TOKYO, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday on the occasion of its annual autumn festival.
Abe himself is reportedly to refrain from visiting the notorious shrine during the festival in person in an effort to prevent further damage to Japan's relationship with China and South Korea at a time Japan and the region is facing heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Abe once again sent a "masakaki" tree as an offering under the name of the prime minister. The potted tree is used here in ceremonies involving Shintoism.
The prime minister left Tokyo for Japan's north on Tuesday morning to deliver campaign speeches in Akita and Yamagata prefectures ahead of the lower house election on Sunday.
A number of senior politicians also made ritual offerings to the shrine, including Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato, House of Councillors President Chuichi Date and Toshiei Mizuochi, senior vice education minister.
Yasukuni Shrine honors 14 Class-A convicted war criminals among 2.5 million Japanese war dead from WWII and is regarded as a symbol of past Japanese militarism.
Visits and ritual offerings made by proxy to the infamous shrine by Japanese leaders and officials have consistently sparked strong criticism and hurts the feelings of China and South Korea and other countries brutalized by Japan during WWII.
Abe has sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni during its spring and autumn festivals every year since he launched his current administration in 2012.
The Japanese prime minister last visited the controversial shrine in person in Dec. 2013, at which time he was strongly condemned by China and South Korea, as well as the United States, who said at the time it was disappointed with Abe's decision.