Tokyo - Justin Bieber courted controversy once again yesterday, posting a picture of a Japanese war shrine after an apparent visit to the contentious spot that counts convicted war criminals among the fallen warriors it honours.
The troubled Canadian pop prince, 20, posted the snap of the Yasukuni shrine on his Instagram account - tweeting the link to his 51 million Twitter followers - but later took it down.
"Thank you for your blessings," he tweeted as he posted the picture, showing the backs of two people standing in front of the massive shrine pavilion. The post sparked a social media backlash, including in South Korea and China, where the shrine is seen as a symbol of Japan's perceived lack of penitence for its imperialist past.
An attached museum peddles a view of World War II deemed unpalatable by most mainstream historians, casting Japan as a victim and a frustrated liberator of Asia.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang, speaking at a regular briefing yesterday, said he had not been aware of Bieber's visit to the shrine. But he added: "I hope that this Canadian singer after visiting the Yasakuni shrine can have a clear understanding of Japan's history of invasion and militarism, and of the source of Japan's militarism."
The backlash recalls Bieber's visit to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam a year ago, when he sparked a furore with a message in the guest book at the house of the Jewish teenager, who died in a World War II concentration camp. "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber," he wrote, referring to the nickname given to his fans.