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yasukuni shrine and the state of far east relations
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japan and north korea
japan and south korea
japan, china and japanese imperialism
junichirou koizumi, ex-japanese prime minister
the yasukuni shrine
shrine visiting at new year
racism in japan



I was recently asked to comment on the state of Japan/Korea/China relations. I haven’t been following such things closely, in part because most of the comment/feelings seem rather artificial, especially those being whipped up in China and South Korea.

japan and north korea

Kim Il is not popular in Japan. Nor do the Japanese tend to separate him from North Korea: “I hate North Korea” is a common sentiment.

The abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea remain one of the main concerns of the general Japanese public, and there are frequent emotional ‘documentaries’, news items and editorials on the subject.

There is also a large degree of worry amongst the ordinary Joes about being nuked. The Japanese are very good at worrying! :-)

japan and south korea

South Korea is generally very popular in Japan at the moment, mostly due to the popularity of South Korea soap dramas!

There are various ‘issues’ between South Korea and Japan over some tiny islands in the Japan Sea, particularly Takashima/Dokdo [the Japanese and Korean names respectively]. However, there seems to be much more fuss made of it in South Korea, than made of it in Japan - partially I suspect because in this case Japan seems to have the facts/history on their side.back to index

japan, china and japanese imperialism

The Japanese government are regularly accused by the Chinese and South Koreans of attempting to revive Imperialist nationalism. Such accusations are almost entirely groundless. A lot of it comes across as jealous neighbours attempting to distract from their current inferiority and lower standards by harping on about Japan’s previous atrocious behaviour. This works on Japan because the Japanese tend to be unusually caring about what others think of them.

However, at least some of the criticism can be justified, as for instance regarding ‘comfort women’, taken from other Far Eastern countries to serve in brothels in Japan.

One of the main bats used by those trying to whip up anti-Japan feeling is Yasukuni Shrine [Yasukuni Jingu], the shrine where Japanese war dead are honoured. Yasukuni is the Japanese equivalent of the Washington War Memorial Wall.

Yasukuni also has the names of a few A-class World War II war criminals on its lists [nobody is buried at Yasukuni, despite what you may have read in the fossil media]. This makes Japan’s WWII victims, not unreasonably, suspicious of politicians honouring the Japanese war dead there.

There are growing suggestions amongst top Japanese politicians, and in the fossil media, that the war criminals’ names should be moved to a different shrine, to remove the confusion. Obviously that is not popular amongst the few loons who do want a return of Imperialist nationalism.

junichirou koizumi, ex-japanese prime minister

Ex-Prime Minister Junichirou Koizumi, who regularly visited Yasukuni - to equally regular howls from Chinese and South Korean politicians and the fossil media - also gave the first full unequivocal apology/recognition for/of Japan’s appalling WWII behaviour. His visits had overwhelming support amongst the Japanese public.

To some degree Koizumi’s regular visits have reclaimed Yasukuni for mainstream patriotism, it having been hijacked by far-right Imperialist nationalism. However, that process remains incomplete.

Koizumi’s efforts have some similarity to the so far unsuccessful efforts in the UK to reclaim the use of the Union Jack flag, which has been hijacked by the far-left British Nazi Party (BNP). As in the West, many in the fossil media and on the moonbat left dishonestly try to smear any and all patriotism/nationalism as relating to Nazi/Imperialist activity. Modern Japan has much to be proud of, and much to offer the world. ‘Pride’ or ‘patriotism’ is far from unreasonable.

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The Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine from the road outside.

Yasukuni Shrine sits in the middle of Tokyo city on a large road named after it. You know that you are in nationalist territory because the road is lined with Japanese flags! This is the Shrine seen from the road outside.

Over the 2006/2007 New Year break, Yasukuni rewrote some of it’s more dubious ‘historical’ claims in its museum - although they are still trying to claim that it wasn’t! (The rewrite relates to their attempts to blame the excesses of Japanese Imperialism on Chinese revolutionaries).

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The Yasukuni ‘museum’.

This is the controversial - read revisionist - Yasukuni Shrine Museum. It is commonly used as a backdrop in news interviews regarding “the Yasukuni problem” - there was even a news crew interviewing some politician while I took this photograph.

There is now an official joint Japanese/Chinese history professor study group trying to work out their differences.

In other words, the ‘conservatives’ are losing influence, not gaining. This despite bringing back ‘patriotism’ into the classrooms and the push to de-pacify the constitution. Japan is growing up.

shrine visiting at new year

Meanwhile, current Prime Minister Shinzou Abe visited Meiji Shrine this January [2007]. Meiji, also located in Tokyo, is the biggest most popular shrine in Japan. Millions visit Meiji Shrine in the first few days of each New Year, as other millions visit other shrines, including Yasukuni.

A traditional fan dance at Yasukuni shrine.

Yasukuni is a very popular and rich shrine. Here is some free entertainment under one of the small sub-shrines: girls in Kimono doing traditional fan dances. (See also 8: traditional japanese dance.)

This New Year visit is called “hatsumoude”, or “first pilgrimage”, and is where the Japanese go to ‘pray’ for good things for the coming year. It is a bit like us in the West making New Year’s resolutions.

Hatsumoude, or 'first pilgrimage', at Yasukuni Shrine.

Hatsumoude at Yasukuni Shrine - the picture was taken on the 5th, which is after the main hatsumoude ‘season’, hence the fairly tame crowds. As you can see, Yasukuni is in the middle of a built-up area. The photograph shows one corner of the main courtyard, which is surrounded by shrine buildings, most of which are selling lucky charms of various sorts. The big building in the foreground is Yasukuni’s main shrine, where people line up to throw a small coin, bow twice, clap, bow again, and ‘pray’, then bow again and leave. The bowing and clapping is to get the attention of the gods. When you ‘pray’, please be specific and tell them your name and address, otherwise the gods won’t know who to help, or how to find you. ^_^

Now the usual suspects are trying to make out that Abe’s visit to Meiji Shrine was a sly signal to the ‘conservatives’ of a return to the ‘glory days’. This despite Abe deliberately avoiding Yasukuni to appease said same whiners. The whiners are much like the PC racists in America who constantly find ‘hidden’ racist messages in the words of others.

racism in japan

Meanwhile, there continues to be considerable anti-Korean and anti-Chinese racism in Japan. There are regular ‘documentaries’ about how the [Asian] foreigners are causing all the crime. (Along with feckless youth of course!)

The Tokyo mayor, Ishihara Shintarou, is a notorious racist.

However, sane people in high places are undermining those ‘arguments’.

How much of the racism relates to the Japanese flag burning parties and the like
regularly arranged/incited by politicians in China and South Korea, and how much
would happen anyway is not clear.

A small satellite shrine at Yasukuni.

Like all big shrines, Yasukuni is not just one shrine, but a complex of shrines, some very big and some, like this one, very cosy.

Note that Chinese and Koreans also tend to be highly racist - probably even more so than the Japanese - in the opposite direction. Japan is just the most recent of the three to invade and badly treat the other two. Thus all three tend to have somewhat of a fragile macho superiority complex regarding the other two, as well as simmering resentments.

The racism is rarely a problem for whites in Japan - in fact they tend to get treated better than other Japanese! That last is something which I have not heard of in South Korea or China. Blacks tend to be treated worse than other Asians in all three countries.

The racism tends to be far worse in the cities than in the countryside, despite the countryside being more ‘conservative’. I don't know if the same holds in China and South Korea.


Looking out from Yasukuni Shrine, including the main torii gate.

Looking out from inside. Through the archway, you can see the main torii gate (the big metal thing shaped like this: TT ). Every shrine has a torii gate at each entrance.[1]

Just how mainstream this racism is is hard to assess. It is on the television and in the papers. However, the Tokyo mayor aside, few top politicians give any hint of it. In general conversation, some, but not many, seem to be taken in by “foreigners causing all the crime” - it is the same sort that in the West complain that “the country is going to the dogs”.

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24: daylight tokyo
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21: religious works of art
first only when it's pretty
1: Mount Miyanoura, Japan

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  1. A torii gate is a traditional Japanese gate. It marks the entrance to a Shinto shrine and its holy ground, but can be outside a Buddhist shrine. The gate marks the gateway between the physical and spiritual worlds, and is often the only indication that a shrine is being entered. Although traditionally made of stone or wood, painted vermillion, a modern torii may be made of steel.
    The Torii gate at the Kirishima Jingu. Image credit: the auroran sunset