Justin Bieber apologized Wednesday to those he offended by visiting a Japanese war shrine, saying he thought it was a beautiful site and only a place of prayer.
The Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo enshrines 2.5 million war dead, including Japan’s 14 convicted war criminals, and operates a war museum that defends Japan’s wartime aggression. It is a flashpoint between Japan and its neighbors that see the shrine as distinct from other Shinto-style establishments mainly honoring gods of nature. China and South Korea in particular see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism and consider Japanese officials’ visits there as a lack of understanding or remorse over wartime history.
Two images posted on Bieber’s Instagram account were met with outrage from Chinese officials and by commenters on social media. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the pop star should remember China’s position on Yasukuni.
When it comes to atrocities, as my mother used to say, “They should talk.” But still…
In a new Instagram post Wednesday evening, Bieber said he asked his driver to stop when he saw the “beautiful shrine,” located in the capital’s central district near Budokan hall, where he performed a concert in 2011. It’s also near the Imperial Palace and other places tourists visit to see cherry blossoms, though they’ve mostly finished blooming.
“I was mislead (sic) to think the Shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry,” the post said.
The Yasukuni Shrine holds a spring festival April 21-23, a major event that already has drawn attention this week. Two of Japan’s Cabinet ministers and nearly 150 lawmakers prayed at the shrine, triggering outrage from Beijing and Seoul.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the shrine once during his current term in office, last December, worsening ties with those countries and triggered Washington’s concerns. He sent a religious offering to the shrine on Monday, an indication he may not visit during the spring festival.
As we are often reminded, Japan– in contrast to Germany– has failed as a nation to come to grips with the aggression and atrocities it committed in the 1930s and 1940s.