TOKYO - Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine in Tokyo viewed as a symbol of Japan's past militarism by its Asian neighbors.
The "masakaki" tree offering was made under his name as prime minister to celebrate the shrine's biannual festival held in the spring and autumn.
Kishida, who became Japan's prime minister on Oct. 4, does not plan to visit the shrine during the two-day autumn festival that runs through Monday, according to people close to him.
Yasukuni honors convicted war criminals along with more than 2.4 million war dead. Past visits to the shrine by Japanese leaders and lawmakers have especially angered China and South Korea, where memories of Japan's wartime acts still rankle.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Yasukuni visit in December 2013, a year after the start of his second stint as prime minister, triggered a strong response from China and South Korea and also disappointed Japan's key ally the United States.
Abe's successor Yoshihide Suga during his one-year tenure from September last year did not visit the shrine and sent ritual offerings for the biannual festivals.
Kishida's decision to take the same approach comes at a politically delicate time in Japan. Less than two weeks since taking office, Kishida dissolved the lower house on Thursday for a general election at the end of this month.
The festivals normally run for three days, but, like last year's festivals, the autumn event has been shortened to two days as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Also, as a precaution against the virus, a cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers who are supportive of visiting the shrine to pay respects to the country's war dead have decided to refrain from going there together for the autumn festival.
FROM THE ARCHIVES