Jeffrey Kingston: It’s Time Japan Acted to End the War over Yasukuni Shrine

tags: Japan, Yasukuni Shrine, Jeffrey Kingston



Jeffrey Kingston is the director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan.

Every year around this time, in the run-up to the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in 1945, feverish speculation ensues about whether Japan’s top politicians will visit Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. Chinese and South Koreans — not to mention many Japanese — abhor such visits because the shrine honors the souls of 14 “Class A” war criminals. Visitors say they have every right to honor the 2.5 million other Japanese war dead celebrated at Yasukuni; they compare the shrine to the U.S. war cemetery at Arlington.

This is dangerous nonsense. Yasukuni is ground zero for an unrepentant view of Japan’s wartime aggression.

During World War II, the shrine served as the “command headquarters” of State Shinto, a religion that deified the emperor and mobilized Japanese subjects to fight a holy war at his behest. The private foundation that runs Yasukuni added the 14 most controversial “souls” — surreptitiously — in 1978.

The shrine’s political mission is on blatant display at the adjacent Yushukan museum, run by the same foundation. There, the Class A war criminals are portrayed as martyrs. Japan’s war in China is supposed to have suppressed banditry and terrorism, while its invasion of the rest of Asia is represented as a war of liberation from Western colonialism. Missing from the extensive exhibits are any mentions of the Rape of Nanjing, the awful experiments conducted by Unit 731 on prisoners of war, or the suffering endured by tens of thousands of “comfort women.”...



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