[FOUNTAIN]Japanese opposed to visits

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[FOUNTAIN]Japanese opposed to visits

The Yasukuni Shrine in Japan has no memorial tablet for the dead or their remains in the shrine. Instead, over 1,000 Books of Souls with their hometowns recorded are enshrined in the back of the main temple. Until 2004, there were about 2,460,000 names listed. Those who died during war since the Meiji Restoration are mostly enshrined together, with the World War II dead making up most of the list.
Koreans and Taiwanese, about 20,000 of each, are included in the list since they were considered Japanese when they died. The standard to be enshrined there is strict. Saigo Takamori, one of the three most influential samurai who initiated the Korea invasion, is not included because he later started the Satsuma Rebellion. Togo Heihachiro, who destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet during the Russo-Japan War, is also excluded, because he did not die on the battlefield.
Those enshrined are treated as gods for having given their lives for their country. The Yasukuni Shrine drove people to war. A good example were the kamikaze pilots, who all carried Yasukuni amulets and swore to each other, “If we die, let’s meet in Yasukuni.” It changed sadness and hurt over deaths in battle into happiness. The ceremony of enshrinement changed families’ attitudes totally. Yasukuni Shrine’s position is that once you are enshrined together, you cannot be separated. “In the shrine there is a ‘seat.’ It is a futon for the gods to sit on. Unlike other shrines, Yasukuni has only one seat. The two million souls are seated in one seat. It is impossible to separate them.” Thus replied Yoshitami Matsudaira, the former Yasukuni Shrine chief priest in 1986, when the Nakasone Administration asked about the possibility of 14 A-class war criminals being enshrined separately. Last week, a memo from the late Emperor Hirohito that showed his distaste at the A-class war criminals being enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine was revealed. “That’s why I have not visited the shrine since,” it read. That is a priceless remark for the Japanese. In a recent poll by the Asahi Shimbun, almost 60 percent of people were opposed to the prime minister’s visits to the shrine, which is more than twice the number who supported his visits. This memo seems to be the answer to solving the “Yasukuni Shrine” conflict between Korea-Japan and China-Japan. Whatever the answer, whether the cessation of the prime minister’s visits to the shrine, separate enshrinement of the A-class war criminals or a third memorial facility, without solving the Yasukuni Shrine issue, there is no place for Japanese foreign policy in Asia.


by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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