Japanese Nationalists Dismantle Yasukuni Shrine, Reassemble It Around Sleeping Shinzo Abe
TOKYO — With tensions between China and Japan running high over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain, Japanese nationalists led by former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara dismantled Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead, including Class-A war criminals, and reassembled it around a sleeping Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe, exhausted from his attempts to build bridges with Japan’s ASEAN neighbors over Chinese military expansion while also reaching out to Beijing, was taking a “well-earned rest” in his Tokyo home when members of Ishihara’s nationalist Sunrise Party broke in, sedated him, and relocated him to a Tokyo park.
The nationalists then rebuilt the shrine—which they had earlier dismantled under cover of darkness—around Abe, placed burning incense sticks in his hand, and propped the unconscious politician up in front of a giant portrait of executed former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
They also painted “I ♥ Militarism” on the back of Abe’s pajamas.
When the prime minister regained consciousness, he was immediately photographed by a carefully-assembled Japanese and Chinese press corps, and could only splutter incoherently as the pictures became front-page news across the world.
Abe was unable to leave the temple for seven hours, as he had been tied to a stool. Eventually, local firefighters managed to fight past Sunrise Party activists to free the stricken politician.
Shinzo Abe has attempted to distance himself from predecessor Junichiro Koizumi’s hawkish position on China, refusing to visit the controversial shrine and attempting to maintain good relations with Beijing since his reelection in December last year. However, a growing nationalist contingent led by right-wing politicians has sought a tougher stance, and Tuesday’s actions by the Sunrise Party are being viewed as an attempt to precipitate a conflict.
China’s Foreign Ministry immediately condemned Abe as having “paid homage to the militarists who raped and murdered millions of Chinese civilians.”
“While he may have been drugged, kidnapped and forced into obeisance,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yang Lizhi, “Prime Minister Abe’s failure to preempt the actions of the Sunrise Party means he is as culpable as if he had been fully conscious and not bound by bondage knots.”
The ministry also added that it would not accept Abe’s subsequent apology, during which he prostrated himself in front of the Chinese ambassador in a public ceremony at the Diet, as his seventy-minute speech making amends was delivered in Japanese.
“Until Mr. Abe can bring himself to apologize in unaccented Mandarin, his Japanese words remain, as ever, empty,” Yang told reporters. He added that despite Abe’s promise to permanently dismantle the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan still had “a long way to go” to earn China’s forgiveness.
As of Tuesday night, Chinese state media were reporting that the official feelings of the Chinese people remained “hurt.”