The chief priest of Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine is to resign after highly critical comments he made about the country’s soon retiring 84-year-old Emperor, Akihito.
The chief priest, Kunio Kohori, had his comments leaked to the Shukan Post magazine and said that he believed Emperor Akihito was aiming to destroy the controversial Yasukuni Shrine by not visiting it. Kohori made the comments back on 20 June while attending a meeting at the Tokyo shrine.
Kunio Kohori remarked, “The more trips he makes, the more he is distancing himself from the Yasukuni… The current emperor is trying to destroy the Yasukuni Shrine.”
In Japan, it is considered taboo to criticise the Emperor.
The Yasukuni Shrine, founded by Emperor Meiji in June 1869, honours the 2.5 million Japanese war dead – including convicted World War Two criminals.
Emperor Akihito has never paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine and has made an effort to reconcile with Japan’s World War Two enemies. He has also expressed “deep remorse” over the war.
In 2015, he stated during the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, “Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war; I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated.
“Together with all of our people, I now pay my heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war, both on the battlefields and elsewhere, and pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country.”
These words were repeated in the following years.
Emperor Akihito will abdicate on 30 April 2019, and his eldest son, Crown Prince Nauhito will ascend the throne the following day. Akihito will be the first to abdicate since Emperor Kōkaku in 1817.