sorry he couldn’t go himself and asked me to go express these feelings in his place”.
Abe has only visited the shrine in person once since taking office in 2012, an action that prompted criticism from key ally the United States as well as from Asian nations, but has sent offerings on August 15 and during Yasukuni’s twice yearly festivals.
Dozens of Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine on the emotive anniversary of the end of World War Two, a move that frequently provokes criticism from other Asian nations.
The shrine was crowded from early morning with ordinary Japanese on an unusually cool and cloudy day for August.
“I came here to pay respects to some of my ancestors who fought in the war and are honoured here,” said Takahashi Hajime, an office worker from Tokyo.
“I come here every year with my son and my wife, it is a family event for us.”
Tensions in the region, with North Korea and the United States both threatening military action over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, weighed on the minds of many at the shrine.
“We come here to pray for peace,” said Koto Nakano, an 18-year-old student who came with members of his kickboxing gym.
“We do feel worried about the North Korean threats but merely feeling fear for the unknown is not enough, we need to also work towards sending the message of peace.”
© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.