Justin Bieber apologises for posting Tokyo war shrine photograph

Singer removes photo of himself at Yasukuni shrine, which China and South Korea regard as symbol of Japanese militarism

Justin Bieber has apologised after posting a photograph that showed him standing in front of the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo.

The Canadian pop singer removed the image but only after it had been tweeted to his 51.1 million followers and attracted 660,000 likes on Instagram.

Bieber, who earlier in the week made a trip to the less politically combustible Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, later said he had been unaware of the shrine's controversial role, and issued an apology.

"While in Japan I asked my driver to pull over for which I saw a beautiful shrine," he wrote on Instagram. "I was mislead to think the shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry. I love you China and I love you Japan."

China and South Korea regard Yasukuni, which honours leaders executed for war crimes among 2.5 million Japanese war dead, as a potent symbol of Japanese militarism.

Pilgrimages by Japanese politicians provoke angry outbursts from China, which sees the visits as evidence of Tokyo's failure to atone for atrocities committed on the Asian mainland, including in parts of China, in the 1930s and 40s.

Bieber's "impromptu" stop at Yasukuni came a day after 150 Japanese MPs paid homage at the shrine. Earlier in the week, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, sent a ritual offering but stopped short of visiting in person, in an apparent attempt to avoid controversy on the eve of Barack Obama's arrival in Tokyo.

One Instagram photo showed Bieber, dressed in a white baseball cap, long hoodie and boots, standing in front of the shrine next to an unidentified person who has his head bowed. The caption reads: "Thank you for your blessings."

In another, the 20-year-old's hands are clasped together in prayer as he stands beside a shrine employee in religious robes.

The posts prompted a flurry of comment online. "Hey Justin, do u even know where that is?" wrote Instagram user vivien—kong. "Yasukuni shrine is the place where to worship the Japanese WWII soldiers. And do u have any efing idea that how the Japanese Nazi killed American and other Asian countries innocents?"

Others were more critical. "Maybe you are a giant in Japan and thats the reason why you like Japan," a Chinese user commented. "Anyway, please dont come to China forever, we really dont like stupid people." Another pleaded with him to remove the image.

Officials in Beijing said they were unaware of the visit, and appeared to give the singer the benefit of the doubt.

Qin Gang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said he hoped Bieber had left Yasukuni with "a clear understanding of Japan's history of invasion and militarism, and of the source of Japan's militarism".

Mercifully, Bieber was not required to write in a visitor's book. He attracted widespread ridicule last year when, during a visit to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, he wrote: "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."


Justin McCurry in Tokyo

The GuardianTramp

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