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. Sphere: Related Content


  1. My grandpa became sick and passed away when he was stationed in Manchuria during WWII. My grandma single-handedly took care of all five children including my father after the war. She worked to carry heavy load of vegetables and foods to sell in a city daytime and sell tobacco at night and still couldn't make end meet in countless days. I heard her family suffered long time until my father grew up helping all his brothers and sisters financially. All these hardships were created by leaders of the Imperial government and army. I know the hardship my grandma's family bore had nothing to compare with those Korean and Chinese who were savagely victimized and killed by Japan's Aggressions in the 20th century or earlier. 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. It is true that right wing activists or organizations use tactics from blasting out with a loud speaker in front of who opposed publicly against the Yasukuni visit by PM to a death-threat. It's sad to see these fear tactics really work in this modern day of Japan. I'm waiting for next parliament election to see LDP and its allies lose the majority so more moderate minded person, with reconciliatory approach to the Asian neighbors, without right wing influence, and understand what our country leaders have done in terms of cause and effect in past, would become PM. Nori

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Sorry, Kushibo. I just happened to register my blogger site a month ago. Before the Chinese demonstration in late April, I didn't even know there was such a thing like a blog. I'm very new to blogging and I am trying to understand how to create a blog site first with the blogger tool, then I will post my own topics in near future. So at this moment, there is no content to show at my site.

    I believe the underlining causes of Yasukuni, revisionism in textbook, comfort women, and Dokdo issues are rooted to mostly pride and nationalism in Japanese psyche and Imperial system.

    Nationalism should come from within each individual heart, not be manipulated by the government or mass-media. Nationalism in good term can be nurtured to love own country in terms of haveing high standard of moral, maintaining to advocate democracy and individualism, and promoting trade and friendship with foreign countries. Often, nationalism in dangerous term was aroused when foreign pressure or aggressions hurt national pride or identity.

    First, the relationship between nationalism and the Imperial system must be broken. The occupied forces and Tokyo war-court didn't hung JP Emperor who must have shared responsibility along with leaders of the government and the army due to keep Japan from becoming a communist state. The decision was, I personally think, dead wrong. The imperial army used him as a vehicle for uniting Japanese toward the war. Right-wing politicians still advocate Imperial system and there is a risk that someday may use the power of an emperor in wrong cause. It is taboo to talk about demolishing Imperial system in Japan even though the constitution said "no one is above anyone or below anyone". 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. Nobody should warship any other human being.

    Second, Japanese must understand why history issues have come up again and again. People in Japan bewildered when they saw Chinese student’s smashed Japanese restaurants and consulates in Beijing and Shanghai and yelled "Japanese pig get out", "Japanese must die". For us, it's was shocking incident since we thought the WWII was over 60 years ago and found hatred still exists all over China, and possibly in Korea. There were some good reasons why many (majority?) of Korean or Chinese people still hate us. I know the scale of aggressions was beyond the acceptance of forgiveness. However, we should ask Asian people for forgiveness of our past. There has been an issue like individual compensation for people suffered and Japanese government reject all requests and lawsuits. I’m not in the position on commenting on this issue since I don’t know context of the agreement between Japan and Korea/China. In order to win their acceptance, Japanese must not try to whitewash the atrocities we committed and not forget what actually happened. It is for our own sake as well. Otherwise, we will redo the same mistake in the future. I don't know anything about Korean or Chinese textbooks, so I can't compare level of fairness and completeness on each historical account among three countries. I believe the textbook issues will eventually be resolved after finding mutually agreeable contexts or at least textbooks will have both own country's accounts and other countries' point of views even though there were some large gaps between Korean historian's view and Japanese one on the recent joint study. However, without settling historical issues, Japan will be asked to apologize again. Thus that will rattle feather and make nationalists' voice louder and gains popularity in Japan. It's vicious cycle.

    Third, this is a sensitive issue and Japan may not be the one to ask for change. Though I think Japanese officials already complained about it.
    Some people in Japan claimed there has been wide spread anti-Japan or anti-Japanese articles used more than necessary and largely ignored about what Japan contributed for economic and world peace in educational system in China and Korea. Is it really true? If so, do you agree with the way children taught or need to change? I just want to say Japan has done some good things too since the war ended.

    Fourth, I think promoting people flow is one way to diminish nationalism in wrong direction.
    Bridging between countries can be done through tourism and exchange programs. Grass-root relationship is much more important and effective than picture opportunity’s theatrical meeting for government officials. More people across the sea, better relationships are. People who never thought about how life is in neighboring country would care and see people there as the same human being as people living next door. The student exchange programs need to have more open job environment after graduation and supportive host families.

    I addressed many controversial subjects but I believe the cores of the problems including Yasukuni are nationalism in wrong direction or wrong context and Imperial system. If majority of Japanese are not too nationalistic and support "no one is above anyone or below anyone", peace-loving Japan prevails. We then will find our solution on Yasukuni issue at the level everyone agreeable.

    By the way, Mutantflog,

    sometimes, I felt I wanted to crack the heads of low-level yakuza wannabes with a baseball bat.


  5. 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.

  6. Mutantfrog,

    Thanks for your response. I apologize misspelling your name before. You know, it’s a typical error for Japanese to take R for L.

    You are right about the Shinto history. I just want to mention my reasoning.

    These are excerpt from the website.

    1. Koshitsu Shinto is the Shinto form of the Imperial system. Jinja (Shrine) Shinto is the largest Shinto group having 80,000 shrines as members. Until the end of World War II, it was closely aligned with State Shinto. The Emperor of Japan was worshipped as a living God. The association urges like "To bind oneself with others in harmonious acknowledgment of the will of the emperor, praying that the country may flourish and that other peoples too may live in peace and prosperity."

    2. Divine origins were ascribed to the imperial family. (Just like you said in your comment about the history of Shinto,) Shinto creation stories tell of the history and lives of the "Kami" (deities). Among them was a divine couple, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto, who gave birth to the Japanese islands. Their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans. Amaterasu Omikami (Sun Goddess) was one of their daughters. She is the ancestress of the Imperial Family and is regarded as the chief deity. Her shrine is at Ise. Her descendants unified the country.

    From these two points, I assumed that people paid visit to any of Jinja Shinto affiliated shrines, they paid respect (warship) to the Imperial system whether unknowingly or knowingly.
    Many shrines have evolved from a primitive animistic form to the one intertwined with the history and power of the Imperial System for long period of time until WWII and still have some influence from Imperial System through the association. If the imperial system is denied and abandoned, then most of shrines find themselves going back to pre-Yamato era like having gods Miyazaki movie's "Spirit Away" described. Most Japanese don't believe in any religion, so we take Shinto's practices granted as one of customs to celebrate Summer festival around a shrine, throw money on New Year eve or day to a shrine deposit no matter how a shrine's principles and background changes. In that sense, yes, these shrines may exist in the future as it is now.


  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. Mae,

    I am currently on buisness trip so I write short. My father was a soldier and was assigned to station there. And he probably killed local civilians. I don`t deny the fact that all Japanese politicians and soldiers to some extent were responsible for the war at that time.

    As for Class A criminal issue, I only spoke about who directed the war, who guided Japan to WWII.
    Class B&C,and other soldiers have little impact on authorizing to start the war and carried on.

    About Yasukuni, if you read my comment you know I already mentioned people might unknowinly pay visit for shrines whose association headquarter`s belief has strong tie to Imperial family history. Again, you missed my point.

    Mae, I believe Korean and Chinese leaders unlikely will tell Koizumi not to pay homage to Yasukuni once Class A criminal segregated from others.

    I will be more than happy to respond back to you if you leave further comment. I will be back on after July 4th weekend.


    I agree. You have nice blog.


  13. maybe, but all i see in the news are all about Japanese and Taiwanese people creating trouble, not so much about NOT creating trouble, show me the proof, and maybe i'll consider.


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