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Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, Japan built in 1869 to commemorate those who died fighting for Japan. It now is the resting place of thousands of Japanese soldiers killed between 1853 and 1945, and its Book of Souls lists the names of approximately 2.5 million soldiers.

The shrine has become increasingly embroiled in controversy as a symbol of the Japanese colonialism and nationalism of the early 20th century, a controversy stirred up partly by the shrine's continuing defense of Japanese colonial acts as necessary and justified: a pamphlet published by the shrine says "War is a really tragic thing to happen, but it was necessary in order for us to protect the independence of Japan and to prosper together with Asian neighbors."

This controversy exploded openly in 1978, when the remains of 1,068 convicted war criminals were secretly moved there. Among these were 13 notorious Class A war criminals, including Hideki Tojo. The shrine has further angered many with its defiant defense of the war criminals; the same pamphlet mentioned above also claims: "Some 1,068 people, who were wrongly accused as war criminals by the Allied court, were enshrined here."

The controversial nature of the shrine has figured largely in both domestic Japanese politics and the country's relations with other countres in the region in the years since 1978. Three Japanese prime ministers have caused an uproar by visiting the shrine since then: Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985, Ryutaro Hashimoto[?] in 1996, and especially Junichiro Koizumi, who visited three times, in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Visits by prime ministers to the shrine generally provoke official condemnation by nations in the region, especially China and South Korea, as they are seen as condoning Japan's military aggression against those nations during World War II. Visits to the shrine also are controversial in the domestic debate over the proper role of religion in government, as some wish to restore government ownership of the religious shrine.

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