Why does Koizumi really visit Yasukuni?

I noticed that we were being linked to by this slightly curious post on a forum devoted to the Chinese Military.

Full of Japanese insisting that Jap nats are as much lunatic fringe as certain members on this forum.

I sincerely do not believe that Koizumi, if he did not have to do it for the political advantage in the Japanese representative democracy, would go to that particular shrine if he had the choice. It’s not worth ruining relations with China and Korea, and if Japan wants to become a normal country it has to at least stop it with the shrine visits: it can argue that it has given sufficient reparations for its abuses during WW2 and its occupation of China and Korea, but certainly there is no sense in the war criminal shrine.

First of all, why in hell would he think that we’re Japanese? I can’t imagine anything that would suggest that even remotely.

Second, in response to the idea that Koizumi is forced to engage in the Yasukuni shrine visits because of domestic political concerns and not his own beliefs. I agree that this is the case, but not in the way that the poster suggests.

The important thing to remember is that while Japan is a country with a democratically elected parliament, their head of government is a prime minister chose by the elected parliament, and not directly chosen by the people. What this means is that Koizumi does not have to appeal directly to any voters outside of his home territory of Kanagawa prefecture district 11 (Yokosuka and Miura Cities). He is prime minister due to the fact that he is the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and when he engages in activity best described as ‘pandering to his base’, i.e. the Yasukuni visits, he is pandering not to the general electorate of Japan as say a US President must, but to the LDP Diet members that actually selected him as Prime Minister.

Let me clarify some more. The LDP, despite the name, is in fact the most conservative of all the major political parties in Japan. Koizumi is actually a member of the most liberal faction of the LDP (the LDP is divided into formally organized factions, something like sub-parties that band together for political strength). Ever since he rose to prominence in the party he has been a controversial figure, a driving force for economic structural reform and various significant liberalizations in Japan’s domestic policy. How exactly did a young, divorced geisha-dating, liberal reformer get to be the president of the conservative right-wing virtually unchallenged for half a century Liberal Democratic Party? Yasukuni.

The visits to Yasukuni are Koizumi’s deal with the devil. To secure the support of enough of the arch-conservative power bosses within the party, to get himself into the position from which he would have a chance to even attempt to reform the stagnant and sometimes corrupt Japanese economic machine he had to give them something in return. When he won the presidency of the LDP, he had already lost twice before and it probably looked to him as if he would never be able to succeed without making a concession. What he promised them was that in exchange for cooperation, he would make annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni.

He may very well have been morally opposed to the visits, and he was probably smart enough to realize the potential damage to diplocatic ties with former colonies, but as a politician he decided that domestic reform was a higher priority. Having made that promise, his only choices are to continue the visits or all his entire career to self-distruct. After a significantly weaker showing in the most recent major Diet election the LDP is getting worried, his massively important postal privatization plan almost stalled completely, and time is running out for him to make his mark.

Something that is implicit from all I’ve said above, but I have not yet quite stated explicitly, is that although Prime Minister Koizumi’s annual visits to Yasukuni are required by domestic political concerns, they still do not necessarily reflect any widespread demand for him to do so. He was forced into it to secure the support of a minority faction of his own party, to give him the majority within the party that he needed to become president of the party and then Prime Minister.

I don’t honestly know how much support there is within Japan for the Yasukuni visits, or how strong the nationalist right-wingers have become. From what I have seen, and from what I have heard from people who were in Japan long before I was even born, it does seem that the nationalists have gotten more vocal recently, but are still very, very far from having anything that you could call a popular mandate. I believe that it would be a tragedy for radicals to rise to power again in Japan, and I hope that ultimately the more sensible moderates will prevail. Some people seem to think the radical right-wingers have already won, but I am just trying to explain that this is far from the case. They are only becoming more organized and more vocal, and hopefully the quiet opposition is nothing but a slow response.

20 thoughts on “Why does Koizumi really visit Yasukuni?”

  1. I need to digest this more fully, but in a word, I think that most Japanese don’t care much about Yasukuni until China then tells Japan how “dare” they keep such a deplorable shrine — which gets people interested/frustrated/angry. Plus, I think it’s the Arlington of Japan, all the arguments rehashed here and elsewhere notwithstanding.

  2. Great post. I have been too mentally drained from contemplating Japan’s ODA policy to post anything lately, but that was pretty refreshing. I like it when things are explained so simply for me. Where’d you find this out? I never see any detailed accounts of Koizumi’s career anywhere.

  3. Disagree with Curzon about the Arlington bit, but as he said in a recent post on CA, if I haven’t seen his point by now…

    Also, I guess you can wait until August to see if your acessment is correct or not. Koizumi’s been in office for four years and he’s on the home stretch. It’s hard to imagine anything short of a major disaster in Iraq, or possibly some domestic scandal (money or women – but since he was never very powerful in the LDP to begin with, the money thing seems unlikely) to take him down at this point. If it really is mostly about political pressure, and he wants to go out in true, thumb-your-nose style, then we can expect him to hold of on his visit to Yasukuni this August.

  4. But I do agree with Curzon about most Japanese not caring until the Chinese say something.

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  6. I’m assuming Saru at least is a Jap(please excuse profanity, it’s a habit to call all nationalities by a perjorative. Would be useful to know a POWERFUL perjorative for Brits, limey is too tame, and Fathamburger for Americans seems witless. And Koreans are stuck being “Generic Gooks” or the proper term Korean, Gook is too wide and loses the desired meaning. Kor doesn’t work, it’s a neologism and lacks the venom from a hundred years of ignorance.) You talk from a relatively pro Japanese perspective that at least is more knowledgeable than the black and white tendencies of western media(can’t be avoided, newspapers can only aspire to be something other than entertainment, BBC is relatively immune but it’s a drop of truffle oil in raging seas, the flavor gets diluted.) Still, I’m very happy to know that the chinky nats are wholly wrong in blaming the entire Japanese nation for Yasukuni visits.

    I concur with Koizumi’s motivations with his visits to that Yasukuni. Thank you for your more specific understanding of the Japanese political landscape, I consider myself passably knowledgeable about the Chinese political situation, but all I know about Japs are from Mishima, Murakami, and that abortive attempt to read Abe’s The Box Man, then maybe also some travel books and a anthropologic study(Chrysanthemum and the Sword). Still, at least, for God’s sake, please don’t claim the CCP is condoning the present lunacy: this is a result of their policy to use nationalism to prolong their oligarchy. Even a repressive dictatorship is not wholly immune to population sentiment: they are approaching what I am told is the old Austro Hungarian Empire, their methods of repression are becoming increasingly ineffective. If they want to stomp the riots, nationalist fervor will become anti government fervor. I suppose they could have been slightly more effective at controlling the damage, but you can attribute that to more nationalistic entities within the Politburo.

    The CCP has avoided the fate of the FSU by being smart, China is a huge mess with thousands of severe social problems, and the CCP has managed to survive by creating counterfactors(recreating the capitalist class, increasing standard of living to create unrealistic hopes), instead of confronting the unstoppable beast head on. The moment the CCP ceases to be smart(which is highly possible if the next generation of leadership is as stupid as the idiots on the streets), we can begin to place bets on the date of its death.

    Oh, and I’m Instr, there’s another user on those boards who is far more articulate when it comes to lambasting chink nats. He(Wolverine) manages to avoid getting banned, but a simple “lol you’re stupid, you are being utterly contraproductive to PRC domestic wellbeing and foreign relations” from myself is not sufficent to avoid getting the Inst and Instrumentality account banned.

    The source is not actually from Evangelion, when I was 13, 4 years ago, I was a Lainhead and there was a reference to Cordwainer Smith’s “The Instrumentality of Mankind”, from a character’s computer password. The Instrumentality of Mankind is actually an enlightened dictatorship that can only exist in fiction. As time passed, adolescent affections fading, Instrumentality became something else: It is easier to be an instrument than to be a man, something similar to Pico Iyer’s description of the Japanese Salariman in his review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day.

  7. by the way, the last comment I have to leave is that I believe the “Asuka gets raped by Bushy Bushy Junior” manga scene is from http://www.2chan.com, a Japanese image board. Not sure if it’s owned by or related to 2ch.

  8. Oh, and one last thing. (on second thoughts, Saru might be a Japanese style corruption of the name Sal) Does anyone have a link to an analysis for Sinic influences in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence? Oshii I’m told is actually a high end anime director, with a tendency towards art. Batou seems to live in a Chinatown, given the absence of katakana/hirigana, and there are defective Crab Claws being sold into the black market off the PLA. The Multinational City seems to be a futuristic version of Hong Kong, in the end sequence where the defense computers got tricked into frying their boss’s brain, then get obliterated by Motoko from a short range hack attack, they seem to be speaking Cantonese or at least with a Cantonese accent.

    I read this interesting article concerning Japanese perceptions of China before hypernationalism in the early 20th century. It seems to be classic orientalism from what is an oriental country. It’s quite amusing that Tanizaki Junichiro had this bizarre fondness for Chinese women, thinking them everything that Japanese women are not(including being female?(joke)).

    Here is a quick google link: http://www2.arts.ubc.ca/bcar/no14/articles/keaveney/keaveney_article.pdf
    (tanizaki analysis), I actually can’t find the article concerning the Japanese perceptions.

    I actually find this very useful, since China has become a very unpopular country and no one really wants to study them anymore. I remember an anecdote of a Chinese Chen/Zen Buddhist teaching in a university with a particular emphasis on the Chinese roots of the philosophy(which is pretty good, since it’s a synthesis of Daoism and Buddhism, Buddhism destroying the stupid Daoist obsession with eternal life and returning it to a quasi professional study of life itself, and Daoism using its nihilism to ferment Buddhism from grapes into wine), and the students who had signed up had ran away since they were rabid Japanophiles(understandable since China is in a bit of a cultural jam at this point, Chicomms were very effective at obliterating the Chinese intelligensia). To get the desired understanding of China, you have to turn to the Japanese. They’ve been studying China since the Chinese were at their Tang Zenith. Of course, they ultimately turned to a negative conclusion, but at least it’s a sophisticated conclusion. When you listen to Japanese views of the Chinese, you are listening to a surviving intellectual class, sophisticated with the fruits of Daoism. One may wish to listen to a Chinese viewpoint of themselves, but it’s frequently unaccessable. The literature is not exactly open anymore given the CCP, and for the past century it’s frequently been “Oh noes, Chinese are weak and decadent as a race! Needs fixing, am I rite?”

    I know, the paragraph above is studded with factual inaccuracies, but this brings me to my point: GITS2 is in a way, an updated Japanese viewpoint on China. I can’t interpret whether this viewpoint is negative, positive, or ambivalent. I know Batou walks intentionally into a philosophical trap run by Locus Solus’ chief of intelligence, who decides it’s a great idea to completely confuse Batou and Togusa by inserting “artificial experiences”, a reference to Zhuang Zi’s “Zhuang Zi dreamt he was a butterfly. When he woke up, he asked: ‘Was I Zhuang Zi dreaming that I was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that I was Zhuang Zi?'” Batou escapes because Motoko subtly inserts a clue to the unreality: herself and a dog sit as statues with cards bearing a reference to Grimm’s version of the Golem story: within the true reality, she bears the word truth. Within the second reality, two letters are knocked out of the word. To my understanding, the Medieval German version of truth without its first two letters become death.

    Locus Solus’ Chief of Intelligence, Jin or Kim, depending on whether the name is Chinese or Korean, drops a ton of philosophical insights(or noninsights) in every redo of the reality. Batou concludes after Motoko’s clue to the unreality that “There is no truth to be found in [Kim’s place].”

    Kim, the name the English reality uses, since to my understanding Jin is a rare Chinese surname, lives in a surreal mansion that is what I understand to be a Japanese understanding of the traditional Chinese style. He looks like an emaciated Daoist ascetic, whose first line of defense is to feign death in a doll’s body, which may just be an eccentric method of burial. When Batou escapes illusion, Kim’s last resort is Zhuang Zi: “How do you know that this reality is not an illusion also?” Batou responds with a pretty stupid defense, that would not be my preference, but fits Batou’s character. “My Soul is speaking to me” or something to that effect. I think that “Reality itself is a postulate. Unless falsehood is evident, one must do one’s best to deal with the apparent reality. Act sincerely, under the Japanese definition”, is a better response.

    So really, where can I find a scholarly analysis of GITS2? Actually, Japs aren’t unique in their orientalism. I know Wong Kar Wai/Wang Jiawei dealt with Argentina in an exotic manner, with “Happy Together”, the movie about the relationship between two fags.

  9. Hm I think an “About Us” page is in order here. We use a lot of Japanese and translations, so without us actually coming out and saying so I could see how the uninitiated could mistake us for being Japanese (although my Gravatar is a picture of my own white screaming face). Mutant and I lived in Japan for a while, so we can speak the language and keep tabs on the country with a rabid fanaticism. Saru isn’t Japanese either and roughly falls into the same category as us (“saru” means “monkey” in Japanese btw).

    Why do you feel the need to use racial slurs? You might feel like people are being too sensitive, but in polite society we tend to call people as they prefer to be called, even if it might be pretentious and uptight. The term Jap in America has a particularly dark history, as the US not only fought a total war against Japan (in a campaign that included a massive domestic propaganda campaign to associate the word “Jap” with all that is bad in this world) but also rounded up Japanese nationals into internment camps.

  10. “VERY good stuff from the marmot on this”:http://blog.marmot.cc/archives/2005/04/27/63-percent-of-koreans-dislike-japan-and-other-fun-poll-data/

    92 percent of Koreans and 91 percent of Chinese opposed Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, whereas 54 percent of Japanese supported them. Among supporters of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, the number rose to 72 percent. About 60 percent of Koreans and Chinese think the Yasukuni Shrine is a “symbol of militarism,” while 66 percent of Japanese believe it to be purely a “place to remember the war dead.”

    There ya go, your question answered, no? 54 percent support, which is certainly higher than his approval rating.

    Additionally, year of Korea-Japan friendship my aristocratic ass!

    Perception of the Korea-Japan relationship is the worst it’s been in 20 years. 94 percent of Koreans and 61 percent of Japanese believe the relationship isn’t going well. Only 6 percent of Koreans and 25 percent of Japanese responded that the relationship was going well. These were the lowest numbers recorded in seven polls taken since 1984.

  11. I think that 54% of japanese supporting visits to yasukuni shrine:

    They are supporting Koizumi paying respects to war dead, not war criminals.

    Are there polls that make this distinction?

  12. I think your take on Koizumi’s visits is the most likely but, when he began his visits, I remember one Asahi contibutor had a different explanation (can’t find the relevant link, though).
    He saw the visits as another facet of Koizumi’s liberal reform agenda. Many of Koizumi’s early speeches emphasized rebuilding Japanese pride and self-belief which he said had been crushed by the collapse of the bubble and stifled by bureaucracy. In this scenario, his visits to Yasukuni were an attempt to reclaim the shrine from the right wing which he believed he could do since he represented reform and change.
    It is possible that Koizumi genuinely believed that he could promote reform by appealing to Japan’s patriotism. After all, major change has usually come in Japan when everybody is engaged in the national cause.
    If that was his intention, then he has almost certainly lost control of the situation. As you point out, his reform agenda is in danger now so he can ill-afford to alienate the right-wing of the LDP (Mori et al) any further by being more conciliatory towards Asia.
    The test would be, I suppose, to see how he acts if he manages to push through post office reforms. If he does that, he will have won his great victory and, since he has said he plans to step down, he ought to feel free to act without pandering to LDP vested interests in his remaining time in office.

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  14. Well…I hoped I was adding to Adamu’s thread but I’m no specialist so apologies if I’ve gone wrong

  15. Hey Mulboyne, actually thanks for that link. Here’s the important part of the article.

    “There was a gentlemen’s agreement in which prime ministers, chief cabinet secretaries and foreign ministers – who are the ‘face’ of the Japanese government and represent Japan’s international image – would not go (to Yasukuni),” Kyodo news agency quoted Ambassador Wang Yi as telling a ruling party foreign affairs panel.

    This is the first I’ve ever heard of an arrangement like that, so I don’t know what to say about it exactly. Is China’s ambassador just lying through his teeth? Was there an agreement with someone that never told Koizumi? Was there an agreement that he’s deliberately breaking?

    If anyone can find a source besides the hearsay of a Chinese official I’d like some confirmation.

    And by the way, this thread was posted by me, not Adamu. I’ve made a minor layout tweatk that I think will make the poster identity slightly cleared.

  16. First, Japan must activate a fully active super modern army, with submarine and space-based nuclear and atomic weapons.
    Second, Japan must completely free itself from petroleum based energy resources. Preferable nuclear or they must lead the world in advanced new concepts in energy sources, including space based solar collection and reflection methods.
    Third, China is in no position to tell anybody anything. They are a social disaster and must bring their population down to at least under 250 million. Along with India, their exploding resource raping of the earth is a silent act of war against the advanced countries, and Japan, the2nd most powerful economic force in the world, can afford a few public relations bumps here and there
    Fourth and most important – Japan must completely and unconditionally free itself from, primarily, American cultural and military humiliation. Soon Japan will be nothing more than a McTofu burger on every corner and it is sickening to travel there and see the contrast between the pure beauty and completely unique poetry of it’s people, vs. the cancerous encroaching of cheap, vapid American “culture” which is to Japan what a great poem is to a headline in the “National Enquirer.
    Conclusion: Japan must exert itself before the world with great force. In the blink of an eye Japan could easily be a military and economic powerhouse.

  17. I agree with the previous post – Japan needs to rid itself of American trash-culture immediately. Otherwise they will become self-hating Japanese in the same way that most Whites in America are self-hating idiots.

    I don’t get this whole thing with the shrine visits, really.

    Many Americans conducted themselves in a sick way during wars as well.

    We starved German POW’s to death in large numbers after WWII, put on ridiculous show trials, one where we sentenced a man to death for publishing a newpaper (he had no involvement in the war effort), etc.

    The next time you see History Channel propaganda remember that by our own estimates only 2% of American POW’s died in German captivity (37% died in Japanese captivity, which is why I think dropping those 2 bombs was a great idea).

    But the ‘war criminals’ don’t overshadow the whole. The whole being that many brave men fought and died, whether their effort was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ will always be open to the interpretation of the individual.

    Even though we fought Japan and they brutalized many of our people I think the shrine visits are a wonderful thing. Any country that does not respect the men that died for it doesn’t deserve to exist.

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