News / Asia

Japanese Cabinet Ministers Visit Yasukuni War Shrine

Members of the nationalist movement "Ganbare Nippon" holding Japanese national flags march while paying tribute to the war dead near Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, August 15, 2013, on the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.
Members of the nationalist movement "Ganbare Nippon" holding Japanese national flags march while paying tribute to the war dead near Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, August 15, 2013, on the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.
VOA News
Two Japanese Cabinet ministers have visited a controversial Shinto shrine that honors the country's war dead, prompting an angry reaction from South Korea and China.

Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine

  • Shinto shrine built in 1869 to enshrine the souls of around 2.5 million war dead
  • Commemorates 14 men convicted of war crimes after Japan's World War II surrender
  • Seen by many Asians as symbol of Japan's brutal imperialistic era
  • Has become a rallying point for some conservative Japanese lawmakers
Public visits by Japanese officials to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine regularly draw ire from Seoul and Beijing, which were two of the main victims of Japan's aggression in the first half of the 20th century.

China summoned Japan's ambassador to protest the visit. Beijing's foreign ministry said the move "seriously harms the feelings" of the Chinese people.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye called on Tokyo to face up to history and take "sincere measures" to alleviate the pain of those who are scarred by history.

Thursday's visit came on the anniversary of Japan's 1945 surrender in World War II.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided against a visit on the anniversary, out of concerns it could further worsen ties with Japan's neighbors. But he did send an aide to deliver an offering at the shrine.

"I asked my special aide [Koichi] Hagiuda to make the offering on my behalf with a feeling of gratitude and respect for those who fought and gave their precious lives for their country," Abe said.

The prime minister, who is known for his hawkish foreign policy, has said in the past that he regrets not visiting Yasukuni during his first term in 2006.

Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan
The Yasukuni Shrine honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including some convicted war criminals from WWII.

 Abe and others have argued that it should not be controversial for Japanese leaders to honor the country's fallen soldiers. He also points out that Tokyo has apologized for its past crimes.

Keiji Furuya, a Cabinet minister who paid respects at the shrine Thursday, said such visits should not be seen as a provocation.

"Paying homage to the war dead is a purely domestic matter and it's not for other countries to criticize, use or intervene in these matters," Furuya said.

The issue has been further complicated by Japan's more recent territorial disputes with China and South Korea.

Tokyo-Beijing relations have plummeted because of a recent flare up in a dispute over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Prime Minister Abe has called for dialogue with China over the issue. But such efforts have not progressed.

South Korea and Japan are engaged in a dispute about an island group Seoul controls in the Sea of Japan.

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Comment Sorting
by: Tama from: Japan
August 15, 2013 6:00 PM
The leaders of other countries visit the national cemetery park, such as Arlington, as well as Yasukuni. What is the problem for Japan, compared to other countries?

For your information, the other Asian leaders except China and Korea admit Japanese ministers' visiting Yasukuni. China and Korea are very special in the Asia.

And even so-called the war criminals were human beings and deceased by the war as well, so their souls are included and worshiped as our deities. You should set all souls free from any arguments. I wish you would become a little gentle. Yasukuni is a cemetery.
In Response

by: Doala
August 20, 2013 9:13 PM
Yasukuni is a 150 year old Shinto shrine. Why would a foreigner intervene in the way the Japanese people commemorate their servicemen of over 2.46 million? Political and religious leaders from many countries, including President Lee of Taiwan, have visited the shrine, and complaints about Yasukuni come only from China and Korea.

Included in the 2.46 million are the spirits of approx 20,000 ethnic Korean soldiers. More than 800,000 Koreans applied to enlist in the Imperial Japanese Army although only 17,000 were accepted. Koreans were not forced to serve in the IJA. Lt. Gen. Hong Sa-Ik, who commanded many Japanese officers and soldiers, was prosecuted as a B Class war criminal after WWII. Officers or soldiers, those enshrined in Yasukuni sacrificed their lives for their country.

Despite the popular belief, Yasukuni does not keep a single spirit tablet, used in practicing Buddhism. I've also recently learned that the spirit tablets of the 1,068 "war criminals" of the IJA have been housed in Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica since May1980, when John Paul II held a special mass for them. The Yasukuni controversy involving China, Korea, and Japan started around 1983 and it's been 30 years since then. It's time China and Korea stop this unfruitful campaign.
In Response

by: Lemon Tree from: Korea
August 17, 2013 9:47 AM
To Tama from Japan.
You asked what is the problem for Japan. I think there are many problems especially problems with Korea.
Japan did not admit that Dokdo is a part of Korean territory although there are many references that shows Dokdo is a part of Korean territory.
Japan did not apologize that they killed and injured Koreans while Germany did.
Japan also distorted the history and Japan is teaching them to their students. Why are you??????
You said China and Korea are very special in Asia. What do you mean? China and Korea are not very friendly with Japan so you said that China and Korea are special?
PLEASE. Do not wish WE will be gentle unless YOU will be gentle first.
You see that I am Korean and I am really angry about this.

by: jonathan huang from: canada
August 15, 2013 11:48 AM
for your information there are WWII war criminals worshiped in this shrine! those war criminals were not war victims at all!
Shame on Japan! you gonna pay for your foolishness!

by: Tama from: Japan
August 15, 2013 9:16 AM
For your information, in the Yasukuni Shrine, there is a special tomb for Amerian soldiers deceased in WWII. That is an evicdence that Japan always shows respects to all victims in the wars. Incidentally, the latest public opinion poll says "PM of Japan should visit the Yasukuni shrine and show condolences to the soles of the soldiers deceased as the leader of the nation" that is the majority.
In Response

by: KC from: America
August 15, 2013 11:57 AM
This is fooling the world to pay visit for the deceased war deads along with the other 2 .5 millions war deads who invaded other countries to commit countless atrocities. Japan deserved to eat two bombs and more to come in future definitely to be wiped off from the world map. The nuclear accident in Fukushima was a warning from God's punishment to this stupid nation.
In Response

by: Tama from: Japan
August 15, 2013 9:58 AM
P.S. All Japanese people worship such souls of the deceased as gods or deities to protect the society. Needless to say, such the gods (the souls of the deceased) in the Yasukuni are consist of not only Japanese but also American and Korean; Japan and Korea were allies at the time of WWII, and the enemy was the US.

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