Plunge Pontificates

A place for my thoughts.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Student's view of Yasukuni

Fascinating article on two sociology students visit to Yasukuni.

We met at Shinjuku, which is one of the most popular places in Tokyo. By his request, we decided to visit Yasukuni shrine, which is a notorious and hated place among many East Asian people. As most of you probably know, for the past couple of years the Japanese government has been strongly criticized by other Asian countries such as South Korea and China because Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has visited the shrine every year and prayed for those Japanese people who fought and died for their country. Korea and China have criticized these actions because 14 of those `war victims’ are convicted `Class-A war criminals.’
Again, it needs to be clarified that there are far more war criminals honored there, it is just that 14 have the distinction of being Class A, the worst kind of war criminal.

Yaksuni is a huge well-organized place, just a 10-minutes train ride from Shinjuku. It is one of the most overwhelming pieces of architecture I have ever seen in Japan that left me wondering how much money it had cost the government to build.

The museum was, as we expected, horrible. It showed a heavily biased version of Japanese history from its origin through to the present day. Its contents were exactly the same as the Japanese history textbooks, which have been condemned by Korea and China for allegedly distorting history.

We watched a typical propaganda film. It was about the historical process of Japanese modernization since the 19th century. It focused on Japanese wars against China (late 19th and 1930-1945), Russia (early 20th) and America (1941-1945). I call it propaganda because firstly, there was no logic in what they tried to say. One of main characteristics of propaganda is to arouse the audience's emotion and not to let them THINK logically and rationally.

Secondly, it pretended to be objective, but in reality, it was too partial to be called an objective and reliable documentary. It ignored the complications of the real world and concentrated on only small aspects of the truth: a kind of lying through omission.

But, after the film, I noticed some members of the audience had been deeply affected and even moved to tears. Then I thought that by accepting this kind of propaganda without question, people would not hesitate in sacrificing themselves for the state. I think what is important is to consider who will benefit from those people's `sublime nationalism.’
People need to understand this part of it as well. Not only are war criminals honored, but that period of time is honored. The whole focus is to make you proud of what Japan did during that period and make you think that Japan was a hero and a victim, certainly not an instigator and a criminal.

Too many try and trivialize this abomination and excuse it. It's time to build a new place of mourning for those who aren't so convinced of the glory of the past.