Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting Yasukuni WW2 shrine

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to visit a controversial shrine to World War Two dead, local media report.

The visit later in the day to Tokyo’s Yasukuni memorial comes one year after Mr Abe took office.

The move is likely to further inflame already tense relations with neighbouring China and South Korea.

The shrine honours several convicted Japanese war criminals. Beijing and Seoul see it as a symbol of Tokyo’s war-time aggression.

This will be the first visit to Yasukuni by a serving prime minister since 2006.

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Abe defends shrine visits amid tensions with China and South Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday there is no problem for his Cabinet members to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, even if there is criticism from China or South Korea.

“My ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation,” Abe said during a session of parliament. “It’s a matter of course to secure the freedom to express one’s respect and worship to precious souls of the war dead.”

Abe made the remarks at a time when China and South Korea, which see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, have sternly protested against the visits to the Tokyo shrine by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and two other Cabinet members last weekend, as well as Tuesday’s mass homage there by 168 Japanese lawmakers.


Japan MPs visit controversial war Yasukuni shrine amid islands tension

NEARLY 170 MPs have visited a controversial war shrine seen as potent symbol of Japan’s imperialist past, stoking regional tensions as eight Chinese vessels sailed into disputed waters.

The annual trip to the Yasukuni shrine, which usually draws a far smaller number of legislators, has riled neighbours China and South Korea, which lodged protests after several Japanese cabinet members visited at the weekend.

A total of 168 parliamentarians visited the site in central Tokyo on Tuesday morning according to upper house member of parliament Toshiei Mizuochi.

The shrine honours 2.5 million war dead, including 14 leading war criminals enshrined there, but is seen by Japan’s Asian neighbours as a symbol of its wartime aggression.

The visit came a day after South Korea shelved a proposed trip by Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se to Tokyo in protest at trips by Japanese cabinet ministers to the shrine.

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Yasukuni Shrine war museum robbed by vending machine repairman

A man who admitted to taking several million yen from a ticket vending machine at the Yushukan war museum within Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine was arrested on Sept. 14, police said.

Tatsuo Okazaki, 34, a former employee of a Tokyo-based ticket machine manufacturing company, was arrested on a specific charge of stealing 39,000 yen (around $520) from the Yushukan ticket vending machine in June. Police said he has admitted to many more thefts.

“I knew the structure of the ticket vending machines, so it was easy for me to get into them,” police quoted Okazaki as saying. “For years I had been going there during work hours and stolen a few million yen.”

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My visit to the Yasukuni Shrine


His private visits to the Yasukuni shrine provokes the ire of many Asian countries. Why does Prime Minister Koizumi visit the Yasukuni shrine? I didn’t know. As it so happened, I had moved to Shinjuki and was living within walking distance of the shrine. So, one April morning, I made my way there to find out.

In my mind’s eye, I had thought the shrine itself would be larger and more imposing than it was. I was struck by its simplicity. I had double checked with one of the security guards on duty. “Sumimasen” I asked. “Yasukuni koko?” I said and gently pointed to its direction with my hand. He nodded his head and uttered a “Hai.” He then instructs me on Shinto protocol in Japanese and reminds me to clap twice. I reply with an “Arigato gozaimasu.”

The complex is bustling with activity. There are many visitors present. There’s a live performance taking place on a makeshift stage. I notice that there are many Japanese seniors in attendance.

I walk towards the shrine. I instinctively sense the reverence of the place. Many are offering their respects. It is a special place. I can see that. I can feel it. It is a place of worship.

After, I visit the war museum. I learn about the Yasukuni shrine. The shrine is where the Japanese revere their own who have died for the nation. The shrine dates from the Meiji period. The registry of souls also dates from the Meiji period.

The fallen become guardian divinities and protect Japan from evil.

I spend many hours working my way through the exhibits on the two floors. Many of the exhibits have been translated into English. There are exhibits on loan from the Imperial Family. I begin to realize that there is a connection between the Imperial Family and the Yasukuni shrine. There is a moving images presentation on Japan’s military past which I watch. I take a seat in the back. I notice that many Japanese are weeping silently. The atmosphere is charged with emotion.

I take a break and sit in the lounge area on the second floor to collect my thoughts. I feel weary. I am feeling tired. I feel slightly overwhelmed by it all but I continue on with my visit.

I make a mental note. There’s a reference to Nanking. There’s a reference to the GHQ occupation policy. There’s a reference to the Emperor Showa repudiating his divine status. There’s a reference to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Kamikaze exhibit leaves me feeling terribly sad. The photo portraits of the Kamikaze overwhelm me. There is a volume of their correspondence that has been translated into English which I read. Their words leave me feeling numb.

I explore the grounds of the enclosure. There’s a sumo pit on the premises and a lovely Japanese garden. My visit to the shrine leaves me with a deeper understanding of Japanese people and Japanese modern history. I come away with the understanding that the Yasukuni shrine, the Imperial Family, and the Sakura (cherry blossoms) shape the identity of the Japanese people. Yes, the shrine houses the names of Japan’s convicted war criminals but also those who fought for a modern Japan.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.
photo by: HIRATA Yasuyuki