Japan's new defence minister, Ms Tomomi Inada, will not visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Monday, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, for the first time since 2006.
This is because she will be away on a four-day trip, starting today, to Djibouti in Africa, where personnel from Japan's Self-Defence Forces have been deployed on an anti-piracy mission, the Defence Ministry said yesterday.
It is unclear if she will send a ritual offering in her absence.
Ms Inada, 57, who was appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle on Aug 3, has been a regular visitor to the shrine, which honours convicted criminals among Japan's war dead and which is seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of militarism.
Asked by the media if she intended to continue visiting the shrine, she has been evasive, saying: "It's a matter of one's heart, so I will not say if I will go or if I should or should not worship there... I will continue to act with proper judgment as a member of the Cabinet."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also not visit the shrine on Monday but plans to send a ritual offering, local media said. He has not visited the shrine since December 2013 in a bid to mend frayed ties with China and South Korea.
Separately, newly appointed Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura, 69, went to the shrine last Thursday as, he said, "an individual, a lawmaker and a Cabinet minister".