Japan's Prime Minister Mr.
GV Yasukuni Shrine with people arriving to pray, in Tokyo, Japan. (2 SHOTS)
SV & CU People praying. (3 SHOTS)
CU & SV Rightists wearing blue uniforms end silent meditation and march into Shrine. (2 SHOTS)
SV & CU Christian protesters outside Shrine speaking with policemen. (2 SHOTS)
SV Premier Zenko Suzuki out of car and walks into Shrine, surrounded by security men.
GV Mr. Suzuki up steps towards inner Shrine.
SV & CU Newsmen film as Mr. Suzuki drinks during ceremony.
SV & LV Protesters wave banners as Mr. Suzuki, surrounded by crowd and newsmen, walks towards car and drives off. (3 SHOTS)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Japan's Prime Minister Mr. Zenko Suzuki visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Friday (15 August), on the 35th anniversary of the end of World War Two in the Pacific. His visit, to pay homage to Japan's war dead, came amid a controversy over whether state aid should be provided to maintain the Shrine.
SYNOPSIS: The Yasukuni Shrine has played a significant role in Japanese history. It's still regarded as a stronghold of militaristic Shintoism, just as it was both before and during the Second World War. And to thousands of Japanese, it assumes a particular significance on August 15.
Associations and organisations such as the Nippon Izoku Kai (Japan War bereaved Association) and Jinja Honcho (umbrella organisation for most Shinto Shrines in Japan) started a national movement in 1976 aimed at declaring Yasukuni Shrine a state-supported monument. But there are many opposition groups which regard the so-called Yasukuni Bill as another step towards revival of Japanese militarism, and the eventual destruction of Japan's post-war democracy. Christian protesters on Friday made their feelings known clearly, and say that approving the Bill will accord Shintoism official backing.
Against that background, even the visit by Prime Minister Suzuki on Friday was a controversy in itself. The Japanese leader is well aware the issue is becoming one of political confrontation. Although Mr. Suzuki made the visit in a Private capacity, following the lead of most of his predecessors, the move did not placate his opponents. Many non-Shinto religious organisations, as well as leftists, peace and labour groups, were vehemently opposed to the visit. They argue that government sponsorship of the Shrine would be something that violates the freedom of religion, and is unconstitutional.
The ruling Liberation Democratic Party (LDP) first proposal legislation for so-called 'government protection" of Yasukuni Shrine in 1969, under pressure from groups of veterans, relatives of war dead, and nationalists. But so far, the legislation has been aborted in the Diet five times. There are strong moves to make it six.