- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

TOKYO The quiet tree-lined alleys of Meiji Shrine make it one of Tokyo's most popular tourist attractions. And it's at the top of President Bush's to-see list when he arrives here today for a three-day visit.
But his Japanese host is reportedly leery to set foot there.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has decided not to accompany the president and Mrs. Bush during their scheduled visit to the shrine tomorrow morning because doing so could be seen as inappropriate or even unconstitutional, Japanese news media reported yesterday.
Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine in downtown Tokyo dedicated to the emperor of Japan who reigned during a period of rapid modernization in the country in the late 19th century.
Briefing reporters earlier this week, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice described it as a "symbol of Japan's ability to cherish its culture as it embraces the modern world."
In a country where soldiers once marched off to war in the name of emperors worshipped as divine at Shinto shrines, however, some Japanese are uncomfortable with their leaders making visits to these sanctums.
Shinto, indigenous to Japan and distinguished by worship of nature and ancestors, was the country's state religion until 1945. Its postwar U.S.-drafted constitution rejected the divinity of the emperor and imposed the separation of church and state.
A spokeswoman for the prime minister said that his schedule had not been finalized. But Misako Kaji acknowledged there was "some concern" about the "implications" of Mr. Koizumi visiting Meiji Shrine with the Bushes. She did not elaborate.
Japanese media reported that Mr. Koizumi planned to accompany his guests to an exhibition of horseback archery planned on the sprawling grounds of the shrine but would not join them during their visit to the shrine itself.
Mr. Koizumi stepped into a political storm last year when he paid his respects at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo dedicated to Japanese soldiers including convicted war criminals who have died in the country's wars.
During Mr. Bush's visit, the leaders of the world's two richest nations are expected to focus on Mr. Koizumi's efforts to overhaul Japan's sputtering economy.


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