Skip to main content
Updated date:

The Yasukuni War Shrine: The Japanese Revere their War Dead

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead
the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead
the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead

Introduction

The second world war is a watershed event in world history. In particular, it is important that after hundreds of years a nation from the east rose like the Phoenix to dominate Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Japanese lost the Second World War and that is a fact of history. They also lost 2.5 million dead and some of their military and civil leaders were tried in a dubious war crimes trial and hanged. The Japanese invasion and conquest of Southeast Asia however had its plus points. The end of the war saw the destruction of the imperialist powers and their empires like the United Kingdom and France. The imperialist powers and that also included the Dutch were evicted from their colonies never to return.

The Japanese army in the occupied areas did commit atrocities and also kidnapped thousands of young women to serve as 'comfort women' for their soldiers. In this respect, they behaved like the ancient Mongol hordes. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army however were not sanctioned by the war cabinet and emperor. Thus at the International War Crimes Tribunal at Tokyo, justice Binod Pal gave a dissenting judgment and declared the Japanese leadership not guilty of any war crime. In his dissenting judgment, he went on to add that the US generals who had dropped the atomic bombs on Japan needed to be also tried by this tribunal. The judge finds a hallowed place in the shrine.

For a long time, the Japanese wondered how to commemorate their dead during this war, which the Japanese feel was a righteous war sanctioned by God. They do not acknowledge defeat. They got around by setting up peace museums in a few places in Japan. The most famous is the Yasukuni War Shrine in Tokyo.


the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead
the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead
the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead

The shrine museum

The Yasukuni War Museum and Shrine is located in the heart of Tokyo. I had visited this shrine in 2012 on my way to the United States. This shrine is impeccably maintained and has some lovely exhibits. One can see the famous Zero fighter on display as well as the rail Engine which pulled the train in Thailand. The Shrine also houses the ashes of the so-called war criminals hanged by the Americans. These ashes are held in awe and respect. A sore point with the Japanese is the hanging of the political leadership led by General Hideki Tojo the Prime Minister, in what they feel was a farcical trial.

The museum is spread over 2 floors and the ground floor entry is free. The walls of the museum give the Japanese version of the War and it's interesting to see the Japanese viewpoint. The museum is a sore point with the areas occupied by Japan notably China, Korea, and the Philippines. They do not want that any honor is given to Japan's dead during the war. But the Japanese political leadership still visit the shrine and pay homage to the war dead. Japan has a military tradition of 3000 years and the Japanese honor their army. They also hold in reverence the generals and leaders who led Japan during the war. The Japanese have a deep belief in the afterlife and this theme pervades the museum. It's a beautiful place and without going into politics, I will say it's a place worth visiting.

The shrine also holds the ashes of the so-called war criminals hanged by the Americans and is basically a memory for all the Imperial army soldiers who died in the war.

The shrine is regularly visited and many Japanese go there to pray for the departed souls. The political leadership also regularly pay their homage at the shrine. The Japanese are Buddhists and believe in the theory of transmigration of souls and rebirth like Hinduism. The Buddha was born a higher caste Hindu and is recognized in Hinduism as the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu. I bring out this point basically to allow people to understand the psyche of the Japanese people which is deeply spiritual akin to Hindu philosophy.

Homage to Indian judge Justice Pal who gave dissenting judgement at Tokyo trial

Homage to Indian judge Justice Pal who gave dissenting judgement at Tokyo trial

the-yasukuni-war-shrine-the-japanese-revere-their-war-dead

Last word

The war is done and gone but after 75 years of its end, the Japanese on prodding from the United States are now rebuilding themselves militarily. The Japanese military budget is increasing and now they are in alliance with the United States and both of them see a common danger in China. The Japanese are also making overtures to India whose wartime leader Subhas Chandra Bose had allied with them for the freedom of India. He died in a plane crash in 1945 and his ashes are preserved in a Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

The war shrine and Museum is an extremely tranquil place and one wonders that it honors those souls who had set east Asia ablaze. Nevertheless, I will recommend to all visitors to Tokyo to spare time and visit the war shrine which pays homage to Japan's war dead. May their souls live in peace.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Ruby, thanks. I have been doing some research on this topic ever since Tom made that comment. There appears to be some truth in this but it is not verified. No charge of this nature was also framed in the war crimes tribunal.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Peggy, thanks a lot for commenting. Personally I agree with you that any shrine that glorifies war should not be allowed otherwise how will we get out of this war syndrome.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 28, 2020:

It is interesting to read about the war shrine in Tokyo. It is too bad that such shrines have to exist at all. War is horrific no matter what the underlying reasons for starting them.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 28, 2020:

Interesting topic. WW2 will go down as horrible. I hope it's not true that the Japanese ate human flesh.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Tom, there are no authenticated reports on this but some people with vested interests did spread this info.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Tom, yes atrocities were committed in Andaman islands. Both the generals were executed for other reasons but the story of eating human flesh has not been heard by me.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Tom, you have raised a hell of a lot of points. The dissenting judgement of Justice Pal is well known. He stated that atrocities were committed but not on orders of the Imperial cabinet.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Thank you Lt Col for commenting. The Japs certainly taught the Chinks a lesson.

Lt Col Parduman Singh on December 28, 2020:

Thank you for a wonderful article on the war shrine. It is correct that the Japanese honor their war heroes as it should be. It does not matter that they lost but the important thing is that they stood and fought and beat the hell out of the British and French. They also taught China lessons and we all know that when the Japanese soldiers passed the Chinese did not look in the face and bowed their heads down. India must remember not to buckle to the Chinese who in any case are very poor soldiers.

Related Articles