|The haiden or hall of worship|
|Dedicated to||those who lost their lives while serving Japan|
|Address||3-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-8246, Japan|
Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 or 靖國神社 Yasukuni Jinja ) is a Shinto shrine located in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. It was initially created by Emperor Meiji to commemorate any individuals who had died in service of the Empire of Japan during the Meiji Restoration. The shrine's purpose has been expanded over the years and now lists the names, origins, birthdates, and places of death of 2,466,532 men, women and children from conflicts spanning from the Boshin War of 1867 to the end of World War II.
The Yasukuni Honden shrine only lists the names of those who died in service of the Empire of Japan as it was created by Emperor Meiji specifically for this purpose. The Yasukuni Chinreisha shrine was created by the priesthood to commemorate those who fought in opposition to the Empire and everyone else who had died in war; it includes the Japanese soldiers of the Tokugawa Shogunate and Republic of Ezo as well as those representing foreign militaries such as the British, US, Chinese, Korean and South East Asian forces.
The Honden shrine commemorates anyone who died on behalf of the Empire. Therefore it is not restricted to soldiers and also includes the names of relief workers, factory workers, citizens and those not of Japanese ethnicity such as Taiwanese and Koreans who served Japan. There are also commemorative statues to animals who perished in war and for the mothers who raised their children alone as a result of war. There is also an archive library which collects information about each individual enshrined and a conservative war museum.
Controversy arose over its enshrinement of multiple war criminals from World War II. There is no prejudice when being enshrined; everyone is considered equal regardless of social status, living deeds or other factors. The only requirement for being enshrined is to have died in service of the Empire of Japan, as such the shrine owners felt there was no reason to exclude those convicted of crimes. The inclusion of their names causes political tension particularly with China and South Korea, who argue that it is evidence Japan denies any wrongdoing during World War II. Supporters have argued that rejecting their names for enshrinement would remove them from the Empire of Japan's service thus denying they existed or committed any crimes on behalf of the Emperor. This controversy continues to arise each time a politician plans to visit the shrine including foreign politicians such as Lee Teng-hui whose brother is enshrined in the honden. Some far-left politicians see the shrine as a symbol of Japanese imperialism, while some far-right politicians consider the shrine a symbol of patriotism.
Yasukuni is a shrine to house the actual souls of the dead as kami, or "spirits/souls" as loosely defined in English. This activity is strictly a religious matter since the separation of State Shinto and the Japanese government in 1945. The priesthood at the shrine has complete religious autonomy to decide for whom and how enshrinement may occur. They believe that enshrinement is permanent and irreversible. 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. Yasukuni has all enshrined kami occupying the same single seat. The shrine is dedicated to give peace and rest to all those enshrined there. It was the only place to which the Emperor of Japan bowed.
The site for the Yasukuni Shrine, originally named Tōkyō Shōkonsha (東京招魂社) was chosen by order of the Meiji Emperor. This shrine was to commemorate the soldiers of the Boshin War who fought and died to bring about the Meiji Restoration. It was one of several dozen war memorial shrines built throughout Japan at that time as part of the government-directed State Shinto program. In 1879, the shrine was renamed Yasukuni Jinja.  It became one of State Shinto's principal shrines, as well as the primary national shrine for commemorating Japan's war dead. The name Yasukuni, quoted from the phrase 「吾以靖国也」 in the classical-era Chinese text Zuo Zhuan (Scroll 6, 23rd Year of Duke Xi), literally means "Pacifying the Nation" and was chosen by the Meiji Emperor. The name is formally written as 靖國神社, using obsolete (pre-war) kyūjitai character forms.
After 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 forced to become either a secular government institution or a religious institution independent from the Japanese government. People[who?] 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.
Shinto rites are performed at the shrine, which, according to Shinto belief, houses the kami, or spirits, of all Japanese subjects, including former imperial subjects (Korean and Taiwanese) and civilians who died in service of the emperor while participating (forced or willing) in the nation's conflicts prior to 1951.
- January 1: Shinnensai (New Year's festival)
- February 11: Kenkoku Kinensai (National Foundation Day)—Anniversary of the day on which Japan's first Emperor, Emperor Jimmu, is said to have founded the Japanese nation.
- February 17: Kinensai (spring festival for harvest)
- April 21–23: Shunki Reitaisai (annual spring festival)
- April 29: Showasai (Showa Festival) — Emperor Showa's birthday
- June 29: Gosoritsu Kinenbisai (Founding Day) Commemoration of the founding of Yasukuni Jinja
- July 13–16: Mitama Matsuri — A mid-summer celebration of the spirits of the ancestors. The entry walk is decorated with 40 foot high walls of more than 30,000 lanterns, and thousands of visitors come to pay respects to their lost relatives and friends.
- October 17–20: Shuki Reitaisai (annual autumn festival)
- November 3: Meijisai (Emperor Meiji's birthday)
- November 23: Niinamesai (Festival of First Fruits)
- December 23: Tenno gotanshin Hoshukusai (birthday of the current emperor)
- The first, 11th and 21st day of each month: Tukinamisai
- Every day: Asa Mikesai, Yu Mikesai, Eitai Kagurasai (perpetual Kagura festivals)
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 without consultation of surviving family members and in some cases against the stated wishes of the family members. There are numerous enshrined kami who died at Chinreisha.
As a general rule, the enshrined are limited to military personnel who were killed while serving Japan during armed conflicts. Civilians who were killed during a war are not included, apart from a handful of exceptions. A deceased must fall into one of the following categories for enshrinement:
- Military personnel, and civilians serving for the military, who were:
- killed in action, or died as a result of wounds or illnesses sustained while on duty outside the Home Islands (and within the Home Islands after September 1931)
- missing and presumed to have died as a result of wounds or illnesses sustained while on duty
- died as a result of war crime tribunals which have been ratified by the San Francisco Peace Treaty
- Civilians who participated in combat under the military and died from resulting wounds or illnesses (includes residents of Okinawa)
- Civilians who died, or are presumed to have died, in Soviet labor camps during and after the war
- Civilians who were officially mobilized or volunteered (such as factory workers, mobilized students, Japanese Red Cross nurses and anti air-raid volunteers) who were killed while on duty
- Crew who were killed aboard Merchant Navy vessels
- Crew who were killed due to the sinking of exchange ships (e.g. Awa Maru)
- Okinawan schoolchildren evacuees who were killed (e.g. the sinking of Tsushima Maru)
- Officials of the governing bodies of Karafuto Prefecture, Kwantung Leased Territory, Governor-General of Korea and Governor-General of Taiwan
Although new names of soldiers killed during World War II are added to the shrine list every year, no one who was killed due to conflicts after Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty that formally ended World War II in 1951 has been qualified for enshrinement. Therefore, the shrine does not include members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces which was established after the peace treaty.
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.
Japan has participated in ten other conflicts since the Boshin War in 1869. The following table chronologically lists the number of people enshrined as kami at the shrine (as of October 17, 2004) from each of these conflicts.
|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|||
|Imo Incident||Conflict with Joseon Rebel Army over Korea||1882||more than 10|||
|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 Mediterranean Sea and Shandong, a Chinese province||1914–1918||4,850|||
|Battle of Qingshanli||Conflict with the Korean Independence Army over Korea||1920||11|||
|Jinan Incident||Conflict with China (Kuomintang) over Jinan, a Chinese sub-provincial city||1928||185|||
|Mukden Incident||Leading to the occupation of Manchuria||1931–1937||17,176|||
|Second Sino-Japanese War||Conflict with China||1937–1941||191,250|||
|World War II Pacific theatre
(including Indochina War)
|Conflict with the Allied forces and involvement in the Pacific theater (including Class A, B, & C War Criminals, and Forced labor of Japanese in the Soviet Union)
(Conflict with France)
The Yasukuni shrine does not include the Tokugawa shogunate's forces (particularly from the Aizu domain) or rebel forces who died during the Boshin War or Satsuma Rebellion because they are considered enemies of the emperor. They are enshrined at Chinreisha. This exclusion, which includes the ancestors of former Chief Priest Toshiaki Nanbu (2004–2009), is deeply resented in both areas.
There are a multitude of facilities within the 6.25 hectare grounds of the shrine, as well as several structures along the 4 hectare causeway. Though other shrines in Japan also occupy large areas, Yasukuni is different because of its recent historical connections. The Yūshūkan museum is just the feature that differentiate Yasukuni from other Shinto shrines. The following lists describe many of these facilities and structures.
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 make offerings. 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 known as the Reijibo Hōanden (霊璽簿奉安殿). It houses the Symbolic Registry of Divinities (霊璽簿 Reijibo )—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 (元宮) 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 or incidents worldwide, regardless of nationality. It has a festival on July 13.
Torii and gates
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 was the largest torii in Japan when it 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 to replace a wooden one which had been erected earlier. This 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.
- Statue of War Widow: This statue honors the mothers who raised children in the absence of fathers lost at war. It was donated to the shrine in 1974 by these mothers' children.
- Statue of Kamikaze Pilot: A bronze statue representing a kamikaze pilot stands to the left of the Yūshūkan's entrance. A small plaque to the left of the statue was donated by the Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association in 2005. It lists the 5,843 men who died while executing suicide attacks against Allied naval vessels in World War II.
- Statues of a Dog, a Horse & a Carrier Pigeon: These three life-sized bronze statues were all donated at different times during the second half of the 20th century. The first of the three that was donated, the horse statue was placed at the Yasukuni Shrine in 1958 to honor the memory of the horses that were utilized by the Japanese military. Presented in 1982, the statue depicting a pigeon atop a globe honors the homing pigeons of the military. The last statue, donated in March 1992, depicts a German shepherd and commemorates the soldiers' canine comrades. Opened, full bottles of water are often left at these statues.
- Statue of Ōmura Masujirō: Created by Okuma Ujihiro in 1893, this statue is Japan's first Western-style bronze statue. It honors Ōmura Masujirō, a man who is known as the "Father of the Modern Japanese Army."
- Irei no Izumi: This modern looking monument is a spring dedicated to those who suffered from or died of thirst in battle.
- Monument of Justice Radha Binod Pal: This newer monument was erected at Yasukuni Shrine in 2005. It honours Indian judge Radha Binod Pal, the lone justice on the International Military Tribunal for the Far East's trials of Japanese war crimes committed during World War II to find all the defendants not guilty. On April 29, 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his counterpart Koizumi Junichiro that "the dissenting judgement of Justice Radha Binod Pal is well-known to the Japanese people and will always symbolise the affection and regard our people have for your country."
Other buildings and structures
- Yūshūkan: Originally built in 1882, this museum is located to the north of the main hall. Its name is taken from a saying -- "a virtuous man always selects to associate with virtuous people." AThe museum houses the weaponry of the Imperial Japanese Navy, notably including a Zero Fighter plane and Kaiten suicide torpedo. The museum has come into great controversy owing to its revisionist depiction of Japanese history, particularly of the militarist period from 1931-1945, in which is perceived as denying Japanese war crimes and glorifying Japan's militarist past.
- Dove Cote: Almost 300 white doves live and are bred in a special dove cote located on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine.
- Shinchi Teien: This Japanese style strolling garden was created in the early Meiji Era. Its centerpiece is a small waterfall located in a serene pond. It was refurbished in 1999.
- Sumo Ring: In 1869, a sumo wrestling exhibition was held at Yasukuni Shrine in order to celebrate the shrine's establishment. Since then, exhibitions involving many professional sumo wrestlers, including several grand champions (yokozuna) take place at the Spring Festival almost every year. The matches are free of charge.
- Nōgaku-den: Noh plays were first presented on the shrine premises in 1878. The support of Empress Dowager Eishō and Empress Consort Haruko (now known as (Empress Shōken) ensured a permanent home for Noh at Yasukuni.
Due to the enshrinement of International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) war criminals and the nationalist approach to the war museum, the Yasukuni Shrine and the Japanese Government have been criticized by some of the East Asian countries.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yasukuni Shrine.|
- Yasukuni Shrine official website (English)
- Official page of the Japanese Foreign Ministry on the Yasukuni visits of PM Koizumi
- A feature from The Japan Times on the chief priest of Yasukuni and his views of PM visits
- Yasukuni Jinja photos and slideshow on the 60th anniversary of Japan's surrender (2005)
- Discussion of the impact of Prime Ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine
- Audio/Video recordings of Professor Tetsuya Takahashi discussing his book Postwar Japan on the Brink: Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine at the University of Chicago