Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact

This Article

Concerning the Yasukuni Shrine Problem

By Kase Hideaki,


“Concerning the Yasukuni Shrine Problem”
On Aug. 13, 2001, Kase Hideaki, chairman of Society for the
Dissemination of Historical Fact, delivered an address to the Foreign
Correspondents’ Club of Japan titled “Concerning the Yasukuni Shrine
Problem.” In the address, Kase pointed out that visits to Yasukuni Shrine by
prime ministers of Japan are not a novel event, but complaints about the
visits are — relatively speaking.
In the 61 years since the end of the war, there have been more than 55
visits by Japanese prime ministers to the shrine. Emperor Showa himself
went eight times. Kase points out that the loudest protesting voices come
from the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of
Korea, and that their greatest complaint is that so-called Class-A war
criminals are enshrined in Yasukuni; but, as he says, neither government
said anything about the 1979 visits by then PM Ohira Masayoshi despite the
publicity on the recent addition of the Class-A war criminals to the list of
shrine deities. Kase suggests that there is some hypocrisy behind the
Part of the issue, he says, is that Japan was forced to divorce religion
from the public forum by the dictate of the post-war occupation. With the
enforced separation, conflict between perception was bound to occur. Why, he
asks, is Shinto being the “official religion” of Japan any less tolerable, or any
different, than the Anglican faith in the United Kingdom? Is it merely
because it is not in the Judeo-Christian line? And what is it that makes a
visit to Yasukuni Shrine by a prime minister “official” or “personal”?
The author also discusses the nature of postwar Japan’s responses to
the victor’s justice that was the Tokyo Tribunal, and policies vis-à-vis
Yasukuni Shrine and war veterans when the country became truly
independent again in 1952.
Yasukuni Shrine was founded in 1869 to enshrine the souls of those
who died for the Emperor and for Japan. Not all of the millions on the rolls
were soldiers, though. Some were civilians (such as nurses, for example) who
died in the service to their nation.