TOKYO, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet along with other senior lawmakers from a number of different parties visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday.
The visits to the war-linked shrine in Tokyo came a day after Abe himself made a ritual offering at the shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including 14 convicted Class A war criminals, by proxy.
Following Abe, on Tuesday, Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki also visited the notorious shrine, while House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima and House of Councillors President Chuichi Date made ritual offerings at the Shinto shrine, which is widely seen as a living testament to Japan's past militarism.
Visits by senior politicians to the war-linked shrine draw the ire of Japan's neighbors, including South Korea and China who suffered immeasurably at the barbaric hands of the Imperial Army of Japan before, during and after World War II.
Lower house members Keiji Furuya, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Election Strategy Committee, and Hiroshi Hase, a former minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology from the LDP, and upper house member Yuichiro Hata, a former minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism from the main opposition Democratic Party, also made a pilgrimage to the shrine on Tuesday, which openly honors convicted war criminals.
The Yasukuni Shrine served as the "command headquarters" of State Shinto, a religion that saw Japan's emperor as a "living god" and enlisted Japanese civilians to fight a "holy war" on behalf of their "god" during World War II.
The shrine is run by a private foundation and the 14 Class-A war criminals' "souls" were enshrined there secretly in 1978, by the clandestine foundation.
The foundation, which also runs Yasukuni's museum, nowadays openly depicts the war criminals as martyrs and blatantly misrepresents Japan's war in China as an act of "suppression" rather than one of aggression.
The museum has numerous displays depicting Japan's war-time endeavors, but has flagrantly misrepresented the actual facts, in not referring to the well-documented Nanjing massacre (also known as the Rape of Nanjing), experiments conducted on prisoners of war and the suffering of thousands of comfort women at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Former Emperor Hirohito,thus, stopped visiting the shrine in 1978 because of the enshrinement of the war criminals there and Japan's current Emperor Akihito has continued the Imperial family's moratorium on visits to the shrine for the same reason.
The shrine stands as a constant source of diplomatic tension between Japan and its neighbors as it is a loosely veiled site of overt nationalistic propaganda, that glorifies Japan's militaristic past.
It also stands as a touchstone as to the direction the current leadership, under Abe's right wing administration, is heading in politically.