No matter what pretexts Japanese politicians employ to justify it, the Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo is a highly symbolic reminder of Japan's militarist past, because it enshrines 14 convicted Class-A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo and other war criminals among Japan's war dead.
Whether a Japanese prime minister visits the shrine is a tested-and-true political weather vane for judging its political direction, as well as proof that he respects or disregards the sensitivities of other countries and the postwar international order.
On Thursday Shinzo Abe signed the entry book to the shrine as Japan's prime minister, revealing the claims by his subordinates, that he visited it in a "private capacity" and it was a matter of "personal belief", to be poor disguises and outright lies.
Resorting to their same old gangster logic in the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, they want us to swallow Abe's offensive pilgrimage to Yasukuni as a non-issue.
Responding to the ensuing angry diplomatic ripples, the unapologetic Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida highlighted his government's "hope" to "avoid letting an affair as such develop into a political or diplomatic issue". This "hope" is sheer hypocrisy. Because Abe knows full well "it is a reality that the visit to Yasukuni Shrine has become a political and diplomatic issue".
Contrary to his claim that Abe had "no intention at all of hurting the feelings of Chinese or South Korean people", Abe made the visit anticipating opposition from both countries, as Japanese New Komeito Party chief Natsuo Yamaguchi confirmed.
Abe knew it would be an insult. But he does not care. What he wants to do is use the opposition of neighbouring countries to fuel domestic nationalism and garner more support.
Abe's shrine visit is a signal that nothing at home is holding him back from his ultra-rightist political agenda to rewrite Japan's pacifist Constitution and revive his war-cabinet grandfather's dream of making Japan a military power.