is a Shinto shrine located in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. It is dedicated to the kami (spirits) of soldiers and others who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan. Currently, its Symbolic Registry of Divinities lists the names of over 2,466,000 enshrined men and women whose lives were dedicated to the service of Imperial Japan, particularly to those killed in wartime.
The shrine is a source of considerable controversy. Of the almost 2.5 million enshrined, 1,068 have been convicted of war crimes by a post World War II court. Despite popular media references that 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni, the figure is actually 12 because two of those enshrined, Matsuoka Yosuke and Nagano Osami, actually died in prison before a verdict could be handed over. The Yūshūkan—a shrine-owned history museum—has been accused of revisionism in its accounts of Japan's actions in World War II, as well as glorification of Japan's aggressive militaristic past. Visits to the shrine by Japanese Cabinet members and Prime Ministers, in particular, have been the cause of protests at home as well as abroad. China, North Korea and South Korea have protested against various visits since 1985.
Yasukuni Shrine, originally named , was constructed in June 1869, by order of the Meiji Emperor, to commemorate the victims of the Boshin War who fought on the side of the Restoration. It was one of several dozen shrines built throughout Japan at that time. In 1879, the shrine was renamed Yasukuni Jinja and became one of the principal shrines associated with State Shinto, as well as the primary national shrine for commemorating Japan's war dead. The name Yasukuni, a quotation from the classical-era Chinese text Zuo Zhuan, literally means "Pacifying the Nation" and was chosen by the Meiji Emperor. Shinto rites are performed at the shrine, which, according to Shinto belief, houses the kami, or spirits, of all Japanese, former colonial subjects (Korean and Taiwanese) and civilians who died in service of the emperor while participating in the nation's conflicts that occurred prior to 1951.
After Japan's defeat in World War II, the US-led Occupation Authorities issued the Shinto Directive. This directive ordered the separation of church and state and effectively put an end to State Shinto. Yasukuni Shrine was then forced either to become a secular government institution or a religious institution that is independent from the Japanese government. It was decided that the shrine would become a privately funded religious institution. Since that decision in 1946, Yasukuni Shrine has continued to be privately funded and operated.
According to Shinto beliefs, by enshrining kami Yasukuni Shrine provides a permanent residence for the spirits of those who have fought on behalf of the emperor. Unlike a traditional Shinto shrine in which each kami occupies its own seat in the shrine, Yasukuni has all enshrined kami occupying the same single seat.
There are over 2,466,000 enshrined kami currently listed in the Yasukuni's Symbolic Registry of Divinities. This list includes soldiers, as well as women and students who were involved in relief operations in the battlefield or worked in factories for the war effort. Enshrinement is not exclusive to people of Japanese descent. Currently, Yasukuni Shrine has enshrined 27,863 Taiwanese and 21,181 Koreans.
Although new names of World War II-dead are added to the shrine every year, no deaths due to conflicts occurring since Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 have qualified for enshrinement. Therefore, the shrine does not include members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces who have died on duty in subsequent conflicts.
Enshrinement is carried out unilaterally by the shrine. Some families from foreign countries such as South Korea have requested that their relatives be delisted on the grounds that enshrining someone against their beliefs in life constitutes an infringement of the Constitution. The Yasukuni priesthood, however, has stated that once a kami is enshrined, it has been 'merged' with the other kami occupying the same seat and therefore cannot be separated.
|Conflict||Description||Year(s)||# of Enshrined||Notes|
|Boshin War and Meiji Restoration||Japanese civil war||1867–1869||7,751|
|Satsuma Rebellion||Japanese civil war||1877||6,971|
|Taiwan Expedition of 1874||Conflict with Paiwan people (Taiwanese aborigines)||1874||1,130|
|First Sino-Japanese War||Conflict with Qing-China over Korea||1894–95||13,619|
|Boxer Uprising||Eight-Nation Alliance's invasion of China||1901||1,256|
|Russo-Japanese War||Conflict with Russian Empire over Korea and Manchuria||1904–05||88,429|
|World War I||Conflict with German Empire (Central Powers) over Shandong, a Chinese province||1914–1918||4,850|
|Jinan Incident||Conflict with China (Kuomintang) over Jinan, a Chinese sub-provincial city||1928||185|
|Mukden Incident||Leading to the occupation of Manchuria||1931||17,176|
|Second Sino-Japanese War||Conflict with China||1937–1941||191,250|
|World War II||Conflict with the Allied forces and involvement in the Pacific theater||1941–1945||2,133,915|
The shrine does not include the Tokugawa shogunate's forces (particularly from the Aizu domain and Satsuma Province) who died during the Boshin War and Satsuma Rebellion because they are considered enemies of the emperor. This exclusion, which includes the ancestors of current Chief Priest Nanbu Toshiaki, is deeply resented in both areas.
The Yasukuni Shrine has been surrounded by controversy since its founding in June 1869.
Since the enshrinement, there have been calls from different groups of people to remove the war criminals, who include Imperial Japanese Army General Hideki Tojo, from Yasukuni Shrine. These calls, however, have not been fulfilled. Shrine officials have stated that unlike traditional Shinto shrines, all enshrined kami are immediately combined and therefore become impossible to be separated for removal. In addition, the family of Prime Minister Tojo Hideki has refused to sign a petition for the removal of seven Class-A war criminals' names from the shrine.
The museum has been criticized as presenting a revisionist interpretation of WWII. The museum highlights heroic war stories and kamikaze pilots, but does not mention negative incidents such as Japan using comfort women and the war crimes in Manchukuo. A documentary-style video gives visitors the Japanese nationalist perspective that Japan was not at fault in the Nanking Massacre and that Japanese leaders were wrongly convicted at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. The museum portrays Japan as an Asian liberator, provoked into war by European and U.S. officials, who choked the incoming supply of raw materials to the resource-poor nation. Many believe that the museum is a symbol of Japanese colonialism and nationalism, and is a reminder that Japan has been slow to apologize for wartime crimes.
This issue first surfaced when Emperor Hirohito refused to visit the shrine from 1978 until his death in 1989. According to a memorandum released in 2006 kept by Imperial Household Agency Grand Steward Tomohiko Tomita, Hirohito stated that the reason he stopped visiting the shrine was because of the decision to enshrine Class-A war criminals such as Yosuke Matsuoka and Toshio Shiratori. Since his 1978 decision, no Japanese emperor has visited the Yasukuni Shrine.
While an emperor has not visited the shrine since 1978, Japanese politicians, including Japanese Prime Ministers and other Japanese Cabinet members, have caused considerable controversy by visiting Yasukuni. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was one of the most outspoken and controversial visitors. On October 17, 2005, for example, Koizumi visited the shrine for the fifth time since taking office. Although he claimed that his visit was a private affair, it came only days before Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura was scheduled to visit Chinese officials in Beijing to strengthen Sino-Japanese relations. Considering the shrine a glorification of Japan's past military aggression, the People's Republic of China responded by canceling the scheduled visit.
Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni continued to draw criticism from around the world. During the 2005 APEC summit in Busan, South Korea, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing likened Koizumi's visits to "German leaders [visiting] (memorials) related to Hitler and Nazis. In 2006, Henry Hyde, chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, stated that Koizumi would embarrass the United States Congress and offend American veterans of World War II if he were to give a Congressional speech after making another visit to Yasukuni.
Koizumi's expected successor, Shinzo Abe, had visited the shrine in April 2006 before he took office. Although this visit concerned both Chinese and South Korean governments, Abe remained vague as to whether he had visited or would visit the shrine in the future. Subsequent events have led some to suggest that a compromise on the issue was reached with China. Abe publicly supported his predecessor's visits to the shrine, but he did not visit the shrine during his term as prime minister.
On June 7, 2007 former President of the Republic of China Lee Teng-hui visited the Shrine to pay tribute to his older brother died in the Japanese Imperial Navy, he too volunteered as a Japanese Imperial Army officer.
The former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda vowed never to visit the shrine, a commitment applauded by Japan's Asian neighbors. Fukuda's open political opposition to the shrine has helped improve relations with China, and North and South Korea. Other politicians have continued to visit the shrine; a group of 62 Diet members from the Liberal Democratic Party and the People's New Party, including former farm minister Shimamura and Eriko Yamatani, a special adviser to prime minister Fukuda, visited the shrine on 22 April 2008.
On the shrine grounds, there are several important religious structures. The shrine's haiden, Yasukuni's main prayer hall where worshipers come to pray, was originally built in 1901 in order to allow patrons to pay their respects and offer money. This building's roof was renovated in 1989. The white screens hanging off the ceiling are changed to purple ones on ceremonial occasions.
The honden is the main shrine where Yasukuni's enshrined kami reside. Built in 1872 and refurbished in 1989, it is where the shrine's priests perform Shinto rituals. The building is generally closed to the public.
The building located directly behind the honden to the east is know as the Reijibo Hōanden. It houses the —a handmade Japanese paper document that lists the names of all the kami enshrined and worshiped at Yasukuni Shrine. It was built of quakeproof concrete in 1972 with a private donation from Emperor Hirohito.
In addition to Yasukuni's main shrine buildings, there are also two peripheral shrines located on the precinct. Motomiya is a small shrine that was first established in Kyoto by sympathizers of the imperial loyalists that were killed during the early weeks of the civil war that erupted during the Meiji Restoration. Seventy years later, in 1931, it was moved directly south of Yasukuni Shrine's honden. Its name, Motomiya ("Original Shrine"), references the fact that it was essentially a prototype for the current Yasukuni Shrine. The second peripheral shrine is the Chinreisha. This small shrine was constructed in 1965 directly south of the Motomiya. It is dedicated to those not enshrined in the honden—those killed by wars worldwide, regardless of nationality. It has a festival on July 13.
There are several different torii and gates located on both the causeway and shrine grounds. When moving through the grounds from east to west, the first torii visitors encounter is the Daiichi Torii. This large steel structure is the largest torii in Japan and was first erected in 1921 to mark the main entrance to the shrine. It stands approximately 25 meters tall and 34 meters wide and is the first torii. The current iteration of this torii was erected in 1974 after the original was removed in 1943 due to weather damage.
The Daini Torii is the second torii encountered on the westward walk to the shrine. It was erected in 1887 and is the largest bronze torii in Japan. Immediately following the Daini Torii is the shinmon. A 6-meter tall hinoki cypress gate, it was first built in 1934 and restored in 1994. Each of its two doors bears a Chrysanthemum Crest measuring 1.5 meters in diameter. West of this gate is the Chumon Torii, the last torii visitors must pass underneath before reaching Yasukuni's haiden. It was recently rebuilt of cypress harvested in Saitama Prefecture in 2006.
In addition to the three torii and one gate that lead to the main shrine complex, there are a few others that mark other entrances to the shrine grounds. The Ishi Torii is a large stone torii located on the south end of the main causeway. It was erected in 1932 and marks the entrance to the parking lots. The Kitamon and Minamimon are two areas that mark the north and south entrances, respectively, into the Yasukuni Shrine complex. The Minamimon is marked by a small wooden gateway.