Nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual cash offering to the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo to mark Saturday's 75th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II but was not expected to visit in person, local media said.
Yasukuni honours 2.5 million war dead, mostly Japanese, who perished in the country's wars since the late 19th century.
But it also enshrines senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal after the war.
Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda, one of the four ministers to visit the shrine, said he did so to pay tribute to the war dead.
"I paid respects... to the souls of those who nobly sacrificed themselves during the war," Hagiuda told reporters.
The three others were Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi, and Seiichi Eto, minister in charge of territorial issues.
Abe last visited the shrine in December 2013 to mark his first year in power, sparking fury in Beijing and Seoul and earning a rare diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States.
This year's visits come with tensions still high between Japan and South Korea -- one of the countries that suffered most from Japan's wartime military atrocities.
The two countries have issued reciprocal trade sanctions and threats as they battle over issues including wartime forced labour and sex slavery.
Later in the day, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attended a national ceremony to mark the anniversary, which had been scaled back because of the coronavirus.
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