UPDATE1: as of 09:45 JST, cabinet ministers SHINDO Yoshitaka and FURUYA Keiji have both visited Yasukuni Shrine, with Furuya declaring he signed in as "Minister of State Furuya Keiji." HAGIUDA Ko'ichi has also paid a visit, delivering Prime Minister ABE Shinzo's donation.
UPDATE 2: Minister of Japan Cool And Much Else INADA Tomomi paid her respects in the afternoon in the company of the History and Creativity Association, her small group of Diet member fellow travelers (here is their post-Yasukuni group shot from last year Link)completing the list of the Terrible Trio. Policy Research Council chief TAKAICHI Sanae, as at seemingly every major shrine event, was front and center of the Association of Diet Members For Everyone Making Visits To Yasukuni Together multi-party mass visitation. (Link - J)
Credit Abe Shinzo for having some sense. He has told the press that he will avoid making, either immediately prior to or immediately after the national ceremony commemorating the end of World War II, a visit to Yasukuni Shrine today. With his relations with the leaders of China and South Korea still in the deep freeze (Link), Putin acting like a woman scorned (Link or Link), investors showing less and less confidence in his economic reform program (Link) and world in general in turmoil, he has decided to not set the region on fire with a gratuitous end-of-The-War day visit. (Link - J video)
Instead, Abe will reprise his restraint of last year by having an aide make a a cash donation in his name instead.
So who should we be on the lookout for today at Yasukuni's gates?
Hagiuda Ko'ichi - it has been a quiet couple of months for the man who last year seemed to be speaking directly from Abe Shinzo's limbic system. If the Big Boy from Hachioji (where the Imperial tombs are located, as he will happily tell you) is once again the bag man for Abe's donation to Yasukuni, he should once again be viewed as the wide back door into Abe's chamber of secrets.
The Terrible Trio - Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shindo Yoshitaka, State Minister for Japan Cool And A Lot Of Other Stuff Inada Tomomi and Chairman of the National Safety Commission Furuya Keiji -- the Terrible Trio -- have said nothing about going but will be going. Shindo and Furuya will probably not survive the Cabinet reshuffle on September 3 (somebody has to lose his/her job to make space for cabinet hopefuls and it is easier for Abe to dump his male Best Friends) so have an incentive to go out in a blaze of glory, signing the registers as "Member of The Abe Cabinet." Inada, who is rumored to be taking over for Taka'ichi Sanae at the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council (and one cannot think of a better way of cementing the continued irrelevance of the PARC - Link) will visit but probably either early in the morning or in the late afternoon in a private capacity. Not that she has to, mind you: Takaichi herself will be once again the smug front and center of the phalanx of Diet members paying their respects in today's heat.
Shimomura Hakubun - The arch-conservative and token poor person in Abe Shinzo inner circle has had a very quiet one and a half years, indulging in his inner revisionist only once in a florrid and ultimately pointless bid to stop the tiny Okinawan town of Taketomi from using a social studies textbook of its own choosing (Link). Oddly, he has not been mentioned among the cabinet members who are going to be retained in the reshuffle, despite his incredible patience in not carrying out the wholesale smashing of the education system long promised by Abe Shinzo loyalists and allies. If Shimomura shows up at Yasukuni today he will be signaling that he knows he will not be leading the revolution after September.
Any Other Cabinet Minister - If any other of the Cabinet's members pay their respects, it will be pretty much a declaration of his/her being in the "Shatter and splatter/Pitcher and platter/What do we care?/We won't be there!" category of September non-survivors. Since having the image of being "better than Abe at least" in terms of sensitivity to Chinese and Korean sentiments is one of the few selling points a challenger can offer, one cannot expect any of the bigwigs or factions leaders (Tanigaki, Ishihara, for example) to show up.
Ishiba Shigeru - If LDP Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru shows up today, it means he is most definitely trolling for a "even more patriotic than Abe" reputation. Ishiba is looking to challenge Abe for the LDP presidency in September next year if the LDP's performance in local elections over the next nine months is less than stellar -- which is looking pretty likely (the next two big tests, the Fukushima and Okinawa gubernatorial elections, look incredibly tough for the party). Ishiba has already planted his flag in more militant territory than Team Abe in the matter of a Diet examination of the recent recantations by The Asahi Shimbun of certain of their stories on the comfort women (Link). A Yasukuni visit today would indicate Ishiba is making a serious play for the affections of the radicals in the party.
Later -Yes, I too will be glad when this day is over, so I can stop talking about The War -- at least until December when Abe does make his annual pilgrimage to Yasukuni.
Image: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo laying a wreath at the atomic bombing memorial in Nagasaki on August 9, 2014.
Image courtesy: Abe Shinzo official Facebook page.