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Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006
Koizumi visit quick but so is protest outcry
By JUN HONGO
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine early Tuesday was quick -- only 10 minutes -- but it was enough to ignite a fierce reaction from well-prepared opponents of the contentious visits.
About 300 demonstrators gathered in the early morning at Sakamotocho Park in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, to show their opposition to Koizumi's visit.
The event, put on by the Candle Movement Committee, was attended by Japanese protesters and members of two international groups.
"We cannot permit Koizumi to visit Yasukuni Shrine, or for other members of the Cabinet to join him," Kenji Kunimoto of Candle Movement told the crowd. "We must keep insisting that the prime minister's choice was a mistake."
Members of the Korean Committee of Anti-Yasukuni Joint Counteraction staged a protest march at 8:40 a.m. that ended in Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward.
"We are very angry about the prime minister's actions. We strongly appeal (against) what he did," said Eun Sik Kim, deputy director of the committee.
Taiwan Aboriginal, a group of Taiwanese who marched with the Korean group, were even more vocal.
Led by group leader Tang Shu, who addressed the crowd by microphone, members chanted "Koizumi, go to hell" in English.
Masatoshi Uchida, who attended the rally, said that because of Koizumi's shrine visits, "there is a chance that people will start to perceive that Japan does not regret what it did during the war."
Another 300 people gathered at the Japan Education Center for a protest event organized by the National Liaison Conference of the Association of War Dead for Peace.
Constitutional expert Koichi Yokota, a guest speaker at the event, condemned politicians for visiting the war-linked shrine.
"Its written in the law that state and religion must be separated," said Yokota, an honorary professor at Kyushu University.
Association member Shigenori Nishikawa said the group will continue to protest, even after Koizumi steps down in September.
At the education center, the group prayed silently for the victims of the war before heading out to Yasukuni Shrine at around noon.
At the shrine, Mieko Tojo of Nakano Ward, Tokyo, said she was glad Koizumi fulfilled his promise and made a visit on the anniversary of the end of the war.
Visiting the shrine with her husband, the 62-year-old housewife said many of her friends' parents died during the war and she was there to "pay respect to those who passed away in the battles."
"I'm surprised that there are so many young people here today," Tojo said. "Maybe they stand more firmly about their beliefs than our generation."