Tokyo, Oct 17 (EFE) .- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent a ritual offering Saturday to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo for the first time since he took office, a controversial place due to its link with the country’s colonial and militaristic past.
Kishida sent a “masakaki” tree in his name as head of government, a common gesture the country’s leaders carry out on the occasion of the spring and autumn festivals that neighboring countries decry due to the symbolism attributed to the Shinto shrine.
Kishida, who became prime minister on Oct. 4, would not be scheduled to appear in Yasukuni for the fall celebrations, which will last until Monday, sources close to the prime minister told local news agency Kyodo.
The Yasukuni Shinto shrine has been involved in controversy for years and is often the subject of diplomatic friction with neighboring countries, which see it as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past.
It honors the fallen by Japan between the late 19th century and 1945, more than 2.4 million people, including 14 politicians and officers of the Imperial army convicted as class A war criminals by the International Military Criminal Court for the Far East at the end of World War II.
Shinzo Abe personally brought offerings in Yasukuni when he was prime minister in December 2013, but criticism inside and outside the country motivated him to start sending the offerings, a practice his successor Yoshihide Suga maintained during his year in office.
Despite opting to distance himself from the place during his time in office, Suga visited the sanctuary Sunday, having already left the government, as Abe did in September 2020, three days after leaving the post. He has since visited the shrine on several occasions.
China and South Korea, countries that were invaded by Japan, have complained about the official tributes in Yasukuni because of their relation to colonialism.
Kishida’s gesture comes less than two weeks after taking office as general elections loom on Oct. 31. EFE