Defense Minister Tomomi Inada visited Yasukuni Shrine on December 29, 2016, and later answered questions from a group of reporters. A transcript of the discussion is below:
Q: What did you write in the guest book?
A: I made the following entry: “December 29, 2016, Defense Minister, Tomomi Inada”
Q: What about a donation to the shrine?
A: I made a shrine donation from my private funds.
Q: Was it an official shrine visit?
A: What happened was that I, Tomomi Inada, Minister of Defense, visited as an individual.
Q: What was the reason for this timing?
A: As I have often said, I cannot forget that the peace Japan enjoys is built on the priceless lives of those who gave themselves for the country, for our home. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced the statement of 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and this year the president of the country that dropped the atomic bomb visited Hiroshima, while the Prime Minister also went to Pearl Harbor and spoke in commemoration of the dead. I was also a member of the delegation. Japan and the United States – who fought ferociously against each other – are now joined in the strongest alliance. No matter what kind of countries they were, people or countries separated as enemies, when I visited the USS Missouri I saw it was adorned with the farewell letters and photographs of many young kamikaze pilots. Americans have also set up a memorial stone for Lieutenant Colonel Fusata Iida. Iida was shot down at the base returning from the Pearl Harbor attack, but received full military honors from the Americans. I mentioned these and similar matters in my prayers as I made my visit, and, looking to the future, meditated on my earnest desire to build a secure peace for Japan and the world.
Q: There may well be a reaction from China and Korea.
A: I believe that, irrespective of historical views – whether enemy or friend – all countries will understand expressions of gratitude, respect, and tributes to the memories of those who gave their lives for their home.
Q: Did you speak about your visit with the Prime Minister when you were at Pearl Harbor?
A: I did not.
Q: Did the memorial events at Pearl Harbor and your visit to the Yasukuni Shrine have a different meaning?
A: As I said before, for me personally, irrespective of historical viewpoint or of fighting fiercely as rival or allied countries, we now have a peaceful Japan built on the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for their home country. And I believe that the gratitude, respect, and tributes shown to those people will be understood.
Q: Do you also think of your uncle, who died while he was undergoing training as a kamikaze pilot?
A: Yes, I do. My uncle was 21, when he died in training on May 25 shortly before the war ended, and he is one of those commemorated at Yasukuni Shrine. Those young men with bright futures never thought that Japan would win, but I believe they were picturing a peaceful future for Japan that would result from their missions. We must not forget those young men, or that the accumulated sacrifice of the lives of those who went on these missions to protect family, home, and country, resulted in the present peaceful state of Japan. I do not want to be ungrateful.
Q: Do you regret not being able to visit the Shine on August 15?
A: No, I don’t. The reason that I have given priority to overseas visits until now, and have not visited the Shrine on August 15, has nothing to do with that particular date. The timing you refer to relates to the fact that I mentioned in my prayer the visit to Pearl Harbor and various things I had been involved in, in my official and private capacity.
Q: Was your visit to Pearl Harbor the reason for this visit?
A: No. That’s not correct. However, I did include in my prayers things about Pearl Harbor, the memorial to Fusata Iida, my visit to USS Missouri, and other matters.
Q: Is this your first visit since becoming minister?
A: It is.