Japan and the Yasukuni war memorial

The current Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has stirred international outrage by paying a visit to the Yasukuni shrine.

Never heard of Yasukuni? You can read here about the shinto shrine in general, and you can read in more detailhere about the controversies surrounding it. Short version: Japan has enshrined/dead many of its war dead here, including a number of convicted war criminals from the WW2 era. A few prime ministers have visited the memorial to pay their respects, and each time there is an outcry from Japan’s neighbors who suffered greatly at the hands of some of these criminals.

Should Japan’s neighbors get over it? Afterall, there are several million war dead enshrined at Yasukuni, with only 14 class A war criminals in the bunch. When Japan’s PM visits, it’s not like he’s there specifically for those 14, and there’s no good way to divorce those 14 from the rest.

Should Japan show more sensitivity to the issue? Afterall, those war criminals did do some pretty horrific things during WW2, and Japan hasn’t exactly been apologetic about it since then. If the answer to this question is “yes,” then what actions/restraints would satisfactorily resolve the issue for most of its neighbors?

Uninter them and stick them somewhere else?

Are their urns (Japan, remember?) kept separate, or are all of the ashes mixed together?

Although they are enshrined there in the sense that they are spiritually memorialized, As I understand it their physical remains are not actually interred at the site.


So the priesthood is claiming they don’t have a choice: according to their beliefs, once a spirit is comingled with the others, it’s impossible to extract.


As a general rule, I’d say it’s okay to stop apologizing for things at some point - and 50 years seems like it’s long past that point. Since Japan has never really apologized, though…

Here in America, we have numerous monuments for Confederates and Native Americans who died who died fighting against the United States. Regardless of whether or not you support the cause they were fighting for, you can honor soldiers who died in battle.

I think this is irrelevant. It would be proper (or at least not inappropriate) for a US President to lay a wreath at the Japanese equivalent of Arlington… but laying one on the equivalent of Hitler’s grave is another thing.

Well, part of the difficulty is there is no separate equivalent of Arlington, there’s just Yasukuni. There was some official talk a while ago (during Koizumi’s time, I believe) of building a secular war memorial that could take Yasukuni’s place, but that never came to anything.

My understanding of Shinto theology isn’t that advanced, but I wouldn’t really take the Yasukuni priesthood’s word that it is impossible to separate enshrined kami. Shinto isn’t really a religion of “fixed rules”; if the priesthood actually wanted to remove them, they could find a way, I think. But they don’t want to. They were the ones who added the war criminals in the first place, after all.

In any case, this visit was inevitable. It’s important to Abe’s domestic political base and he had said that he regretted not visiting the last time he was prime minister. Personally, I was really surprised that he didn’t visit back in August for the anniversary of the end of the war. And really, this visit will piss off the Chinese and Koreans, but isn’t that the status quo? It’s not like not visiting the shrine made things appreciably better between the countries.

This meme really needs to die.

Not fully apologized might be a better way of phrasing it.

He could buy two wreaths and lay one at the Ear Tomb too

Perhaps if those apologies had been meaningful they might be accepted, but they’re not.

Look at the history taught to Japanese schoolchildren, then get back to me about the sincerity of those apologies.

The nationalists use this issue to promote their party.

Whilst US military died, the effect upon China, and Korea, or Burma or pretty much most of South East Asia was far greater and many of these nations take a very much longer term view of Japanese wrongdoing.

There may be 14 recognised Japanese war criminals in that memorial, but the truth is that even this is regarded as something as a sop, Japanese war crimes extended far further. The reality is that as far as SE Asia is concerned, just about all Japanese dead from this period bear significant criminal responsibility, perhaps excepting the Japanese Navy.

Those SE Asian nations simply do not regard it as a memorial for 14 war criminals, they regard it as a memorial for thousands of them - that’s why the head of state making a visit is controversial, its maybe like having a large memorial to SS dead and having Angela Merkal visit it.

The number of times the Japanese government has apologized for its actions in World War II is literally to many to list in an SDMB post without a general reaction of “tl;dr”. They have averaged more than one formal and/or public apology per year for the last twenty years.

This “the Japanese won’t apologize for World War II” myth is one of the weirdest ones out there.

Of course, if like casdave your response is simply “they aren’t sincere when they say they’re sorry” then there is no apology that will ever work and it’s really about disliking the Japanese and little else.

Well, I think it’s fair to say that the Japanese as a society haven’t shown the kind of remorse that the Germans have (for a lot of reasons). And it’s probably fair to criticize them for that lack of remorse, although I don’t think that they’re particularly unique in that.

Well, the issue a lot of people have is that rather than several apologies per se, there are “statements of regret”.

For instance, look at the various responses to Chinese and Korean “comfort girls” over the years. Yes, there have been a few outright apologies. But the vast majority until recently have been statements of regret.

Basically, it’s the difference between “I’m sorry we did that to you” and “wow, that sucks that you got raped and all”. One is an apology and the other is an acknowledgement bad stuff happened with the implicit hope you’ll let bygones be bygones.

And that’s one reason Yasukuni is controversial. The more hard line Japanese leaders use it deliberately to show their nationalistic fervor. It’s hard to say people are overreacting when some of the Japanese themselves are using it as a sort of modern war cry.

It’s like if several Presidents just ignored a memorial to Nathan Bedford Forrest but then one southern President decided to make a deliberate show of placing a wreath there every year for 5 years. It’s hard to see it as anything but deliberate provocation.

Exactly. And yet, the double standards thrive. Which is why people continue to be outraged.

It’s just a cry in the desert. The Dark Ages are long gone and the Enlightenment has given humanists so much false hope. We’re stuck in a bulimic Era of Escapism and I’m afraid we’ll stay that way till the doomsday. Till one of the doomsdays, anyway.

I think I speak for everyone when I say, “huh?”

I was going to point this out. Look at how many damned Confederate dead statues there are dotting the landscape … I think damned near every small town, medium town and city in the south has one.

And as a friend points out, every damned town and city in the north has a statue commemmorating the ability of southern sharpshooters to kill off yankees… :smiley:

Sure, but the President doesn’t make a show of placing a wreath or mourning at any of them every year, either.

It’s not the memorial itself that bothers most people, per se, but deliberately having a public ceremony to remember them.

If the priests claim that they can’t separate the spirit of the 14 from Yasukuni, then they should bulldoze it and make a new shrine that explicitly leaves them out