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Posted : 2013-06-02 17:23
Updated : 2013-06-02 17:23

Deities at Yasukuni Shrine

By Nam Sang-so

Yasukuni jinja (shrine) is located in Kudan in central Tokyo north of the Imperial Palace.

Currently a total of 2,466,000 divinities (kami) are enshrined there. They are the souls of people who made the ultimate sacrifice for Japan since 1853. Some 2,133,000 of the divinities are from the Pacific War. These deified spirits at the shrine, regardless of their rank or social standing, are considered to be completely equal and worshipped as venerable divinities of Yasukuni or pacifying the nation. Among them 21,181 deities are of Korean blood.

The priesthood at the shrine has a complete religious autonomy to decide how manifestation should occur. They believe that enshrinement is permanent and irreversible.

According to Shinto belief, by enshrining kami, Yasukuni Shrine provides a permanent home for the spirits of those who have died for the nation. Each kami occupies the same equal and single seat. It was the only place to which the emperor of Japan bowed though he doesn't visit the temple anymore with the same reason Koreans and Chinese have as it contains the spirits of war criminals.

On the premises there are memorial statues for war widows, kamikaze pilots, dogs, horses and even carrier pigeons that died in the battle field. The most notable statue is of Indian Justice Radha Binod Pal, the lone justice who found all the defendants not guilty at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East trials, or Tokyo trials, of Japanese war crimes committed during the World War II.

The trials were convened in 1946, to prosecute the leaders of Imperial Japan in three categories of war crimes; ''Class A" crimes were reserved for those who participated in a joint conspiracy to start and wage war. They were all hanged. Nobusuke Kishi, grandfather of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was arrested under this category but later purged.

"Class B" crimes were applied to those who committed war crimes. "Class C" crimes were related to those who ordered crimes against humanity. Twenty-eight Japanese military and political leaders were hung in the Class A crimes, and more than 5,700 Japanese nationals were charged with Class B and C crimes.

Former Emperor Hirohito and the imperial families were not prosecuted in any of the three categories of crimes. It was a political decision.

The Japanese government has repeatedly asked the priests of Yasukuni whether it is possible to separate the war criminals from other deities. The Shrine flatly refused reasoning that all divinities in the Shrine are equal once they were manifested.

The General Headquarters (GHQ) of the MacAuthur's occupation force once planned to burn down the Yasukuni Shrine which survived the Great Tokyo Air Raid in March 1945 and build a dog race course in its place.

Fathers Bruno Bitter and Patrick Byrne, when asked by the GHQ of the plan, said that "Any nation has the right and obligation to pay tributes to the warriors who died for the nation. It doesn't matter whether the victorious or defeated nation, it should be performed without discrimination.

"If Yasukuni jinja was the pivot of the Shintoism and the faulty nationalism then it's the Shintoism, which is to be eliminated, not the Yasukuni Shrine. We believe that under the religious liberty all the people regardless of their belief who sacrificed their lives for the nation should be equally enshrined." The Shrine was spared the fate of becoming a dog racecourse.

Japanese value Yasukuni Shrine as equal as Korea's National Cemetery or Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. I visit the temple when I'm in Tokyo because two of my good old friends didn't come home during the troubles in the Spring of 1945.

The writer is a retired architect/project analyst. His email address is sangsonam@gmail.com.


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