Japan's defence minister went to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo Thursday, media reports said, the day accompanying Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a highly symbolic visit to Pearl Harbor.
The shrine honours millions of mostly Japanese war dead and has been criticised by countries such as China and South Korea which suffered under Japan's colonialism and aggression in the first half of the 20th century.
Tomomi Inada, Abe's hawkish new defence chief, visited Yasukuni for the first time since taking the key cabinet post in August, according to national broadcaster NHK, the Asahi Shimbun and Jiji Press.
The timing of the visit is likely to prove highly contentious coming so soon after Abe's pilgrimage with President Barack Obama to the site of Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on a US navy base in Hawaii that drew the US into World War II.
Defence ministry officials could not be reached for immediate comment.