Tokyo’s unceasing sophistryJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have crossed the point of no return. In an interview with Foreign Affairs, he compared visiting the Yasukuni Shrine to visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. “Japanese who pay their respects at Yasukuni is the same as Americans who pay tribute at Arlington,” he said. His remarks constitute sheer sophistry, as he attempted to put Yasukuni Shrine - a symbol of Japan’s militarist past - on par with the sacred facility in Arlington.
Pointing out that southern confederate soldiers are also buried in the National Cemetery, he quoted a U.S. scholar’s remarks that paying tribute to those who supported slavery does not necessarily translate into an approval of slavery. That sounds like paying tributes at the shrine doesn’t mean paying respect to Class-A war criminals in the Pacific War. His statement is seen as a sly tactic to avoid criticism from Korea, China and other Asian neighbors.
Different from the National Cemetery, Yasukuni excludes those who were defeated in civil wars in the process of Japan’s modernization. For instance, a spirit tablet of Takamori Saigo, a leader in the overthrowing of the Tokugawa shogunate who later rebelled against the Imperial government, cannot be seen there. Yasukuni only houses the soldiers and civilians attached to the Imperial Army who contributed to the establishment and expansion of Japan’s militarism from the Meiji era to the Pacific War.
Yasukuni is a place to glorify death on the battlefield. Imperial Japan brainwashed soldiers and their families to believe that they would be honored at the shrine after becoming gods when they died on the field. After vowing to meet at Yasukuni, the soldiers dedicated their lives to the emperor with the conviction that no honor can replace an act of sacrificing their lives for the emperor.
Yasukuni also houses the spirit tablets of Class-B or -C war criminals who were directly involved in committing atrocities on the field. We wonder if the Japanese government’s plan to separate Class-A war criminals from others can address our deepening concern, as it could only lead to reinforcing the Yasukuni cult.