Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday made a ritual offering to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo, but did not visit there in person amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The shrine, which kicked off a three-day spring festival on Wednesday, honours the spirits of the nation’s 2.46 million war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II.
The war memorial encourages people to offer prayers online as the Japanese capital has seen an increasing number of coronavirus infections.
Visits to the shrine by political leaders provoke anger in Asian countries that suffered from Japanese wartime aggression.
While some Japanese revere the Yasukuni Shrine, it is seen as a hated symbol of wartime atrocities by many of Japan’s neighbouring countries, especially China and South Korea, which see it as glorifying wartime aggression.
The late emperor Hirohito, who reigned during the war, stopped visiting the shrine due to his displeasure over the 1978 enshrinement of the war criminals.