Japan’s no-apology diplomacy

tags: World War II, Japan, Washington Post, war criminals, Yasukuni Shrine, Max Fischer



Just one year after Emperor Meiji proclaimed the Japanese Empire in 1868, he ordered the construction of a majestic new Shinto shrine in Tokyo. The Yasukuni Shrine was to record the names of every man, woman and child who died in service of the new empire. And it was to be a place of  worship, part of a larger effort to make the empire something of a state religion. By the time Japan collapsed in defeat at the end of World War II, more than 2 million names had been added to the shrine.

For more than 75 years, Yasukuni was a symbol of Japan’s imperial mission; both were officially sacred. The shrine was considered the final resting place of Japanese soldiers, colonists and others who served the imperial expansion that had plunged all of East Asia and eventually the United States into a costly and horrific war.

When Japan surrendered in 1945 and its imperial era ended, so too, officially, did the state ideology that had been religiously enshrined at Yasukuni. That next April, less than a year after U.S. occupation forces took control of Japan, the Americans ordered Emperor Hirohito to never again visit the shrine or send envoys there, according to Herbert Bix’s Pulitzer-winning biography of the emperor. The official symbol of Japan’s supposedly divine mission of conquest would remain standing, much like the institution of the emperor himself, but the two could never again meet. Meanwhile, the shrine’s keepers continued adding names – including those of high-profile war leaders who were convicted of war crimes and put to death by U.S.-sanctioned tribunals....




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