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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Who Is Enshrined In Yasukuni Shrine?

What would Japan be without a bit of conflict? Boring.

The Yasukuni Shrine has been a source of international conflict for Japan for a number of years now - and I'll try and offer a reason for it.

By the way... in the photo above, that's former Emperor Hirohito visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in 1935.

The Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 or 靖國神社 Yasukuni Jinja) is a Shinto shrine located in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo, founded by Emperor Meiji (reign February 3, 1867 - July 30, 1912) in June of 1869 as a means to commemorate the soldiers et al who had died for Japan during the Meiji era... which was his reigning period.

It was founded initially for the spirits from the Boshin War of 1867 (戊辰戦争 Boshin Sensō, "War of the Year of the Yang Earth Dragon") the civil war fought between the remainder of the Tokugawa Shugunate and those seeking the return of the Emperor's Imperial Court... it went on until 1869.

Since that time, its purpose has been changed to include all Japanese people who died up to and including World War II... which for Japan also includes those charged after the war for war crimes.

Basically... the shrine states that the dead are kami... not necessarily gods... but are indeed the spirits of the dead.

I should point out that at the nearby Chinreisha shrine contained within the area of the Yasukuni Shrine, it also has a spirit soothing shrine dedicated to all those who have died in Japan's battles throughout history. Basically... the Chinreisha Shrine covers all soldiers.

Chinereaisha - photo from

Basically... all together, the Yasukuni Shrine commemorates more than 2,466,000 people. 

According to Shinto beliefs, the Yasukuni Shrine (henceforth it includes the Chinreisha Shrine) is a home for all the dead who fought on behalf of the Emperor - regardless of whether they died in combat. This means that some of the World War II vets still alive will one day be enshrined here.

It also means that regardless of international public opinion on the honor of the dead, the Yasukuni Shrine will still honor you.

So... what's the big deal?

Well... the Yasukuni Shrine includes 1,068 prisoners of war (POWs) who were convicted of some level of war crime at the conclusion of World war II, and were enshrined here.

But... here's the rub.

When one is enshrined, according to Shinto beliefs, the spirit (kami) is absolved of all Earthly misdeeds... even (or especially) if one was convicted by The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE).

The IMTFE are also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, and as the Tribunal - which was begun on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of war crimes. The Tribunal was convened at Ichigaya Court, formerly the Imperial Japanese Army HQ building, in Ichigaya, Tokyo. It was adjourned on November 12, 1948.
Ichigaya Court held the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.
There are three (3) classes of war crime.

Class A war crimes: participation in a joint conspiracy to start and wage war. These charges were leveled against what I would call upper-management... those who made the big decisions.

Class B war crimes: those who committed conventional atrocities or crimes against humanity. I would assume crimes against humanity would include raping, pillaging, murder of civilians. I'm sure it includes more than that.

Class C war crimes: those who planned, ordered, authorized or failed to prevent such transgressions at higher levels in the command structure.

Class A: 28 Japanese military and political leaders
Class B & C: more than 5,700 Japanese nationals - most for prisoner abuse. Of this number, 984 were initially condemned to death; 475 received life sentences; 2,944 were given more limited prison terms; 1,018 were acquitted; and 279 were never brought to trial or not sentenced.

The Japanese Royal Family was not charged with any war crimes, as the Allies realized it would be easier to placate Japan's citizenry with changes to its Constitution if they were left alone... with the main proviso being the Emperor had to denounce his God-like powers... which, in fact, was a big deal. I'll get to that in another blog.

Who was on Trial for Class A War Crimes:
Six defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for Class A war crimes:
  1. General Kenji Doihara, chief of the intelligence services in Manchukuo; 
  2. Kōki Hirota, Prime Minister (later Foreign Minister);
  3. General Seishirō Itagaki, War Minister; 
  4. General Heitarō Kimura, commander, Burma Area Army; 
  5. Lieutenant General Akira Mutō, chief of staff, 14th Area Army; 
  6. General Hideki Tōjō, commander, Kwantung Army (later Prime Minister of Japan from October 17, 1941 to July 22, 1944).
One defendant was sentenced to death by hanging for Class B & C war crimes:
  1. General Iwane Matsui, commander, Shanghai Expeditionary Force and Central China Area Army. 
Excluding the top three people, the remaining six Class A and Matsui were all executed on December 23, 1948 at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

A total of 16 defendants were given Life imprisonment: three died in prison: Koiso, Shiratori, and Umezu (see below), while the 13 others were granted parole between 1954 -1956. Those who received life in prison were:
Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment but died in prison in 1949.
Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu was sentenced to seven years.

Class A War Crimes Released:
There were actually 70 Japanese who were arrested for Class A war crimes, but, and I'm not 100% positive here, it appears as though because their trials had not and would not come up in time - perhaps owing to a lack of evidence, these people were all set free by 1948.

They were to have been tried in three groups:
Group 1 consisted of 28 leaders in the military, political, and diplomatic area;
Groups 2 & 3 consisting of 23 and 19 people respectively were the industrial and financial folk who were involved weapons manufacturing, narcotics trafficking, and also included lower-level leaders in military, political, and diplomatic areas. Some of those - the more interesting ones include:
  • Nobusuke Kishi: In charge of industry and commerce of Manchukuo, 1936–40; Minister of Industry and Commerce under Prime Minister Tojo's administration;
  • Fusanosuke Kuhara: Leader of the pro-Zaibatsu faction of Rikken Seiyukai;
  • Yoshisuke Ayukawa: Sworn brother of Fusanosuke Kuhara, founder of Japan Industrial Corporation; went to Manchuria after the Mukden Incident (1931), where he founded the Manchurian Heavy Industry Development Company;
  • Toshizō Nishio: Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, Commander-in-Chief of China Expeditionary Army, 1939–41; war-time Minister of Education;
  • Kichiburo Ando: Garrison Commander of Port Arthur and Minister of Interior in Prime Minister Tojo's cabinet;
  • Yoshio Kodama: Radical ultra-nationalist;
  • Kazuo Aoki: Administrator of Manchurian affairs; Minister of Treasury in Prime Minister Nobuyuki Abe's cabinet ; followed Abe to China as an advisor; Minister of Greater East Asia in Prime Minister the Tojo's cabinet;
  • Masayuki Tani: Ambassador to Manchukuo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and concurrently Director of the Intelligence Bureau; Ambassador to the Reorganized National Government of China;
  • Eiji Amo: Chief of the Intelligence Section of Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; Director of Intelligence Bureau in Prime Minister Tojo's cabinet;
  • Yakijiro Suma: Consul General at Nanking; in 1938, he served as counselor at the Japanese Embassy at Washington; after 1941, Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain;
  • Ryoichi Sasakawa: Ultra-nationalist, later businessman and philanthropist.
Did you see an interesting name there? Prime Minister Noboyuki Abe? Abe was Japan's 36th Prime Minister and ruled from August 30, 1939 to January 16, 1940.

Is he related to Japan's current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? No.

But there is still a relationship between the current Prime Minister and World War II. Abe's mother was Yoko Kishi... and her father was Nobusuke Kishi who was Japan Prime Minister from January 31, 1957 – July 19, 1960. Grandpa Kishi was, however, part of Prime Minister Tojo's Cabinet during the war. He did spend time in prison for his part, but when released he formed the Japan Democratic Party. In 1950 Shigeru Yoshida's Liberal Party and Kishi's Democratic Party merged to become the current Liberal Democratic Party.

Let's go back to the Yasukuni Shrine now.

Back on January 31, 1969, Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry and representatives of the Yasukuni Shrine met in a hush-hush way. It was then that they agreed that Class A war criminals from the Tokyo Trials would be enshrined. They also decided NOT to tell the public about it. Because... even then... they knew it was controversial.

On October 17, 1978, 14 Class A Japanese war criminals were enshrined as "Martyrs of Shōwa" (昭和殉難者 Shōwa junnansha).

This information only came to light when the National Diet Library of Japan released the information on March 28, 2007.

However... the enshrinement was revealed to the media on April 19, 1979... just not the hows and whys. That took until 2007.

And that's how Japan's war criminals got in... and according to Shinto tradition... forgiven for their Earthly trespasses...

So... do you want to know who are the 13 Class A war criminals who are honorably enshrined and worshipped at the Yasukuni Shrine?

Class A War Criminals Enshrined At Yasukuni Shrine:
Death by hanging:
  • Hideki Tōjō;
  • Seishirō Iragaki;
  • Heitarō Kimura;
  • Kenji Doihara;
  • Akira Mutō;
  • Kōki Hirota
Life Imprisonment:
  • Yoshijirō Umezu;
  • Kuniaki Koiso;
  • Hiranuma Kiichirō;
  • Toshio Shiratori
20-Years Prison Sentence:
  • Shigenori Tōgō 
Died During Trial:
  • Osami Nagano;
  • Yosuke Matsuoka
Let's not forget that Iwane Matsui was the 14th World War II war crime guilty party... but he was only charged with Class B & C. All of these people are listed above with links to Wikipedia sites. 

There... now you know more than most people on the planet.

It's just like the classic American brain teaser of "who is buried in Grant's tomb?" You can look that one up... this is a website of Japanese whatsit, after all.

Andrew Joseph

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