Shinzo Abe, Worshiper Of War Criminals

This week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went to Yasukuni Shrine to make prayers and offerings to the war dead enshrined there. Many people outside of Asia may wonder what the big deal about this is. For example, Michael Auslin in the National Review, while noting that the visit will cause problems with Japan’s neighbors, writes,

Yasukuni Shrine is somewhat analogous to Arlington National Cemetery, being the religious site where the spirits of Japan’s war dead since 1867 are commemorated. Founded in 1869 across from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, there are nearly 2.5 million individuals enshrined there. Among them are 14 Class A war criminals from World War II, including wartime premier Hideki Tojo. These individuals were enshrined in 1978, nearly two decades after the first Class B and C war criminals were included in the shrine. Emperor Hirohito, who reigned during the war, refused to visit the shrine after 1978 and the inclusion of Tojo and others.

Auslin makes a major goof here: Yasukuni Shrine is not at all analogous to Arlington National Cemetery. First, no one is buried there. Second, there is a small national cemetery nearby that has a tomb of the unknown soldier. This is analogous to Arlington National Cemetery. Yasukuni Shrine was one of the central shrines for state Shinto, which deified the Emperor.

Prior to the War, Japanese people were taught and in many cases compelled by force to worship the Emperor. When it is said that those who died in the War are enshrined at Yasukuni, what is meant is that they have been honored there as gods. This purpose of the shrine is inseparable from Japanese war aims during World War 2, which is why the Emperor now refuses to go there, even though the shrine is literally right out his back door. When Abe went to the shrine, it was not to commemorate those dead, but to worship them. If he wished to commemorate them, he could have gone to the tomb of the unknown, and laid a wreath there.

The fact that Abe visited the shrine to pay homage to these dead is controversial even within Japan–even many Japanese view it as unforgivable. One cannot claim, as Abe has done, that he is just going to the shrine to pay his respects and that there is no other meaning to the visit. His visit to the shrine implies that he stands in agreement with Japanese war aims and arguably with Japanese war crimes, and this is well-understood within Japan and throughout Asia.

I write this not as a Japan basher. I love the Japanese people and have spent much of my life living in Japan. At the same time, it is hard for one such as myself to overlook what Abe has done, as with this visit he has effectively aligned himself with war criminals, and has said that the only real mistake is that Japan lost the war.

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2 Responses to Shinzo Abe, Worshiper Of War Criminals

  1. Mao zao says:

    You are wrong, only patriots are worshiped in Nippon.
    This kind of garbabe post is not needed. Get more education

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