Sunday, June 12, 2005

Japan's bereaved families speak out against Yasukuni visits

A lot of Japan apologists who make excuses for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals whose actions and decisions terrorized and brutalized much of East Asia, make excuses ranging from, "You don't understand the peaceful meaning of the visits," to a more in-your-face, "It's not your country, so butt the hell out!"

Lots of Japanese are aware that the Yasukuni Shrine visits by Koizumi do cause seriously strained relationships with Japan's continental neighbors, especially China (where violent protestors made Koreans look like the sane ones). It's actually not too hard to find people opposed to the visits.

But the right-wingers in Japan continue to visit, claiming that to not do so would be an insult to the war dead. So it is interesting to see in today's Kyodo that Nippon Izokukai (the Japan War-Beareaved Association), headed by former LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga and a major supporter of that party, has issued a statement on the PM visits.
[Having prime ministers paying homage at the shrine] has been an ardent wish of the association and we appreciate it very much but, at the same time it is most important that the spirits of the war dead rest in peace. It is necessary to give consideration to neighboring countries and obtain their understanding.
One major policy of the association is to have regular Yasukuni visits by Japanese prime ministers, but the statement urged Koizumi, in an unusual move, to consider the criticisms of neighboring countries such as China and South Korea.

Kyodo reports that the statement also said politics should not be brought into the argument about whether Class-A war criminals should be separately enshrined from the war dead.

The association, however, expressed their opposition to the building of a separate shrine, an act which some have said would resolve the issue. The association considers Yasukuni Shrine as "the only memorial facility for the spirits of the war dead" and thus opposes establishment of any new facilities for the war dead in the future. They also oppose separate enshrinement of the Class-A war criminals.

Still, it's important to hear that even many on the right in Japan recognize that it's not in Japan's best interest to go pissing off the neighbors.


  1. Hey, Nori, thanks for the heart-felt comment. (By the way, I tried to link to your site, but couldn't get in.)

    I think there were probably a lot of families like yours, perhaps millions, who suffered because of the war but were discouraged from speaking up about it. They, too, are victims of that war of aggression.

    Nori wrote:
    However, I still feel many Japanese also have rights to condemn any politician to pay homage to the Yasukuni Shrine including Class A criminals as well as these Asians have rights. I think it is important for praying peace and paying homage to soldiers generally but not to criminals.

    I think the problem is that too many on the right insist those Class-A war criminals are not really criminals. And as long as they feel that way, it may be impossible to see eye to eye on this.

    I'm just glad to see that eye-to-eye is not just Korea/China/Taiwan/Philippines-versus-Japan, but also mainstream Japan versus right-wing Japan.

    Make your voice known, so that people in Korea, China, etc., won't think that the far right is the true voice of Japan.

  2. The ultra-right in Japan steadfastly refuses to accept the legitimacy of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and considers everyone execute by it a martyr to the cause. I'm pretty sure that this is a very fringe opinion, but the ultra-rightists are so aggressive in their bullying tactics that most people are scared to speak out against them publically.

    Sending scary black sound trucks (incidentally often driven by low-level yakuza wannabes or affiliates) past their homes is only the start. It's not uncommon for people to receive death threats wrapped around a bullet, which is about as clear a statement as one can make.

  3. Nori, some good comments there, but I do have one major disagreement:
    "If there is no Imperial system, then Shinto will eventually be extinct since the Shinto belief revolves around the history of the royal family. So will Shrines."

    Only a very, very small number of the shrines in Japan have anything to do with the Imperial system. Most of them are devoted to nature gods, local village gods, spirits of luck, wealth, etc. There's no reason that the elimination of the Imperial system would affect the vast majority of animistic shrines. The core of Japanese religion is a lot older than the Imperial system, it's just that the rulers of the Yamato state wrote the early history of Japan, constructing a narrative based upon the gods of their own family, which eventually became Japan's Imperial Clan.

    Nobody worships the Emperor in Japan today (except maybe some of the ultra right nutjobs), and the period around WW2 when the government encouraged emperor worship was an anomoly-Japan's indigenous religious practices were for the most part traditionally more local.

  4. I just want to let you know the Kyodo's article is false.
    Here is the association's official site.
    Nippon Izokukai

    They denied the statement from Mr Koga.
    Izokukai want Koizumi to visit Yasukuni.
    Koga is the leader of Izokukai but also known as pro-China politician.
    (This is the biggest problem of Izokukai)

    Other newspapers corrected the article after Izokukai announced the statement was Koga's recless run.
    I am sure he was ordered by China.

    But Kyodo never did.
    Please watch out for Kyodo and Asahi.

  5. Mutantfrog

    The black truck ultra-right wingers are same as Yakuza as you say.

    In the other hand, ultra-left wingers are terrorists.
    They kidnap ordinary people, hijacking air plane, shooting spree at Tel Aviv airport.

    Most people are scared to speak out against them=especially Chosen Soren and Mindan publically.

  6. Oi: I wasn't metaphorically comparing the ultra right wing to Yakuza, I was saying that they actually have clear ties to them and that some(most, all?) of the people that drive around those trucks are basically Yakuza doing contract work for the ultra-rightist groups.

    Which ultra-left wing groups are you talking about? I've never heard anything about Japanese citizens shooting up an Israeli airport, and I don't really see how some group in one country that happens to be leftwing has anything remotely to do with unaffiliated leftwing groups in another country.

    Nori: thanks for the response, and don't worry about misspellings on a blog comment. As for state shinto- it really didn't exist for very long, only from the Japanese colonization period through the end of WW2. You are definitely correct in that most Japanese don't consider themselves to be very religious, but they also often don't consider 'shinto' rituals to be a religion as the west understands it. In fact, a surprising number of Japanese don't even recognize the word 'shinto' if you mention in in conversation. Going to shrines is just considered a part of Japanese culture, and only those who have converted to an exclusive religion like Christianity really seem to consider jinja (shrine) worship as a practice that should be considered separately from Japanese identity.

  7. nori,
    i have some uncomfortableness while reading your posts.
    All these hardships were created by leaders of the Imperial government and army.
    although i felt strong sympathy to your grandparents and their family, you surely know your family was not the only one. almost all japanese suffered during the period, include mine. personally, i think we are all responsible for what happened and what our older generation did as japanese. it is not fair to say just to push responsibility to class-a criminal or emperor, pretending your family had nothing to do with it as japanese.
    may i ask why your granpa went to manchuria? was he forced to go there by the imperial govenment? naturally each person/family went to manchuria had its own reason, and some even went up there seeking "manchuria dream"(i am not saying your granpa was one of those) do you feel the imperial government is responsible even for your granpa's death at manchuria?

    your reason of being against politicians going to yasukuni is the existance of class a criminals there ? then what about class b/c criminals? what about soldiers killed koreans or chinese but no war criminal status? what is your criteria to who you should pay homage ? i have a feeling if we take argument of chinese or koreans, eventually we should not worship all soldiers who were someway involved in the atrocities in the past. or chinese are generous enough just forgive our past by kicking out class a's?

    If there is no Imperial system, then Shinto will eventually be extinct since the Shinto belief revolves around the history of the royal family.
    on new year's days, millions of japanese go to shrines. do they go there for their worship to the royal family? some, maybe, including guys in the black vans, but not majority. it is just a part of culture in japan.

    no offense, but some of your comments give me an impression of quite pure naiveness, like as long as we keep art.9, noone attack us.

    the ultra-left that oi is talking about would be the japanese red army attacked at telaviv airport killed 26 innocent people on '72.

  8. Mae, thanks for reminding me. I feel a bit dumb for not getting the reference.


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