A picture has emerged on social media purporting to show a man dressed as General Hideki Tojo, the prime minister who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, saluting at a weekend conference, sparking outrage online.
General Tojo was among those executed for war crimes and later honored at the Yasukuni shrine.
The picture that surfaced on Twitter appeared to show a man dressed in period military garb saluting while standing on a campaign car for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) -- sparking a backlash online.
"Does this mean the LDP tolerates this?" @hatsunoji wrote.
Said online user @okchibita: "This is not even a bad joke. I cannot believe this was done by the ruling party."
The picture was believed to have been taken at a weekend conference organized by an Internet broadcaster, which Abe had briefly attended earlier in the day.
The huge two-day event, attended by more than 120,000 people, had dozens of booths sponsored by a wide variety of organisations including political parties, gaming firms and the country's sumo association.
An LDP spokesman said he was unaware that the unidentified man was dressed to appear like Japan's wartime leader.
"If we had known that he meant to be dressed up like Tojo, we would have had second thoughts about letting him get up there," he told AFP.
A person claiming to be the man in the photo apologized on Twitter Monday and claimed he was simply dressed as a military policeman.
"There was the campaign car which people were allowed to climb on," wrote the person, identified as @vice0079. "I was guided by LDP staff."© (c) 2014 AFP