Japanese MPs and Premier Refuse to Go to Yasukuni Shrine Due to COVID-19 Threat

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Conservative MPs, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and a number of Japanese ministers refused on Monday the traditional pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shinto shrine, considered a symbol of the country’s militarism, due to the coronavirus. It was reported by the Kyodo agency on October 19.

On October 17, on the occasion of an autumn festival, Suga sent a ritual offering “masakaki,” a branch of the Japanese evergreen sakaki tree decorated with ribbons, to the temple.

On behalf of the absent, with the observance of precautionary measures, only one representative of the conservative deputies from various parties visited the temple.

At the same time, a Kyodo source said that on Monday the former head of the Japanese government, Shinzo Abe, made a personal pilgrimage to Yasukuni. He paid a previous visit there in September immediately after his retirement for health reasons.

In August, on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, four ministers visited Yasukuni. It was noted that this is the largest number of visits since Abe came to power in December 2012.

Abe, who was then prime minister, refrained from visiting the temple, sending a ritual offering.

Abe in recent years did not make a pilgrimage to this temple, so as not to exacerbate relations with Beijing and Seoul, which have a negative attitude towards this, TASS notes. However, now, the Kyodo agency notes, the ex-prime minister with such campaigns is clearly trying to attract the attention of a potential support group – the conservative strata of the population.

The temple contains lists with the names of the Japanese who died on the battlefield since the mid-19th century. This list also includes war criminals executed after Tokyo’s surrender in World War II. On the territory of Yasukuni there is a museum of military equipment and numerous monuments, including a monument in memory of the kamikaze pilots.

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