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Cross-party group of parliamentarians call off Yasukuni visit, face challenge of retaining clout

  • August 16, 2022
  • , Sankei , p. 3
  • JMH Translation

By Harakawa Takao


The suprapartisan group of parliamentarians who traditionally visit Yasukuni Shrine en masse called off their group visit to the shrine on Aug. 15. Over its more than 40 years of history, the group has only very rarely failed to go pay homage on Aug. 15, the day Japan surrendered in World War II. Due to the pandemic, the group had planned to send Lower House member Aizawa Ichiro (Liberal Democratic Party), deputy chairman of the group, as group representative, but he was found to have contracted COVID-19. The cancellation of the shrine visit may call into question the group’s raison d’etre.


According to a source close to the group, Aizawa, who had contracted COVID-19, informed the group on the evening of Aug. 14 that he would not be permitted to leave home on Aug. 15. The group has about 230 members from both chambers of parliament, but it could not find a substitute and so had no choice but to call off the visit this year.


On the organizational front, the group faces headwinds. On Aug. 3, Otsuji Hidehisa, who had led the group for about 10 years since December 2012, was appointed Upper House Speaker. He expressed his intent to resign as chairman of the group as it is “customary for the Upper House Speaker to resign from all posts in parliamentarians’ associations.” In addition to this, former Upper House member Mizuochi Toshiei, who headed the group’s secretariat and chaired the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association, lost his seat in the July election. Thus the group’s top two posts are vacant.


The group plans to launch a new executive board and decide on an action plan before Yasukuni Shrine’s annual autumn festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 17. The group has long advocated the significance of visiting the shrine and called on prime ministers to visit there while in office. With its activities restricted by the pandemic, the group is facing the challenge of maintaining its influence. (Abridged)

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