Yaskuni Issue Q&A

What kind of issues does Yasukuni present inside Japan and internationally? Points of controversy are explained as follows:

Q) What is wrong with enshrining those who died for their country?
A) Yasukuni Shrine is an exception in the world, in that it is an institution that only enshrines military-related people.

Yasukuni Shrine does not enshrine everyone who died in the war, but only military personnel, and army-related people who were “soldiers of the emperor.” It does not enshrine the victims of the atomic bomb and the air raids (there are no photographs of the atomic bomb or air raid damage displayed at the Yushukan). Before the war, Yasukuni Shrine was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Army and Navy and was a certain type of “Military Institution”. Therefore, Prime Minister Koizumi's remark, “What is wrong with enshrining those who died for the country?” does not correctly describe the characteristics of Yasukuni Shrine.

Moreover, is the saying, “die for the country” accurate for the soldiers who died in the war? They did fight “to protect Japan”, but from what, and for what, were they fighting to protect? Let's say that their “protection” succeeded, and Japan did not lose the war. Would that have been better for us? Would you side with the oppressive militarism before the war or, though insufficient, the democracy after the war? Wouldn't it seem more accurate to say the soldiers who died in the past war were “killed by the country”, more than “died for the country”? We should not forget that quite a number of war victims died from starvation.

Q) Is the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine visit, a matter of the heart, and not a matter to be discussed from outside the country?
A) The essence of the Yasukuni issue lies in the recognition of history, therefore, it is both related to domestic and international affairs.

On August 15th, 1945, we accepted the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered. The following year on November 3rd, 1946, we made a fresh start after the war, declaring to the world to become a democratic nation by establishing the Japanese Constitution based on the fundamental principles “renunciation of the right of belligerency”, “sovereignty rests with the people”, “guarantee of fundamental human rights”. Moreover, in the San Francisco Peace Treaty on September 18th, 1951, we accepted the result of the Tokyo Tribunal of War Criminals when the former Lieutenant General Hideki Tojo and others were tried for their war responsibility. Furthermore, at the post-war 50th year parliamentary resolution, Japan apologized for its colonial occupation and the war of aggression during its modern/contemporary history.

However, Yasukuni Shrine's viewpoint of Japan's modern/contemporary war history entirely contradicts previous Japanese governments by saying that the war was unavoidable for self-defense reasons, and moreover, stating that war criminals do not exist in Japan with regards to the former Lieutenant General Hideki Tojo's “class-A war criminal” issue.

For foreign countries, especially the neighboring Asian countries that were ravaged during Japan's colonial occupation and the war of aggression, it is natural that they protest with distrust that “Something must be wrong with Japan, their apology must not have been sincere”, in regard to the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the shrine. This visit exemplifies the recognition of history of affirming the past war of aggression and the colonial occupation.

For this reason, the Yasukuni Shrine is not only a domestic matter but an international one as well, especially for Asian countries, so it is not correct to say that it is an intervention of domestic affairs.

Q) What does the deceased family members of Korea and Taiwan demand to Yasukuni Shrine?
A) They are trying to restore their family's spirit that was sacrificed for the war.

The protest of Li OOOOOOO (Korean plaintiff in a lawsuit of Yasukuni);
In 1944, my father was commandeered under the colonization of the Japanese Empire. In 1989, in search of my father's record who never returned, I began a movement for post-war compensation. In 1996, I uncovered my father's information from the documents of Japan's Defense Agency. He was forcibly mobilized by the Japanese Army as a civilian, and it is unacceptable that they neglected to notify even his family of his death and instead just left it. After further research, I found out that my father was listed in the war-dead register and is enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine. The fact that my father is enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine is the same as his spirit still being colonized by Japan.

I cannot express my sorrow of the time I discovered his enshrining. I had never dreamed that my father would be enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine, which symbolizes the militarism of the Japanese Army who led him to death in the war, and moreover, not only to execute this without permission, but to neglect to inform his family of his death. Given this factor, I sued the Japanese Government, demanding the removal of the enshrined Koreans, who had been enshrined without notice.

Japan, under the policy of “内鮮一体”= Korea being a part of Japan, forcibly recruited scores of Koreans during the Pacific War. My father who received the recruitment letter left his wife and children in tears. It is such a pity to think of him losing his life in a foreign land at the age of 23.

Since the war in Korea, regardless of the coercive recruitment, soldiers and civilians suffered from disgrace along with the members of the deceased; being labeled as collaborators of Japan's war of invasion. Therefore, as a restoration of my father's honor and to search for his records, I joined the association for war-bereaved families.

To my surprise, he was enshrined in 1959. During the 40 years until this discovery, Japan had enshrined the war dead without any explanation to the bereaved families. Should we accept such nonsense?

In response to the demand to retract the enshrining, Yasukuni Shrine replied, “A diverse group of people are proud of the enshrining”. Why do they insist to act against the will of the bereaved family? Am I asking for something impossible? I'm not asking to have my father back. It's incomprehensible to mourn ignoring the bereaved family's heart and mind.

If this is the attitude towards the Koreans that they once trampled on, it can only be understood that Japan has not reflected on their aggression. I don't want to hold a grudge against the Japanese. I only want to be relieved of this emotional burden. I wish Japanese people were able to think of the victims, in this case Koreans, as their own family. This is my wish.