A group of Japanese legislators visit Yasukuni Shrine

A nonpartisan group of Japanese lawmakers traveled to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo for the annual Spring Festival which kicked off on Thursday.

The group usually visits the shrine during its spring and autumn festivals and on August 15, the day Japan commemorates the end of World War II.

Yasukuni Shrine honors Japan’s war dead. Those remembered include leaders convicted of war crimes after World War II.

One hundred and three members of both houses of the Diet paid their respects at the shrine on Friday. Among them were lawmakers from the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Constitutional Party and Nippon Ishin.

The group included six Ministers of State and a Parliamentary Deputy Cabinet Minister led by Prime Minister Kishida Fumio.

The group’s leader, former Upper House Deputy Speaker Otsuji Hidehisa, told reporters that lawmakers had prayed for peace in the world, which is currently facing a crisis.

Otsuji referred to Prime Minister Kishida, who sent a ritual offering to the shrine the day before to mark the start of the festival. Sources say he will not visit the shrine during the two days of the festival. Otsuji said he wanted Kishida to pay a visit, but he’s grateful for the offer.

In December last year, the group visited the shrine for the first time in two years, following a suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.