Japanese lawmakers visit controversial Shinto shrine for festival

Japanese lawmakers visit controversial Shinto shrine for festival

A cross-party group of more than 100 lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine in Tokyo regarded as a symbol of Japan's past militarism by the country's neighbors on Friday for its spring festival.

Hidehisa Otsuji of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and head of the group said at a news conference that they prayed for world peace that is on the precipice of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Otsuji said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent a ritual offering to the shrine on Thursday, the beginning day of the annual festival.

Yasukuni has been a source of diplomatic friction with China and South Korea, as the shrine honors convicted war criminals and millions of war dead. Kishida is not expected to visit the site during the festival period through Friday.

According to the group, 103 lawmakers were among the guests of the shrine the LDP's election strategy chief Toshiaki Endo and the ruling party's Diet affairs chief Tsuyoshi Takagi.

Other lawmakers, including Shunsuke Mutai, senior vice minister for environment, and Shingo Miyake, parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs, also joined.

Members of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai and independents also took part in the visit.

The bipartisan group aims to make regular visits for the shrine's spring and autumn festivals and the anniversary of World War II.

After a hiatus due to the coronaviruses, the group s members resumed visiting en masse in December for the first time in more than two years.

The shrine's spring and autumn festivals run for three days, but the latest event was shortened to two days in order to prevent outbreaks of the disease.