Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has recently made his annual visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. For those not familiar with the significance of the Yasukuni Shrine, there are two possible explanations:
  • It houses Japanese war dead and thus would be the equivalent of Arlington National Cemetary.

  • It is the resting place of numerous Class A war criminals from the Second World War and thus it represents all of the crimes committed by the Japanese in that war.
For more information on the shrine (and to decide which interpretation you agree with), see the above link to the Wikipedia article on the subject. Once you decide how to interpret the shrine's significance, everything else falls into place.

Koizumi visits the shrine every year in accordance with his election promise to do so. Countries that suffered at the hands of the Japanese complain every year, with China leading the way. These annual visits and the annual approval by the Japanese government of textbooks that overlook and/or minimize Japanese war crimes ensure that the issue of Japan's war guilt is never far from the minds of Asian leaders and peoples.

Some questions for discussion:
  • Why does Koizumi visit every year? I have read somewhere (I can't find it now) that these visits aren't all that popular with the Japanese people. Why do it? [There is an interesting discussion on this very topic at The Peking Duck]

  • Are China, South Korea, etc. justified in complaining about Koizumi's visits? He claims to be visiting as a private citizen, not as prime minister.

  • If Japan stopped having a government body approve kids textbooks (thus removing the government's responsibility for its content) and the Prime Minister stopped visiting Yasukuni, would the issue of Japan's aggression in the Second World War fade in importance in East Asian politics?

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