Japanese Protest War Shrine a 2nd Day
Aug. 12, 2006
TOKYO (AP) _ Protesters marched for a second straight day Saturday to rally against a war shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's military conquests, demonstrating as emotions build before the Tuesday anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II.
Holding candles and enlarged photos of Japanese war atrocities, about 200 demonstrators chanted for Japan to repent more sincerely for its invasions and occupation of Asian lands in the 20th century.
The rally followed a similar candlelight vigil Friday and comes amid mounting expectations that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will make another pilgrimage to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday, a sensitive date marking the end of World War II in Asia.
Such a visit would probably be Koizumi's last as prime minister before stepping down next month, and would likely worsen already strained relations with Asian neighbors such as China and South Korea that have repeatedly condemned the trips.
``Koizumi don't go!'' chanted the demonstrators, who included Japanese, South Koreans and Taiwanese.
Some carried placards saying ``No War! No Yasukuni!'' A contingent of about 50 Chinese protesters hoisted grainy black and white photos of Japanese wartime brutalities such as the beheading of captives.
Some demonstrators urged the destruction of Yasukuni, while others wanted the shrine to remove names of relatives who have been enshrined there among 2.5 million war dead and 14 executed war criminals who guided Japan's conquests.
``They didn't even ask the family members if we would agree,'' complained Lee Hee Ja, a 63-year-old South Korean whose father was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army in 1943 and was killed in China two years later.
Today he is among the martyrs honored at Yasukuni despite Lee's repeated requests that the shrine ``free his soul.'' She is currently a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Yasukuni demanding that her father's name be stricken.
The protests will build to another candlelight rally Monday night that organizers hope will attract thousands.
Koizumi has given repeated hints that he will pray at Yasukuni on Tuesday. While that would be his sixth visit since becoming prime minister in 2001, he has never gone on Aug. 15.
Koizumi insists his pilgrimages reaffirm Japan's commitment to peace and console the souls for those who died for the country.
But the shrine played a high-profile role in promoting wartime nationalism, with Japanese soldiers commonly pledging to fight to the death with the promise to ``meet at Yasukuni.'' It also hosts a museum attempting to justify Japan's militarist past.
``It is a war shrine, not a peace shrine,'' demonstrator Yeonghwan Kim said. ``I find it ironic that Koizumi says he goes there to pray for peace. It's just another symbol that Japan is back on the road to militarism.''