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Koizumi's last Yasukuni visit.
August 14, 2006 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi defies opposition, makes annual controversial trip to Yasukuni Shrine. Naturally, China and Korea are not amused. Adding to the drama and sparking debate amongst the Japanese is a recently discovered private journal of former Emperor Hirohito that reveals Hirohito stopped visiting the shrine in the 1970's when he learned that 14 class A war criminals had been secretly interred. Those 14 Class A war criminals are the focus of the controversy, and many Japanese are discussing having the remains of those men removed from Yasukuni.
posted by zardoz (45 comments total)

 
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. -via-
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:25 PM on August 14, 2006


Koizumi just has a deep, inner need to repeatedly demonstrate what a jerk he is.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:28 PM on August 14, 2006


If we're letting things get named for Confederate generals and allowing Southern states to fly the stars and bars, why not let Japan honor its war dead?
posted by brownpau at 5:37 PM on August 14, 2006


Actually it would be a deep, inner need to do what the right-wing bigwigs with all the cash tell him to do, since they funded him and all.
posted by ejoey at 5:43 PM on August 14, 2006


It's not honoring war dead that's the problem. It's honoring war dead war criminals. China and Korea get pissed off about this for a reason.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasukuni_Shrine
posted by ejoey at 5:47 PM on August 14, 2006


brownpau We?
posted by Richard Daly at 5:55 PM on August 14, 2006


brownpau : "If we're letting things get named for Confederate generals and allowing Southern states to fly the stars and bars, why not let Japan honor its war dead?"

Well, we're certainly not "not letting" it do so. However, naming things after Confederate generals and allowing Southern states to fly the stars and bars has not resulted in large scale riots and international disputes, so that's probably a big part of the difference there.
posted by Bugbread at 5:55 PM on August 14, 2006


If we're letting things get named for Confederate generals and allowing Southern states to fly the stars and bars,

Let me know when there's a Henry Wirz High School.
posted by Cyrano at 6:01 PM on August 14, 2006


Bush doesn't visit Manzanar every year, and Clinton didn't make an annual pilgrimage to Andersonville. And even if they did, those sites aren't filled with revisionist lit, and don't honor murderers.
posted by Joybooth at 6:07 PM on August 14, 2006


Well, it's no Graceland, anyway.
posted by cortex at 6:16 PM on August 14, 2006


Gotta wonder if he is playing the troll a bit... I mean if no one paid attention to him would he continue to visit?
(The corollary is, of course, that if no one paid attention, just how much more would the leaders so?)
posted by edgeways at 6:24 PM on August 14, 2006


Bomber Harris anyone?

Let people honour their war dead.

Almost all of the people at that shrine were decent folk who died in what they would have believed to be defending their homeland.

They could have been most of us. Should Arlington not be visited because there must be a few people there who perpetrated massacres against the Vietnamese or who flew bombing missions on cities?
posted by sien at 6:31 PM on August 14, 2006


I think Chinese people definitely have plenty of reasons to be pissed off about it. But when I hear my fellow Americans getting their taints all chafed over it, I feel a little awkward. There are plenty of war criminals who were never burdened with the title in this town. Maybe cultures that have been through Colonialism see the world a little bit different?
posted by odasaku at 6:32 PM on August 14, 2006


don't honor murderers


posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:38 PM on August 14, 2006


ooh, a three-some
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:40 PM on August 14, 2006


Not that I am defending Koizumi, but the chinese line up in their thousands to pay their respects to that murderer Mao every day. let he who is without sin, etc...
posted by dydecker at 6:47 PM on August 14, 2006


How can Koreans complain? Koizumi likely has a bigger dick than most Koreans. So we must bow humbly and beg. Please don't invade us again, oh the Japanese leader with your humungous burbous mastodonic penis.
posted by shortfuse at 7:15 PM on August 14, 2006


"Awww... he looks just like a little baby that killed 60 million people. Who's a little dictator? Yes, you are! Yes, you are!"
posted by aramaic at 8:35 PM on August 14, 2006


Odasaku, my God... your first link...just, ... oh my god.


(What's the word for clicking on a link that shouldn't have?)
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:37 PM on August 14, 2006


The thing is, they're not even just murderers. They are Class A convicted War criminals who were executed for their conduct during the war, particularly what they did to the Chinese and the Koreans. For Koizumi to go there, especially today, the anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II, is just rubbing it in their faces. It'd be like Angela Merkel going to pray at the Hitler Shrine in Germany.
posted by donkeymon at 9:06 PM on August 14, 2006


Don't, according to Shinto beliefs, the spirits of the dead reside at those graves? Far be it for me to excuse war crimes for the sake of any given religious belief, but:

a) whether it is even more improper to ignore the honourable war dead buried there, and
b) whether the dead are essentially all worthy of respect under the Shinto belief system

are both up for grabs as far as I'm concerned. I mean, I was raised Catholic, so as long as I say enough Hail Marys, I can pretty much murder as many people as I like. If he's violating or not acting in accordance with religious precepts, that's one thing, but for people to look at the situation without even attempting to take them into account, it's quite another.

(I exaggerate, obviously, the Catholic situation, but where religion is involved, surely additional explanations have to be considered. Excuse me, please -- but educate me -- if I have the Shinto angle all wrong)
posted by dreamsign at 9:40 PM on August 14, 2006


They only return to their graves sites once a year. Conincidentally (maybe) that time is right now. It's obon where all Japanese people take off work and go to their hometowns to meet with their dead ancestors. As far as I know, Shinto doesn't make any judgement regarding the moral character of your ancestors. But the Yasukuni shrine doesn't exist simply to house those remains. It is a symbol of Japanese nationalism and Emperor worship and was used to whip soldiers into a frenzy before sending them off to war. (I just watched a special about it on Japanese TV this morning.)
posted by donkeymon at 11:08 PM on August 14, 2006


but where religion is involved, surely additional explanations have to be considered

..but where a shared culture involving firm personal beliefs is involved, surely additional explanations have to be considered.

If only this applied elsewhere. Racism, the US's mideastophobia, gay rights, etc, etc, would all be viewed with a somewhat less harsh eye.
posted by suedehead at 11:12 PM on August 14, 2006



posted by suedehead at 11:13 PM on August 14, 2006


</sarcasm>
posted by suedehead at 11:13 PM on August 14, 2006


Whatever, suede. I'm not condoning war crimes or excusers of war crimes. I am suggesting that few critics appear to even addressing what may be motivations based in a metaphysical belief system. You can argue with it, say it's stupid, say it needs to be sacrificed for the sake of inter-cultural harmony, but it makes no sense to ignore it as an explanation for why an action is being taken unless your only purpose is to promote anti-Japanese (or at least anti-Koizumi) animus regardless of the facts.

You don't reach greater harmony through less understanding, for goodness sake.
posted by dreamsign at 11:29 PM on August 14, 2006


I would have thought you'd be used to this by now, suede. A tremendous amount of behaviour in the States these days I think is completely nutty and makes no sense unless you at least address the theological principles supposedly held (I speak of the religious right but this applies to others). Does this excuse behaviour? No, but it certainly helps explain some of it, instead of just concluding that all concerned are simply unrepentant misanthropes.

Of course, it is in China's interest to portray Koizumi as an unrepentant misanthrope. What's your reason?
posted by dreamsign at 11:34 PM on August 14, 2006


odasaku,
How is Robert E. Lee a war criminal? He fought for a cause that lost, but as far as I know he never committed acts of genocide, or any such attrocities. He was a general who fought a war honorably. I'm not defending the Confederacy, it just seems odd to call Lee a war criminal when he didn't do anything.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:48 PM on August 14, 2006


He was a general who fought a war honorably

As did the Class-A war criminals, save the guy who ran the Burma POW camps. As a class, these people were strung up by the victors for launching a war of aggression against China and the US.

IMV, Lee was fighting for something just as abhorrent, if not more, than the Japanese militarists in China were. 'course, if I were Chinese I wouldn't necessarily think that, but IMV what Japan was trying to do in China was no different than what they were doing in Taiwan and Korea, and the first world wasn't getting too worked up about those earlier conquests.

Hell, it took us 5-10 years to give up the idea that the Japanese would be our good reactionary anti-Commies in the region.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:00 AM on August 15, 2006


From your link:

Iwane Matsui (1878-1948)

Matsui planned the November 1937 attacks on Shanghai and Nanjing. He was the commanding officer of the Japanese expeditionary force responsible for the Nanjing Massacre in 1937.


This doesnt sound too honourable.
posted by the cuban at 3:13 AM on August 15, 2006


> It'd be like Angela Merkel going to pray at the Hitler Shrine in Germany.

Japan has been a militarist culture for how many centuries now? What's the hope, really, that even a big defeat would keep the samurai impulse down for long after the occupying force is gone? Speaking of Merkel and 'reformed' militarist cultures we all know and love, I'm reminded that German guys are expected to sit down to pee now, and I'm very curious what the backlash against that will be like when it comes--as it assuredly will. Glad I'm not Poland or France.
posted by jfuller at 4:14 AM on August 15, 2006


> brownpau We?

bp is a Philippino residing (legally) in the US. He pays US taxes and thus though he does not vote he certainly gets to write "As a taxpayer..." letters to naming bodies such as school boards. I think his opinions carry special weight in this thread since the Philippines were included in the happy-family Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, as well as being the site of the Japanese-hosted Bataan Death March.
posted by jfuller at 4:32 AM on August 15, 2006


I was in Nanjing earlier this year, and I think Koizumi's actions are seen, in China, as DELIBERATELY provocative, showing a pride in & complete lack of repentance for the now well-established acts of almost unbelievable brutality against a civilian population (300,000 raped, shot, stabbed, buried alive, beheaded and bayoneted often for 'sport'). The mass graves at Nanjing have skulls with nails pounded into them as the mode of execution (sorry about the graphic details), even if wars are sometimes "necessary evils", the utter degradation of values, relegating your enemy to sub-human status is not. Koizumi's visits are utterly insensitive to this and only serve to dangerously inflame the already uncertain relationship as these 2 powers struggle for Asian political/economic dominance.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 5:03 AM on August 15, 2006


Koizumi is aware that Japan's most active voters are over 50, so conservative as to be reactionary, ashamed of having lost the war and failed at imperialism, and eager to see Japan "rise again." Japan's the oldest nation on earth (average age) I believe, and many of the younger people are disillusioned with politics.

Furthermore, unlike Germany, Japan has whitewashed a great deal of its imperial past in its textbooks, and it is very common for Japanese to fully believe their country was the "victim" of WWII (focusing entirely on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Now, Coreans and Chinese (well, I'll stick to speaking about Coreans, at least I live with them) are also irrationally wound up with jingoism and bitterness about long-past wrongs, but it's little acts like these (and the continuing refusal to recognize and enact some sort of reparations to the Corean comfort women, Dokdo/Takeshima, etc.) that help keep the wounds from closing. There are events and decisions made by Coreans, as well, that are clearly designed to keep this bitterness alive, and it's unfortunate.

Luckily, there are lots of smaller things that are helping to make Coreans, at least, start to forgive/forget. A significant part of the younger generations here don't have much vestigial animosity, and think it's generally a bit old fashioned.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:31 AM on August 15, 2006


This doesnt sound too honourable

Thing is, to the Japanese, Nanking was, perhaps, a 'regrettable' incident, like say My Lai 4. The way we fought the war in 1945, razing entire urban cores to the ground, sorta ex-post-facto validated the Japanese barbarities in China, at least to the Japanese mind.

Human nature is defensive, not introspective; I don't expect the Japanese to be any more apologetic about their past actions than we Americans.

Hint: we fucked over more innocent people in Indochina 1965-1973 than the Japanese killed in Nanking, yet Kissinger has a bloody Nobel Peace Prize and half those Nixon people are in power today.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2006


and it is very common for Japanese to fully believe their country was the "victim" of WWII (focusing entirely on Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

They definitely focus on the nuclear thing, but i disagree that it's very common for Japanese to believe they were the victim of WWII. Perhaps the more right wing Japanese believe this.

It's quite common to hear from Japanese that they were making an Empire in exactly the same sense as the British and Europeans had done for centuries, and that's a damn good point which is often whitewashed in European textbooks.
posted by dydecker at 8:29 AM on August 15, 2006


that they were making an Empire in exactly the same sense as the British and Europeans had done for centuries

Other than China, which was the tripline that brought in the US to start the economic strangulation, the Japanese 'liberated'/occupied French Indochina, British Malaysia & Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the US-held Philippines.

While the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was just as much hoo-haw as our failed WMD case wrt Saddam; while modern American imperialism has a lighter touch than the Japanese, the Japanese were fighting for a yen-bloc and a free-hand economically in East Asia, and we were/are (partially) fighting for a USD-bloc & neo-con economic tributary in Iraq.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:57 AM on August 15, 2006


jfuller - US citizen by birth, actually. But yes, I identify equally with both Filipinos and US Americans, so I should probably qualify more often when I say "we."
posted by brownpau at 8:57 AM on August 15, 2006


Hint: we fucked over more innocent people in Indochina 1965-1973 than the Japanese killed in Nanking, yet Kissinger has a bloody Nobel Peace Prize and half those Nixon people are in power today.

Comparing an entire war to a single massacre doesnt prove much. This is more illustrative.

If you're into playing a numbers games.
posted by the cuban at 9:07 AM on August 15, 2006


it just seems odd to call Lee a war criminal when he didn't do anything.

Yeah, Robert E. Lee just sat in his comfy rocking chair on a Virginia plantation porch between 1861 and 1865 and sipped a lot of mint juleps.
posted by blucevalo at 9:20 AM on August 15, 2006


> jfuller - US citizen by birth, actually. But yes, I identify equally with both
> Filipinos and US Americans

Oh, sorry, I misinterpreted your web page ("I'm Paulo, a web developer from the Philippines, currently living in Washington, DC.") But if you're a Philippino-American US citizen then what I said stands all the more. "We" indeed.
posted by jfuller at 9:38 AM on August 15, 2006


Little known fact: the supreme command of the South's military campaign in the civil war was actually held by a Mexican wrestling tag-team duo, Roberto Y Lee.
posted by cortex at 10:58 AM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


You don't reach greater harmony through less understanding, for goodness sake.

dreamsign -- a greater understanding achieved through comprehension of motives, culture, and religion good, nice, yes, but to exclusively warrant a deeper look at a phenomenon or action because it's religiously motivated (rather than a secular one) is erroneous, imho.

But obvious things aside, whether or not the Shinto belief system commands that Koizumi visit Yasukuni has nothing to do with understanding, condoning, or justifying his visit.

The important fact is that this annual trip takes place on the exact day Japan lost the war; its a metaphorical refutal of its war responsibilities, and almost even a tribute to the past powers that Japan held. Even previous PMs avoiding this visit in past years. The Shinto belief doesn't excuse a pointed and deliberate show of respect for class A war criminals whose defeat symbolized the beneficial independance of a country nearby.
posted by suedehead at 1:36 PM on August 15, 2006


this annual trip takes place on the exact day Japan lost the war

No. This was the first time Koizumi went on August 15th since he became prime minister.

And he did it only because it was a casual promise he'd made before he became prime minister and this is the last year he can fulfill that promise. I think that if the media here hadn't dogged him so persistently about keeping his word, he wouldn't have gone ahead with it (at lease not on August 15th). He's just trying to make himself look like he's a man who doesn't back down on his word, but he's quitting in September and is no longer responsible for his actions after that. He's always been a shallow, irresponsible leader who is all show and eager to please the US. His actions do not reflect the opinions of many Japanese (link in Japanese); 50% think that the next prime minister should refrain from going.

Japan's most active voters are over 50, so conservative as to be reactionary, ashamed of having lost the war and failed at imperialism, and eager to see Japan "rise again."

I don't agree with this. If the people over 50 are generally conservative, I think it's because they want to protect the way of life they worked so hard for AFTER the war, not because they're ashamed of having lost it. In a sense, Japan has already "risen," that's why it cares so little about its neighbors while the neighbors still hate us with a vengeance. I'm not saying this is a good thing; in fact, it's not and efforts should be made to improve relations, but currently, it's the way things are.

I personally wish that the politicians would just stop doing things that give other countries reason to rekindle their hatred for us. That particular war's been over for 60+ years; I'm in my 30s and I certainly don't remember it, and soon enough, the politicians running this country will be around my age, too. The government should make amends before the people who remember what it was like during those times are all gone.
posted by misozaki at 5:54 PM on August 15, 2006


No. This was the first time Koizumi went on August 15th since he became prime minister.

Whoops, you're right.

I wish this animosity would subside as well. It's only when things like the acceptance of revised Japanese history textbooks (albeit in partial areas), or the startling popularity of Kenkanryu comes to light that things stir up again.

Even so, things are getting better; Korea's ban on Japanese media lifted a while ago, people are getting generally open-minded. As Joseph Gurl says, a lot of us younger generation Koreans think it's old-fashioned.
posted by suedehead at 8:10 AM on August 16, 2006


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