[EDITORIALS]Best not to go to YasukuniThe Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, said it would be “best” for the Japanese emperor to pay his respects at the Yasukuni Shrine. This probably means that the emperor, who represents Japan as a symbol and thus can’t be free from the reponsibility of the war, should come forward. Even if one considers that Mr. Aso’s remarks were made aiming at the upcoming election of the prime minister, these are words that should have been refrained from. South Korea and China have said nothing on many other shrines, but have expressed their concern only in regard to the Yasukuni Shrine. Why? Because the shrine is the chief religious body that glorifies Japan’s history of invasion.
Let’s ask whether Japanese emperors have paid their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine. We know that Japanese emperors stopped visiting the shrine in 1978 after the plaques of class A war criminals who provoked the Pacific War were moved there. Why? Because placing the plaques at the shrine was tantamount to glorifying the invasions. Nevertheless, Mr. Aso went so far as to defend the visits by the prime minister to the shrine saying, “It’s just like when you’re told ‘Don’t smoke cigarettes’ ― it actually makes you want to smoke.” He urged the emperor to visit the shrine, too.
This only demonstrates that for political purposes no means are too expedient. How can a foreign minister of a country that hopes to become a member of the UN Security Council compares a historical issue that has wounded many people in Asia with smoking? Indeed, the situation called for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who continues to visit the shrine, to intervene and say that the minister’s remarks were nothing but an “individual opinion.” We know that the foreign minister expressed his opinion that it is his understanding that it is hard to have a good relationship with neighboring countries. We also remember him saying in the past that in Korea’s colonial era, the changing of Korean family names to Japanese names was done because the Koreans desired it, despite this being obviously untrue.
Then what about Prime Minister Koizumi? Is the minister not too different from the prime minister? Is this intervening in Japan’s internal affairs? Otherwise, are Mr. Aso’s words an endless attempt to glorify the past? While we’re at it, let’s add one more thing. Richard von Weizsaecker, the president of West Germany, said in a speech in 1985 that to remember is to look upon the past without distortion and make it part of one’s inner life. This requires sincerity.