Fire at home of PM's critic on day of Japan war shrine visit

The house and office of a politician critical of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to a war shrine burned down today, police said.

The house and office of a politician critical of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to a war shrine burned down today, police said.

The fire broke out at the home and office of Koichi Kato in Yamagata state in northern Japan, destroying the buildings, according to local police official Koji Suzuki.

An unidentified man was found collapsed on the premises with wounds to his abdomen. He was rushed to a hospital. There were no other injuries.

Police suspect the unidentified man found collapsed on the premises with wounds to his abdomen may have set fire to the house and then tried to commit suicide, according to news reports.

Suzuki said police were investigating how the fire broke out and that arson “could not be ruled out".

A member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Kato is known for his criticism of Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honours convicted war criminals among Japan's war dead.

Koizumi worshipped at the shrine early today – the anniversary of Japan’s Second World War defeat – drawing praise from some war veterans, rightists and others who believe Japanese leaders should have the right to honour the war dead as they please.

However, the visit provoked strong protests from China and South Korea, which suffered heavily under Japanese invasions and view the shrine as a glorification of imperialism.

Kato had made numerous TV appearances today, saying Koizumi should not have visited the shrine only to satisfy his own beliefs.

Koizumi says he goes to Yasukuni to pray for peace and honour fallen soldiers.

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