Separating shrine and state: why you shouldn’t expect a court to stop the Yasukuni visits

Article 20 of the Constitution of Japan says that “freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority… The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.” Article 89 further states that “no public money or other property shall be expended or appropriated for the use, benefit or maintenance of any religious institution or association, or for any charitable, educational or benevolent enterprises not under the control of public authority.”

Like the First Amendment in the United States, these rules are just full of fun! If you think about it, they could make the Emperor illegal. (I don’t actually agree with this notion; it’s just one interpretation that could be drawn.) But they won’t make the Emperor illegal, nor will they make Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine illegal… and even if the visits could be considered illegal, the courts aren’t going to stop them! More detailed explanation after the jump.
Continue reading Separating shrine and state: why you shouldn’t expect a court to stop the Yasukuni visits

Nobody saw this one coming (UPDATED 10/21/05)

Update: I was obviously kidding about the comment below that, “all Chinese and Koreans should at all times maintain attitudes of extreme outrage towards the past aggressions of the Japanese and express these attitudes verbally, physically, and if possible even through pantomime.”

However, I attended a meeting a few days ago in which a Chinese academic suggested that Japan should, “always show sincere repentence voulnatily, without a time frame.” You could almost smell the smoke rising from the ears of some of the Japanese in the room.

Content from one of three links in MOFA’s latest e-newsletter:

Visit to China by Mr. MACHIMURA Nobutaka, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

October 18, 2005

With regard to Minister MACHIMURA’s visit to China, a minister in the Embassy of Japan in China was contacted by the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the afternoon on 18th October, and the Chinese side informed the Japanese side that it is difficult to receive Minister MACHIMURA in China under the current situation, as the atmosphere is not favorable.


And since Joe’s last post on Koizumi’s Yasukuni visit attracted so much attention in the comments section, let me just say that I think all Japanese should visit Yasukuni at least three times daily, every single day of the year! And, all Chinese and Koreans should at all times maintain attitudes of extreme outrage towards the past aggressions of the Japanese and express these attitudes verbally, physically, and if possible even through pantomime! And, Rummy should skip Japan on every visit to Asia! And, God doesn’t exist, the death penalty rocks, all abortion should be illegal, and your parents lied to you about Santa.

Yasukuni revisited

We kind of knew it was coming: Koizumi went again. Protests broke out in Beijing and Hong Kong. Best dismissal EVER:

Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo that he made his visit as a private citizen and not in an official capacity, saying that “China and South Korea will eventually understand.”

The angry reactions in China and Korea are covered in more depth in AFP’s article.

UPDATE: Another great Koizumi jab: “In principle other people should not meddle with matters of the heart… much more, foreign governments should not say ‘you should not’ when the Japanese are offering sincere condolences to the war dead from Japan and other parts of the world.”

West Japan Daily Editorial: PM Should Think of National Interest when Deciding Yasukuni Visit

After seeing some takes on the Yasukuni issue over at Japan Media Review Weblog, I figured I’d let my own organization, Fukuoka-based West Japan Daily (a typically liberal regional newspaper), put in their two cents in English:

On the subject of the Yasukuni visit issue, Prime Minister Koizumi is repeating the same old line of “I will decide appropriately when I go there.”

And to his critics, Japan and Korea, expresses his strong distaste: “It is not for other countries to interfere with a shrine visit that is derived from my own beliefs.”

If Mr. Koizumi were a mere denizen of Japan, no one could disagree with him. However, the Prime Minister is a public figure, the highest leader representing Japan. This problem won’t be solved just by insisting that no one can quibble with personal belief.

Why is visiting Yasukuni Shrine sparking such resistance from China and Korea? The PM should think more seriously about this as the representative of this country.

We also do not think that the recent anti-Japan protests in China are justified. Particularly, not apologizing after we forgave the anti-Japanese demonstrators for attacking a Consul General and the sudden cancellation and return of Vice Premier Wu’s meeting with Koizumi were, diplomatically speaking, extremely rude.

However, the enshrinement of A-class war criminals who led the Pacific War along with the war dead is at the root of China’s criticism of Koizumi’s visits.

Even looking at the first official visit to Yasukuni, made in 1985 by then PM Yasuhiro Nakasone but not made again after the next year, the decision was made to cancel further visits because considering Chinese criticism and not going to Yasukuni was seen as stabilizing the Sino-Japanese relationship and working in the Japanese national interest.

That same Nakasone said of Koizumi’s visits, “It is commendable to stick to one’s beliefs, but it is also important to think of how this affects the whole country’s interests.”

This is what we would like Koizumi to consider. Sticking to one’s own beliefs without listening to China’s criticism has a direct effect on the Japanese people’s interests.

The fact that Lower House Chairman Youhei Kono, who conferred with five former PMs, said to Koizumi on May 7 that based on the conference, “You should take the utmost care when considering visiting Yasukuni,” was yet another expression of crisis consciousness that worsening Sino-Japanese relations any more than they are would be detrimental to our interests.

Komeito head Takenori Kanzaki has also demanded a stop to the visits, saying, “If the visits continue this will have a bad effect on the basis for our coalition.”

The Prime Minister should understand more than anyone how important stable relations with China are. Despite this, he maintains the attitude that, “It is one of the PM’s roles to pay memorial tribute to the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni.” We understand his beliefs and feelings. That attitude is one reason why the PM enjoys stable popular support.

However, current popular opinion polls show that a majority of people think that “The PM should cancel his plans to visit Yasukuni Shrine.”

Koizumi can believe what he wants, but a Prime Minister’s job is to put a priority on breaking the current deadlock between Japan and China. That would not be a capitulation to China’s criticism in the slightest. Most Japanese would agree, I’m sure.

“Ritual” Pro Wrestling at Yasukuni Shrine: ZERO-ONE MAX


Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan, Tokyo, held the first “ritual” pro wrestling match “Yamato Land of the Gods Strength Festival” in 44 years on April 10th.

Six matches were held by the ZERO1-MAX wrestling league in the outdoor compound, where the burning flames lit up the fully bloomed night cherry blossoms. The main event, AWA heavyweight world champion Omori Takao (35) successfully defended his title for the second time. Ogawa Naoya (37) of UFO and Takefuji Keiji (42) of AJPW made guest appearances, exciting the 3627 fans crowded into the shrine. “It’s wonderful to be at such a special place,” gushed ZERO1 Representative Otani Shinji (32).

The last ritual match was held in April 1961 with Rikidozan protegees Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. 5000 people came to see it back then. There was also an historic March 1921 mixed styles wrestling match at Yasukuni between American pro wrestler Ad Santel and Judo star Shoji Hikoo.

ZERO1-MAX would like to make the “ritual” pro wrestling a yearly spring tradition at Yasukuni.

Major Taiwanese Politician Visits Yasukuni- Better Relations Ahead?

Since learning that I am very likely going to study Chinese in Taiwan this summer I have naturally been paying closer attention to the situation in and around that country. Naturally any story on the relations between the Republic Of China (ROC, aka Taiwan) and Japan is an eye-catcher, especially one as dramatic as a major Taiwanese politician visiting Japan’s controversial Yasukuni shrine. Today’sTaipei Times reports that Shu Chin-chiang (蘇進強), chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) political party made a “pilgrimage” to the controversial Yasukumi Shrine. Incidentally, although the English language press is not pointing it out, the Japanese media describes Shu’s TSU party as part of the ‘pro independence’ faction in almost headline.

Shu immediately came under fire at home for the visit where he was accused of dignifying Japan’s militarism in the early 20th century.

Shu, dressed in a business suit, was cheered on by supporters who unfurled the flags of Japan and his party as he entered the Yasukuni shrine which is dedicated to 2.5 million war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals.

The latter figure is slightly innacurate. The shrine is dedicated to all Japanese war dead (including soldiers drafted or recruited from former colonies such as Taiwan and Korea), and this function is all-inclusive, actually including over 1000 Japanese soldiers convicted as war criminals. The controversy does not stem so much from the fact that the shrine lists include executed war criminals, but from the fact that in 1978, decades after the war’s conclusion, 13 class A war criminals were enshrined as ‘martyrs,’ and the shrine issued a statement saying that these men had been wrongfully convicted. Wikipedia has a good summary of this basic controversy.

He called on Asians to “move beyond the grudges and animosity of the past.”

“As one Taiwanese and as a leader of a political party I have come here to pay my respect to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for Japan,” Shu said.

It may be perfectly reasonable for Shu to honor the long neglected Taiwanese dead, but to point out that they “sacrificed their lives for Japan” seems to me to be a mistake.

“At the same time, as one Taiwanese, I have come here to pay my respect for 28,000 Taiwanese,” whose names are enshrined, he said.

Supporters said it was the first known visit to Yasukuni in modern times by a party leader from Taiwan, which was ruled by Japan from 1895 to 1945.

I believe that this is actually the first formal visit to Yasukuni by a leader from ANY former colony, if not from any Asian country period.

The Yasukuni shrine controversially lists the names of 28,000 Taiwanese and 21,000 Korean soldiers, most of whom were forced into service under Japan’s colonial rule.

The holy site also lists the names of Japanese civilians who died in fighting.

The populist Koizumi has visited the shrine four times since August 2001, saying he has the right as a Japanese person to choose how to honor the dead.

What has been overlooked in virtually every article I have seen on the Yasukuni issue is that even the Emperor himself has refused to visit Yasukuni Shrine since their special recognition of class A war criminals was made public over 25 years ago. It’s a little ironic that the very symbol of right wing Japan has taken a stand against the nationalists while the “populist Koizumi” evokes international ire by pandering to the rightists.

In Taipei, Aboriginal legislator Kao-Chin Su-mei (高金素梅) angrily objected to Shu’s pilgrimage.

“Japan launched over 160 battles to destroy Taiwan’s Aboriginal tribes during its 51-year colony on the island,” he said in a statement.

“We strongly protest the TSU visiting the Yasukuni Shrine,” he said. “It is already an insult to Taiwan’s Aboriginal people that our soldiers were enshrined there.”

TSU spokesman Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) said that Su’s visit was timed ahead of today’s holiday to honor the dead, called Tomb-Sweeping Day.

“We do not agree with the acts and invasions of the Japanese militarism [during World War II] but we should not let hatred persist,” Chen said in Taipei.

I tend to agree with Chen. Certainly Japan’s behavior during their imperialist period was reprehensible and unforgiveable-but the generation responsible for that is largely dead and gone and it is hardly serving anyone to bring up old grievances to damage relations with one of the few strong allies (or at least near-allies) that Taiwan may have against China. Not to say that the past should not be addressed, but it should be studied as history, not for politicians to use as emotional bait during election season.

Xerox Chairman Threatened After Criticizing Yasukuni Visits

From The Economist:

Shrine controversy

Yotaro Kobayashi, the high-flying Chairman of Fuji Xerox, got some threatening packages after he criticised Japan’s prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, for visiting a shrine honouring the Japanese war dead. A package sent to Mr Kobayashi contained a bullet, and Molotov cocktails (which failed to fully ignite) were found outside his home. Yasukuni, the controversial shrine that Mr Koizumi visited, was once a famous backdrop for war propaganda and emperor-worship. The dead commemorated there include convicted war criminals from the second world war.

The prime minister’s visits to Yasukuni have earned him criticism from a number of Japan’s neighbours, which are still bitter about the country’s long history of waging war on them. China in particular has said the visits show a lack of remorse from Japan, and has called for them to stop. Mr Kobayashi has been a target of right-wing groups since late last year, after he said the visits were fraying relations between Japan and China, which have been fragile lately.