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Yasukuni Shrine and the justification of war


I went to see Yasukuni Shrine on August 14th, a day before the visit of the Japanese prime minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi. Yasukuni Shrine is notorious for its enshrinement of Class-A war criminals. I strongly oppose Koizumi's visit, but I have never been Yasukuni Shrine, so I decided to go there and see how the shrine looks like and what is going on inside.

It was a hot summer day. Yasukuni Shrine was located at the center of Tokyo, just beside the Imperial Palace. In the garden of the shrine there were a number of the members of Japan War-Bereaved Association. Most of them were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, probably the brothers, sisters or children of dead soldiers who died during World War II. Among them there were young people and couples, who had probably no relationship with the bereaved family.

I went to the main shrine and took a picture. They were selling the bottles of sake (alcohol), the name of which was "Yasukuni -- The God's Alcohol." They were even selling conservative books on the Emperor System and Japanese history. Then I went to the Yushukan MIlitary Musium, which is run by Yasukuni Shrine.

It seemed to me very strange that a Shinto shrine has a huge military musium in their site, but anyway I entered it and saw its exhibition about the history of warfare from Ancient Japan to World War II. There were a number of ancient weapons, modern military goods, personal belongings of soldiers, and the facial portraits of deceased soldiers. There were explanation panels on the walls of the exhibition rooms. The basic tone of the panels were that of "self-justification." It was stressed that there was a necessity to invade China and other Asian countries at that time, and it was also stressed that the main cause of the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States was the economic pressure made by the USA and other European nations. In an audio visual room, they were showing an old film that praises Japanese army's victorious battles in the mainland China. The room was filled with visitors of various ages. They were silently watching the film. There was no exhibition relating to Asian victims or Asian general public in the musium.

In the last room, personal belongings and portraits of killed soldiers were exhibited. Among them, there were a portrait and clothes of a seventeen-year-old girl who committed suicide when she knew the defeat of Japan. Her portrait moved me. Such a thing should never happen again. A great number of people were killed in Korea, China, Taiwan, the Phillippines, Nanjing, Chongqing, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Okinawa, and other cities. These atrocities can never be justified for any reason. This is why I cannot support Yasukuni Shrine, which justifies and praises the Japanese invasion to Asian countries and the Japanese war against the USA. And I cannot support two atomic bombs dropped by the US army, even if they succeeded in reducing the number of deaths of American soldiers.

Photo: Albany, NY, USA

Related post: Parody of the Japanese national anthem, Kiss me Kimigayo

   -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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