Tue, Aug 22, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Poll shows Japanese favor continued shrine visits

AFP , TOKYO

Japanese support has grown for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's successor to visit a contested war shrine after the outgoing leader's defiant final pilgrimage, a poll said yesterday.

Koizumi brushed aside anger from neighboring countries and prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war dead and war criminals, on Aug. 15, the emotionally charged anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender.

Some 43 percent of Japanese voters said they believed the next prime minister should go to the shrine, while 39 percent were opposed, according to a poll by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

The margin has flip-flopped since the business daily's last poll in the middle of last month when 53 percent opposed the next prime minister visiting the shrine and only 28 percent were in favor.

Some 48 percent backed Koizumi's Aug. 15 visit and 36 percent were opposed, said the latest poll by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, which telephoned 1,539 households of which 891 gave valid responses.

Since taking office in 2001, Koizumi has gone once a year to the shrine, infuriating China, South Korea and other nations invaded by Japan which see the site as a symbol of past militarism.

But Koizumi, who steps down next month, had never before gone on Aug. 15, when war veterans and nationalists rally at the shrine.

Koizumi, a flamboyant populist who is Japan's longest serving prime minister in three decades, said he went on Aug. 15 because he was fed up with "immature criticism from neighboring nations.

His most likely successor, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, has strongly backed the war shrine in the past and visited last year on Aug. 15 but has refused to say if he would go as prime minister.

'Nihon Keizai Shimbun' poll on shrine visit

* Some 48 percent of Japanese voters polled backed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Aug. 15 visit to the shrine, while 36 percent were opposed.

* Some 43 percent of respondents said they believed the next prime minister should go to the shrine, while 39 percent were opposed.

* 52 percent of voters wanted some change to the shrine to ease the enduring controversy, while 36 percent said there was no need for change.


Polls have shown sharp swings in public opinion in recent months over the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 2.5 million war dead and 14 top war criminals.

Support dropped last month after reports that wartime emperor Hirohito -- in whose name Japanese troops went to war -- opposed the enshrinement of war criminals.

The latest poll said 52 percent of respondents wanted some change to the shrine to ease the enduring controversy, while 36 percent said there was no need for change.

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