by Jon Day, Yan Lei
TOKYO, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada visited the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned from his "non-apology" trip to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The visit by Inada, who is a close ally of Abe, followed an earlier visit by Japan's disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura, and further proved that the Abe administration has no intention of true wartime reconciliation, but merely used the Pearl Harbor trip as a stage for its global diplomatic show.
Inada, who had in fact accompanied Abe to Pearl Harbor, visited the notorious war-linked shrine early Thursday morning and said that she put down "Defense Minister Tomomi Inada" as her name in the visitor's log at the shrine.
She claimed that she made the visit to report to the war dead that "Japan and the United States, which waged the harshest battles, are now in the strongest alliance relationship... in hopes of building peace for Japan and the world."
The fact that she deliberately ignored, however, is that the shrine, honoring 14 Class-A convicted war criminals among 2.5 million Japanese war dead from World War II, is predominantly regarded as a symbol of past Japanese militarism, and is no place for "praying for peace."
When asked about Inada's Yasukuni visit at a golf course in Chigasaki near Tokyo on Thursday, Abe simply said "No comment."
Japanese ultra-rightwing politicians usually visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine during its spring and autumn festivals and on Aug. 15, the day Japan surrendered at the end of WWII, 71 years ago.
The timing of Inada and Imamura's visits, which occurred at the end of the year and shortly after Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor, has caused widespread condemnation.
Renho, leader of Japan's largest opposition Democratic Party, had questioned earlier the timing of Imamura's Yasukuni visit and of Inada's visit."I am concerned that Inada's visit could convey the wrong message to the United States, since it came immediately after Japanese and U.S. leaders pledged not to repeat any war," she told local media.
Observers here, however, pointed out that taking into consideration the duplicitous nature of Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor, his close allies' visits to Yasukuni should come as no surprise, as they tried to counteract the appearance of an "apologetic tone" of the Pearl Harbor trip and to show powerful conservative forces who hold substantial political sway over politicians in Japan that the administration has no intention to admit Japan's wartime crimes, or drift from its revisionist, ultra-rightwing agenda.
The visits showed the duplicitousness of the Abe administration, which, on the one hand, wants to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, and on the other, does not want to admit or reflect squarely upon Japan's past wrongdoings.
Koichi Nakano, professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, said that Inada's visit to Yasukuni was a premeditated act to appease Abe and the far-right forces that pull the strings of government in the shadows.
"She also had to address frustrations from right-wingers among her supporters. Yasukuni is not a normal Shinto shrine. Naturally, she went with Mr. Abe's blessing," Nakano said.
His remarks were echoed by Tetsuro Kato, emeritus professor of Japanese politics at Hitotsubashi University who said that Inada went to Pearl Harbor, but was quick to scratch the backs of her far rightwing supporters by promptly showing that she was still toeing the revisionist, rightwing line, by visiting Yasukuni Shrine so quickly afterwards.
Ultra-rightwing Cabinet members and lawmakers here have argued that Yasukuni Shrine is no different in nature to the United States' war cemetery, the Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington County, Virginia, or the war-linked cemeteries in the United Kingdom that fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The stark reality, however, is that these arguments are both fallacious and ill-founded.
Unknown to many, 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."
The shrine is also run by a private foundation, and the 14 Class-A war criminals' "souls" were enshrined there secretly and unknown to the Japanese public in 1978 by the clandestine foundation.
The foundation, which also runs Yasukuni's museum, nowadays openly depicts the war criminals as "martyrs" and misrepresents Japan's war in China, for example, as an act of "suppression" rather than one of aggression.
The museum also has numerous displays depicting Japan's war-time endeavors, but has blatantly misrepresented the actual facts, in not referring to the well-documented Nanjing massacre, experiments conducted on prisoners of war and the suffering of thousands of "comfort women" at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Hence, politicians who visit the shrine insisting they are paying tribute to the lives lost in WWII, are, wittingly or otherwise, lying, as is the case with Inada who Nakano has previously described as being "notorious for holding anti-feminist and extreme revisionist views, in addition to dubious ties to Neo-Nazi and or xenophobic groups" like Nippon Kaigi, a far-rightwing group that denies Japan's wartime crimes and wishes to see Japan remilitarized with civil restrictions applied to the public under a new Imperialism.
Needless to say, Abe is also a member of the notorious group, which openly encourages ministers' visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
But even Former Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting the shrine in 1978 because of the enshrinement of war criminals there and Japan's current emperor Akihito has continued the imperial family's moratorium on visits to the shrine, which is a loosely veiled site of overt nationalistic propaganda that glorifies Japan's militaristic past.
The controversy over the shrine can only be resolved if all Japanese ministers boycott visits to the shrine. Only then can Japan have any chance of garnering the trust and respect of its neighboring countries.
But the way to achieve this lies with Abe himself making the first move and refrain from visiting or paying his respects by proxy, many analysts believe.
"Abe's self-righteous nationalism and strong revisionist streak has alienated neighbors and made Washington increasingly abashed," said Nakano.
"Even if the Pentagon thinks of Abe as their man in Japan because he has delivered more on America's longstanding security requests than the rest of Japan's post-WWII prime minsters combined, he is making himself an awkward partner because nobody can pretend that shirking the burdens of the past is anything but narrow-minded and counterproductive nationalism."