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Monday, December 30, 2013

Yasukuni Shrine: War Vets, War Criminals And PM Abe

That 'war criminals' part made you look, didn't it?

This is a blog I had initially tried to write about two years ago... I wrote the opening line back in 2012 of December 28. Who says you can't look back at the past and try and move forward?

Well... if you are the Prime Minister of Japan, apparently you can't.

On December 26, 2013, one year to the day after taking office as Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo (surname first) visited the Yasukuni Shrine in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo for 15 minutes.

What's the big deal, right? He was simply paying his respects to the dead, right? A Shinto shrine dedicated to Japans soldiers... its war dead... what's wrong with that?

"I prayed to pay respect for the war dead who sacrificed their precious lives and hoped that they rest in peace," he told the media.

Well, the Yasukuni Shrine is both famous and infamous because amongst the 2.5 million war dead enshrined at Yaskuni there are also 14 Class A war criminals from World War 2 enshrined.

It is because of those 14 individuals - Japanese leaders who were either executed or who died in prison or during their war crime trials - that countries such as China and South Korea are pissed off royally not only at Abe, but also at Japan for allowing their leader to do such a thing.

Look... I can understand wanting to pay respect to the dead... it's not MY thing, but I don't begrudge anyone the right to do so... but why did Abe chose to honor the Japanese soldiers as opposed to say... oh, I don't know... the people who died during the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear diasters up in the northeastern part of Japan?

Because Abe is a self-serving idiot. He is a war-monger with a deep-rooted nationalist pride that is throwing Japan into a state of extreme chaos. He is going to lead Japan into a war. A war it will not win.

Both China and South Korea have warned that Abe's actions at the Yasukuni Shrine will further erode relations with Japan... possibly pushing it closer to an all out dismissal of Japan's right to exist.

You will recall that Japan doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation, historically speaking, in its relations with China, South Korea... hell... all of Asia... and specifically, because it terrorized China before and during WW2... and had colonized Korea not too many years before that.

In fact, you can thank Japan's militaristic actions of the past 100 years for the reason that China is the way it is... and Korea, too... and I'm not just talking about SOUTH Korea. I'm talking about good ol North Korea.

You can read about the history of Japanese-Chinese relations HERE and HERE. I do write these blogs for a reason. You can also read about those damn Southern Islands that Japan says it owns that has South Korea, China and Taiwan all with twitch trigger fingers HERE.  
"Hey China and South Korea! Read between the lines!" Photo of Abe from Reuters back in April 19, 2013.
Abe is considered a nationalist who really, really, really wants to alter Japan's pacifist Constitution, and has previous said he would really like to visit Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister.

Now... I believe that Abe did NOT visit the Yasukuni Shrine in an official capacity... and that it was done solely as an individual thing... but who's kidding whom? You don't get to be an ordinary citizen at any time when you are an elected official.

That would be like saying it is okay for the Mayor of Toronto (where I live) to hook up with hookers, get drunk and smoke crack, but it's okay because he was finished with work for the day. I'm not saying any of those things happened, by the way, because that would be libelous, and I have no idea what any Mayor does when they are not in their City Hall office... I suppose it would still be being the Mayor.

And the same holds true for the Prime Minister of Japan.

By the way... I am currently reading a book by Canada's CURRENT Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It's not a book about politics, it's a book about the history of hockey (ice) in Ontario - specifically the history of hockey in Toronto. It's dry, because that's what history is, but dammit! He's captured my attention - in a good way! Thank you Prime Minister Harper for teaching me more about what it means to be not only Canadian, Torontonian, but also a hockey fan!

Now... let's get back to Japanese Prime Minister Abe.

His visit to the Yasukuni Shrine also raised the hackles of one US President Barack Obama. That country says it is disappointed "that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors."

Japanese analysts were also dumfounded who thought Abe might stay away from inciting the foreign masses and instead take the pragmatic approach to his leadership and focus on reviving Japan's crappy economy.

After his visit inside the Yasukuni Shrine, Abe says that he is NOT paying homage to war criminals... that he is not specifically praying for the souls of the 14 war criminals.

"Unfortunately, a Yasukuni visit has largely turned into a political and diplomatic issue," Abe states. "It is not my intention to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people."

He adds that Japan must never wage war again. "This is my conviction, based on the severe remorse for the past."

I believe if one is smart enough, Abe is saying that Japan will not START a war, but it won't back away from one. Probably because the U.S. will come to Japan's rescue... and if it won't... well... that's why Abe wants to rewrite Japan's Constitution... so that it may once again be allowed to form its own armed forces... a power that was stripped of it after Japan's surrender to The Allies at the end of World War 2.

Whatever Abe's desires are or says they are... he should have been smart enough NOT to have visited the Yasukuni Shrine. But he's not. And neither are the people of Japan... you not only vot3ed him into office... you've done it twice.

Pride goeth before the fall.
Andrew Joseph
Photo at the very top courtesy of Wikipedia. Photographer Wiiii.


  1. Andrew,
    I agree with most of what you wrote, but do you know that there is no cemetery, bones, graves, nothing like it at Yasukuni? For Americans, it is closest to something like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Vietnam Memorial; not Arlington.
    I think people need to understand what "enshrined" means. I gather people think there are graves or ashes or some kind of remains at Yasukuni. There are none. Guys who died in, say, the Boshin war of 1880 who died on the battlefield are "enshrined" there... How did they get "enshrined"? They died. In most cases these were poor foot soldiers and their bodies were never recovered... That's it. Soldiers whose bodies were recovered have family graves... Those Class A "war criminals" have their own family graves too. But, not at Yasukuni. Family graves are cared for by their families... Speaking of families,did you know that Japan's most famous post war prime minister Nobusuke Kishi was Shinzo Abe's grandfather and was accused of war crimes after WWII? Yet no trial was ever commenced so he was innocent of war crimes (he was munitions minister during Hideki Tojo's administration!!!!!!) He would later go on to become one of japan's most famous post-war prime ministers and an ardent supporter of the US/Japan security agreements! (Kind of like how the USA protected high-ranking Nazis after WWII also.)
    The Vietnam memorial has names written on it; no graves underneath or anything…. Do you think the Vietnamese would complain if the US president visited The Vietnam Memorial? Well, the don't because US presidents who were draft dodgers like Clinton or Bush just cannot show their faces there. But if they did, would you think it strange that they complain about a US president visiting a big slab of marble that has people's names etched it it? I would.... It has just as many remains of the dead as Yasukuni does.

    There are many Japanese older Japanese who think the Japanese Prime Minister MUST go to Yasukuni because it is equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier (I think so too) the government must pay respects to these people from poor families who were sent off to die for nothing!

    Any investigation to Yasukuni must discuss Shinto religion... I think it is impossible for Buddhists (China and Korea)or christians to understand as they think Yasukuni has a cemetery with remains like a Buddhist temple or Christians cemetery would. It doesn't. Shinto believe the soul roams the earth after death. Purification rites are performed for all to cleanse them of crimes on earth after their death.... That's it. All crimes are cleansed. It is a religious belief of this Japanese religion that is well over 1000 years old...To get upset about this (as a student of religion in my university days - I went to Loyola Marymount) strikes me about as absurd as complaining about people believing in Ancient Greek or Norse mythology.... It's nonsense. And nonsense to get upset about it, especially when people do not understand what this is all about...I think it is ridiculous... Just about as ridiculous as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Jedi Religion, and people walking on water or returning from the dead.

    My 2 cents

    1. Your 2 cents are always appreciated. I did mention that stuff about Abe's Grandpa! But... I was probably unclear about the enshrinement process. I know they are just enshrined in name only.
      I don't really have a problem with Abe visiting the Shrine to honor the war dead... but since everyone else does, either he or the Shrine need to explain what it is actually all about better OR he needs to be more heedful of what others BELIEVE his visit is all about.
      Does the president of the US need to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? No. Not at this time. And I don't believe he would if he knew it would piss off others.
      He could have gone and visited his family cemetery... or simply have visited the secondary shrine that honors ALL the war dead.
      But I agree.. it is kind of ridiculous when someone gets criticized for visiting a graveyard or cenotaph to pay their respects...
      The main problem is, as you know, paying respects to all at Yasukuni means paying respects to those whom the Allies et al consider to be war criminals. The key phrase is Allies et al. The Japanese Shinto traditions believe a person's soul is exonerated of all its earthly misdeeds, and is thus pure.
      I hoped I said that.
      BUT... perhaps I did not emphasize it enough.
      In another blog perhaps, I shall write about defending the Yasukuni Shrine. Not tonight, though.
      Thanks for writing Mike!
      Happy Year of the Hose (private joke!)