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Abe visits war-linked Yasukuni shrine days after stepping down as PM

Abe visits war-linked Yasukuni shrine days after stepping down as PM

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a Twitter post Saturday he visited the war-linked Yasukuni shrine days after stepping down from the post, his first visit in nearly seven years. The visit to the Shinto shrine in Tokyo, viewed by Japan's neighbors, including China, as a symbol of its past militarism because it honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead, prompted a negative reaction from South Korea. "Today, I paid a visit to the Yasukuni shrine and reported to the souls of the war dead that I resigned as prime minister on Sept. 16," Abe tweeted with a photo of himself escorted by a priest. 本日、靖国神社を参拝し、今月16日に内閣総理大臣を退任したことをご英霊にご報告いたしました。 pic.twitter.com/ZpyrtLrpRE — 安倍晋三 (@AbeShinzo) September 19, 2020   Related coverage: FOCUS: PM Suga to be cautious in diplomacy, avoid rows with Asian neighbors Japan PM Abe resigns due to illness with many issues unresolved IN PHOTOS: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government Abe, who stepped down for health reasons, previously visited the shrine in December 2013, a year after the start of his second stint in office, provoking a strong response from Beijing and Seoul, and disappointing Japan's key ally the United States. The 2013 visit was the first by a Japanese political leader since that of Junichiro Koizumi in 2006. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is unlikely to make such a visit, political analysts said. While refraining from visiting, Abe regularly sent ritual offerings to the shrine in his capacity as the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for its spring and autumn festivals and on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. He signed the guest register as "former prime minister" this time around, according to a source close to the matter. In a commentary on Saturday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed "deep worries and regrets" over Abe's Yasukuni visit. The statement described the shrine as a symbolic site that "glorifies Japan's colonial rule and its war of aggression." The South Korean government "sternly points out once again" that Japan's neighbors can trust it only if Japanese leaders face history squarely and reflect on it sincerely through their actions, the commentary said. With this year marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, four Cabinet members, including Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi and education minister Koichi Hagiuda, visited the shrine on Aug. 15. Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Koizumi, and Hagiuda were retained in the new Cabinet formed by Suga. Established in 1869 to commemorate those who gave their lives for Japan, Yasukuni in 1978 added wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and other convicted war criminals to the more than 2.4 million war dead enshrined there.

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Coronavirus

Japan eases virus rule to allow more people at sports, movie venues

Japan eases virus rule to allow more people at sports, movie venues

Japan on Saturday relaxed a rule limiting the size of crowds at professional sports matches, movie theaters and other events, in yet another sign of a gradual return to social and economic activities at pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. A professional baseball game between the DeNA BayStars and the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium drew a total of 13,106 spectators, making it the first time the number of spectators in domestic sporting events has topped the 10,000 mark since the outbreak of the virus. Both Nippon Professional Baseball and soccer's J-League held matches with over 10,000 spectators after the government lifted the 5,000-person cap on large events, allowing the sporting bodies to hold them with up to 50 percent capacity. Reservations for domestic flights of All Nippon Airways for Saturday -- the first day of a four-day weekend -- totaled 87,000, the highest level since Feb. 28. The Japanese carrier said it has an average of 69,000 reservations a day for the four-day period. Such developments came three days after the Tokyo metropolitan government lifted a request that restaurants, bars, karaoke parlors and other alcohol-providing businesses in the capital's 23 wards close operations at 10 p.m. "It is important to balance the prevention of infection and the promotion of economic activities," economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Saturday. "Easing restrictions (on sports and cultural events) would represent a major step toward that goal," Nishimura, who is also in charge of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, told reporters during a visit to Oita Prefecture, western Japan. Photo shows Euro Space movie theater in Tokyo's Shibuya ward on Sept. 19, 2020. The movie theater began allowing all seats to be booked as Japan the same day relaxed a rule limiting the size of crowds at professional sports matches, movie theaters and other events amid signs of a recent plateauing in nationwide coronavirus cases.(Kyodo)   Related coverage: Japan eyes easing virus rule to allow more people at events Japan's pro baseball, football leagues request ease on spectator cap Amid signs of a recent plateauing in nationwide coronavirus cases, the 50 percent attendance cap has been fully scrapped for small cinemas and theaters deemed to have low infection risk. T Joy Co., which operates around 20 cinema complexes across Japan, and numerous mini theaters began allowing all seats at venues to be booked from first screenings on Saturday. But major movie theater chains Toho Cinemas and Aeon Cinema, as well as operators of live stage shows and concerts, have decided to keep the 50 percent restriction in place for the time being. Among professional baseball teams, the BayStars raised the spectator cap to 16,000 at Yokohama Stadium, the Giants to 19,000 at Tokyo Dome and the Yakult Swallows to 14,500 at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. The government will decide whether to keep the attendance rule in place beyond November after reviewing the novel coronavirus and seasonal influenza infection trends, according to officials. Speaking at a news conference Friday in Tokyo, Nishimura said that avoiding the 3Cs -- confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings -- was a prerequisite for relaxing restrictions. "I want (business operators) to thoroughly enforce basic measures to prevent the spread of the virus," he said. On Saturday, the Tokyo metropolitan government confirmed 218 new coronavirus cases, down from 220 the previous day. The capital's cumulative total now stands at 24,046, by far the highest among Japan's 47 prefectures. Since mid-August, the number of new cases has been trending downward, with Tokyo confirming 77 daily infections on Sept. 7, the lowest in almost two months. It also compared to the 400 level logged in a peak period in early August. The capital has downgraded its coronavirus alert to the second-highest of four levels, meaning "vigilance against a resurgence of the virus is needed." Across Japan, the single-day tally on Friday exceeded 570, bringing the total number of infections to around 78,800, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February. The death toll stood at 1,510. More than 13,000 fans watch a baseball game at Yokohama Stadium on Sept. 19, 2020. Japan relaxed a rule limiting the size of crowds at pro sports games, movie theaters and other events the same day in yet another sign of a gradual return to social and economic activities at pre-coronavirus levels. (Kyodo)     

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