Being half Japanese, I feel ashamed of my government.
On December 26th 2013 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided it was an appropriate time to head down to Yasukuni Shrine to honour the war dead, (which includes Korean and Taiwanese soldiers I believe) which in itself is not an offensive gesture. Many countries around the world remember the innocent civilians who died in war. The problem, however, stems from the fact that the Yasukuni also enshrines hundreds of convicted WWII criminals including 14 so called Class-A war criminals. Among them names such as wartime general Hideki Tojo. Obviously, this doesn’t go down so well with the Chinese or the South Koreans. They see it as Japan glorifying their militarist past and taking a revisionist stance to WWII history. It’s hard to argue with them considering the nationalist museum (Yushukan) located at Yasukuni.
Abe claimed the following upon his visit:
“It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people.”
Well you certainly did a shit job of that. For a person with Japanese nationality, such provocative actions are difficult for me to comprehend. I find it terribly difficult in attempting to understand the motives for Abe to visit the shrine. Surely, all it serves to do is damage foreign relations with its neighbouring Asian countries?
Why did PM Abe visit the Yasukuni shrine?
There seems to be several reasons for this, and they scare me.
- Shinzo Abe at heart is a true nationalist and a historical revisionist
- Visiting the Yasukuni Shrine supposedly ensures them a certain figure of votes (this is just as worrying)
- the LDP (the current political party) are right wing and essentially revisionist
- It’s part of Abe asserting himself in the face of Chinese military pressure in a calculated plan to change the post-war constitution and delete the “peace constitution” (this is probably the most worrying to Chinese and South Koreans. Follow the link to a BBC article discussing Abe’s ‘shrewd political calculus’)
What are the solutions?
- Over the years there has been cries from neighbouring Asian countries that if Yasukuni visits are of cultural and religious importance that cannot be changed, the Class-A war criminals should at least be removed from the enshrinement of Yasukuni. The Japanese government has claimed that doing so would be a violation of religious freedom, as supposedly the ‘spirits’ enshrined in Yasukuni cannot be removed. Terrible response imo.
- In my opinion the most logical solution, which I believe has been suggested by various Japanese politicians previously, is to create a separate national and non-religious memorial that remembers all civilians who died in war. Obviously there are restrictions to this idea in that the LDP has strong ties with the Izokukai, a powerful support organisation of the Yasukuni Shrine which is allegedly responsible for the political overtones.
Among the Japanese public, militarism and nationalism seem to be very taboo subjects so I always doubted these Chinese/South Korean media reports that Japan are getting all militaristic and dangerously fascist. I assumed that it was all state controlled propaganda, which I believe is true for the most part. Yet, I’ve started to rethink my thoughts as, although I firmly believe the Japanese public are apolitical and much less nationalistic than Chinese or South Korean citizens, Abe’s actions truly worry me for the future of East Asian relations (especially considering China’s recent aggressive maritime expansion which I hope to explore in a later post). It doesn’t help that I’ve recently realised that I don’t represent the Japanese norm – the public secretly tend to hold revisionist stances.
For now, it seems like Abe will continue to glorify its past militarism while I’m stuck in Beijing living my life on the wrong end of discrimination and harassment stirred up by Chinese nationalist propaganda and state controlled media. I’m planning to write a handwritten letter to Abe later this month to request an explanation of his provocative revisionist actions because why not? I doubt I’ll get a personal response but I’ll post the response once and if I do receive one.