Shinzo Abe visits Yasukuni shrine: Brace for backlash

by Chris Zappone

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, showing his “third face”,  to the public and world.

The visit to the Shrine, which is considered a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past in China and South Korea comes as tensions have flared in the East China Sea in the past month.

From the WSJ:

“I have no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese or the South Korean people,” Mr. Abe said, adding that he wanted to explain his views to the leaders of both countries.

In the WSJ piece, Japan’s FM Fumio Kishida described it as a personal issue… “It’s something to do with one’s heart,” he told a news conference.

The same piece notes that this decision will likely make Washington unhappy. But for Japan to step out of the shadow of WWII, as Germany has since 1989, means that sometimes Washington won’t be happy.

The decision by Abe signals to his ideological backers that Abe is true to the unreconstructed conservative Japan. This is one of Abe’s three faces, according to Shinichi Kitaoka, president of the International University of Japan.

“My understanding is that Abe-san has three faces: Abe as right-wing, Abe as a pragmatist, Abe as the economic reformer,” he told Reuters in July.

We’ve seen the economic reformer through the many policies of Abenomics. We’ve seen the pragmatist in navigating tensions with China. Now is time for the right-winger.