Photo/IllutrationMembers of a supra-partisan group of lawmakers head to the worship hall of Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Aug. 15. (Shogo Koshida)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid for a ritual offering to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Aug. 15, the 74th anniversary of the end of World War II, and expressed his appreciation for Japan's postwar peace that millions paid for with their lives.

Abe, who is also president of the Liberal Democratic Party, did not visit the Shinto shrine that honors 14 Class-A war criminals as well as the country’s war dead.

However, he covered the cost of an offering of a “tamagushi” sacred “sakaki” tree branch out of his own pocket, which was paid for on his behalf by Tomomi Inada, a special assistant to the LDP president.

However, members of a supra-partisan group of lawmakers, headed by former health minister Hidehisa Otsuji, visited the shrine as they always do on the anniversary.

Since 2017, none of Abe's Cabinet members have visited the shrine on Aug. 15.

Abe has not visited the shrine since December 2013.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled to visit Japan as a state guest next spring, Abe likely judged that a visit to the shrine would result in an immense setback to Japan-China relations that only now are starting to improve.

According to Inada, Abe covered the cost of the tamagushi offering, saying: “Entering the Reiwa (imperial) era, I again think that our country’s peace and prosperity are thanks to those who offered their lives for our country. I am full of gratitude and respect for them.”

Prior to the supra-partisan group’s visit, other LDP lawmakers, including acting secretary-general Koichi Hagiuda and Lower House member Shinjiro Koizumi, also went to the shrine.