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Yasukuni Shrine

From Academic Kids

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Yasukuni_Honden.JPG
The main building of Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine (lit. "peaceful nation shrine") is a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, Japan. The name of the shrine was originally written 靖國神社 (Yasukuni Jinja) but with the designation of the joyo kanji, the name is now written 靖国神社. As of October 2003, its Book of Souls lists the names of 2,466,495 Japanese and former colonial soldiers (mostly Korean and Taiwanese) killed in war.

Contents

History

The shrine was originally constructed in June 1869 by order of the Meiji Emperor to commemorate the victims of Boshin War. Originally named Tōkyō Shōkonsha (東京招魂社), the shrine was renamed Yasukuni Jinja in 1879. The shrine has performed Shinto rites to house the kami (spirits) of all Japanese and former colonial soldiers (Korean and Taiwanese) killed in conflict since then.

After Japan's defeat in World War II in September 1945, the US-led Occupation Authorities ordered Yasukuni to either become a secular government institution, or a religious institution that is independent from the Japanese Government. Yasukuni chose the latter. Since that time, Yasukuni has been completely privately funded.

Kami

The following is a count of enshired kami (formally 祭神 saishin, counted as 柱 hashira)) at the Yasukuni Shrine.

Controversy

In the People's Republic of China and South Korea, the shrine has become embroiled in controversy as a symbol of Japanese militarism of World War II, and a symbolic center of Japanese right-wing nationalism.

A pamphlet published by the shrine says "War is a really tragic thing to happen, but it was necessary in order for us to protect the independence of Japan and to prosper together with Asian neighbors." In others, the shrine runs a museum on the history of Japan, commemorating the soldiers who fought for Japan, remembering them as kami. The English website claims that "Japan's dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia." The Japanese website claims that "Comfort women were not forced to serve by the Japanese Empire. Koreans were not forced to change their names to Japanese ones." The shrine also points to atrocities committed by the Allied forces, such as the sinking of the Tsushima Maru, a transport ship torpedoed and sunk leading to the deaths over 1,500 people, of which 700 were elementary school children. A documentary-style video shown to museum visitors portrays Japan's conquest of East Asia during the pre-World War II as an effort to save East Asia from the imperial advances of western powers.

About 1,000 POWs executed for war crimes during World War II are enshrined here. This was not a political issue back then as Yasukuni was supposed to enshrine all Japanese war casualties. However, on October 17, 1978, 14 Class A war criminals (according to the judgement of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East), including Hideki Tojo, were quietly enshrined as "Martyrs of Showa" (昭和殉難者 Shōwa junnansha). They include the following along with the corresponding legal action:

  • Death by hanging:

Hideki Tojo, Seishiro Itagaki, Heitaro Kimura, Kenji Doihara, Iwane Matsui, Akira Muto, Koki Hirota

  • Lifetime imprisonment:

Yoshijiro Umezu, Kuniaki Koiso, Kiichiro Hiranuma, Toshio Shiratori

  • 20 year imprisonment (died while serving sentence):

Shigenori Togo

  • Those who died before a judicial decision was reached (due to illness or disease):

Osami Nagano, Yosuke Matsuoka

When revealed to the media on April 19, 1979, this started a controversy which rages to this day. The shrine has further angered many with its defiant defense of the war criminals; the same pamphlet mentioned above also claims: "Some 1,068 people, who were wrongly accused as war criminals by the Allied court, were enshrined here." The shrine's English-language website refers to those 1,068 as those "who were cruelly and unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces." After the revelation of 1979, Emperor Hirohito stopped paying visits to the shrine and this has remained the case ever since. However there are also strong voices among the Japanese people in support of the visits [1] (http://www.asahi.com/special/shijiritsu/TKY200404190343.html), including Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, who on August 15, 2004, indicated his strong hope for Emperor Akihito to start paying visits to the shrine.

The controversial nature of the shrine has figured largely in both domestic Japanese politics and the country's relations with other countries in the region in the years since 1978. Three Japanese prime ministers have caused an uproar by visiting the shrine since then: Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985, Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1996, and especially Junichiro Koizumi, who visited four times, on August 13, 2001, April 23, 2002, January 15, 2003 and January 1, 2004. Visits by prime ministers to the shrine generally provoke official condemnation by nations in the region, especially the People's Republic of China and South Korea, as they see such action as the attempt to legitimise Japanese militarism. Visits to the shrine also are controversial in the domestic debate over the proper role of religion in government: Some of LDP politicians insist that visits are protected by the constitutional right of the freedom of religion and that it is appropriate for legislators to pay their respects to those fallen in war. However, they refuse any proposal that a non-religious memorial be built for Japan's military dead so that those wishing to honor them do not have to visit Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine also objects to any proposal that a non-religious memorial be built and the shrine claims that "Yasukuni Shrine must be one and only memorial for Japan's military dead."

Most Japanese who visit the shrine see it as an act of remembrance and not reverence, with Prime Minister Koizumi stating that his controversial visits are to ensure that there will be no further wars involving Japan.

To date, China has been the most vocal critic of the shrine, but because the issue of Yasukuni is heavily tied to Chinese politics and viewed through a "filtered media", not all people in China are necessarily aware that the shrine existed prior to World War II, or that it also serves to honors soldiers born in colonized Korea and Taiwan. Many Japanese see a cultural difference involved. The Chinese, unlike the Japanese, do not believe that a person's crimes are absolved after death. While China and Korea criticize Koizumi's actions, the prime minister has said: "Why keep blaming the dead for the crimes they committed when they were alive?"

On his first visit to Japan since leaving office in February 2003, former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung has been openly critical of the visits to the shrine. Kim proposed that the 14 Class-A war criminals, who are enshrined at Yasukuni along with the nation's war dead, be moved to a different location. "If that option is realized, I will not express opposition against the visits to Yasukuni Shrine (by Koizumi or other Japanese leaders)," he said. Kim noted that Koizumi promised at a meeting in Shanghai in 2001 to consider building a new memorial facility that could replace Yasukuni Shrine and enable anyone to worship there without hesitation.

Current affairs

The Shrine announced that the official website has been under Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack from Chinese domain since September 2004 (Announcement in Japanese (http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/new/osirase.htm)). Therefore users could find it difficult to access the website.

In May 2005, in the aftermath of anti-Japanese protests over Japanese history textbooks controversy, China has rebuked Japan for repeatedly referring to a controversial war shrine during a visit to the country by Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi. Wu Yi cut short her visit and flew home before a planned meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. This was widely interpreted as a reaction to a statement by Mr. Koizumi the day before Ms Wu arrived that foreign countries should not interfere in the Yasukuni issue. Wu Yi's visit was meant to improve the countries' strained relations and she had planned to ask Koizumi to stop his visits to the Shrine.

In June 2005, a senior LDP member proposed moving "the 14" to a separate site. However Shinto priests refused this proposal, quoting Japan's freedom of religion laws under the Japanese Constitution.

Also in June 2005, a group of Taiwanese aborigines led by aborigine politician Kao-Chin Su-mei attempted to visit Yasukuni Shrine. They represented nine tribes from Taiwan whose ancestors are enshrined at Yasukuni. Their intention was to request the removal of their relatives from the shrine, and to pray from the return of their ancestors' souls. They were however prevented from entering by Japanese protestors and police. A demonstration was organized by a group of around fifty Japanese nationalists to block them from entering the shrine and prevent them from performing spirit-calling religious rituals. Japanese police blocked the Taiwanese from leaving their buses, citing measures to prevent clashes between the two groups. After an hour and a half, the group gave up their attempt. [2] (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/050614/1/3syb4.html) [3] (http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/detail.asp?ID=63832&GRP=B)

Further Reading

  • Breen, John. "The dead and the living in the land of peace: a sociology of the Yasukuni shrine". Mortality 9, 1 (February 2004): 76-93.
  • Nelson, John. "Social Memory as Ritual Practice: Commemorating Spirits of the Military Dead at Yasukuni Shinto Shrine". Journal of Asian Studies 62, 2 (May 2003): 445-467.

For more about Yasukuni's controversy, see:

  • Ijiri, Hidenori. “Sino-Japanese Controversies since the 1972 Diplomatic Normalization”. China Quarterly 124 (Dec 1990): 639-661.
  • Yang, Daqing. “Mirror for the future of the history card? Understanding the ‘history problem’” in Chinese-Japanese Relations in the Twenty-first Century: Complementarity and Conflict, edited by Marie Sderberg, 10-31. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002.

See also


External link

fr:Sanctuaire de Yasukuni ko:야스쿠니 신사 id:Kuil Yasukuni ja:靖国神社 zh:靖国神社

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