Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

"AUGUST 15", 1986

von MORIYAMA Tsutomu

Ever since Former Prime Minister MIKI Takeo paid his respects at Yasukuni Shrine in 1975, I have gone to the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine with concerned colleagues on Aug. 15 almost every year for the past 11 years to register a protest.

On Aug. 15, 1985, for the first time, the Japanese government, serving in the capacity of the representative of all Japanese citizens, including those who opposed or questioned this policy, put into effect the official government visit to Yasukuni Shrine to pay respects to the spirits of the war dead enshrined there.

With the policy of official government visits in effect, police strength within the shrine precincts became overwhelming, and merely joining together to voice a single word of protest resulted in being bodily removed from the shrine precincts by sheer brute force on the part of the assembled police.

The number of persons arrested this year was 8. The charge made against them was violation of the Petty Misdemeanour Law. However, realizing there was no grounds for the charge, the 8 were released on the following day. In truth, the motivation for the arrest was suppression of dissent.

At Kôjimachi Police Station

In a related incident, just at the point of handing a written protest regard this incident to the Kôjimachi Police Station, as in the case of the "happening" within the shrine precincts, once again we were bodily removed just at the point that we were to have a face-to-face meeting with the police.

Paying respects at Yasukuni Shrine in the name of all Japanese citizens is, of course, a violation of the separation of religion and state, as well as an infringement of freedom of religion. Nevertheless, the government obstinately insists that if such paying of respects involves no formal Shinto ceremonial ritual, but instead only takes the form of a ceremonial bow, similar to that of an American president who pays respects at Arlington National Cemetery, this act does not represent a violation of the separation of religion and state.

Because the act of bowing deeply to the spirits of the war dead as the deities enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine, an officially registered religious body, is a religious act, this can only be recognized as a false syllogism of calling black, white.

The government also maintains that respects can be paid to Japanese citizens who died in the war at Yasukuni Shrine, which it declares to be acknowledged by national consensus as the central institution for mourning those who have fallen in war.

In this regard, there is not a single shred of concern by the government with respect to freedom of religion. Because this official paying of respect at Yasukuni Shrine is said to be an act of all Japanese citizens - even me -, it is an act which causes me excruciating personal agony.

At present, lawsuits maintaining that such official government worship at Yasukuni Shrine violates the constitution are being contested in 3 different places. For me there is personal meaning in these lawsuits, in that they somehow serve to assuage my mental anguish.

One of the reasons for the severe criticism and intense anger of the people of the People's Republic of China and other Asian countries, with respect to the official government visits to Yasukuni Shrine, is that this becomes an act of the state paying honor to the enshrined Class A war criminals who were the ringleaders of Japan's 15-year war. Thus, the anger of the peoples of Asia is completely justified. Such anger results from the war criminals of the invading country being worshipped as gods, as spirits of the war dead, and, as such, their being totally vindicated of all responsibility for the events of the war.

At the same time, Asian people interpret these official visits to Yasukuni Shrine to represent all Japanese people paying homage to those enshrined there. Thus the term "official" contains a very significant meaning.

Asian people feel exactly the same way with respect to the realities of Japan's wartime aggression being distorted and the truth being covered up in textbooks which are used today in the education of Japanese children and youth. In the case of both official visits to Yasukuni Shrine and Japanese textbooks, the realities of Japan's wartime aggression are being falsely depicted.

The government, affirming the militarism which ruled Japan until her defeat in WWII and scheming to increase the authority of the emperor, is creating a perversion of historical reality. No wonder that this results in strong opposition on the part of persons in other countries.

Since the occasion of the first official state visit to Yasukuni Shrine in 1985, activities of note have included the organization of the National Liaison Council of Associations of Wartime Bereaved Seeking Peace (Heiwa Izokukai) ; the previously-mentioned lawsuits declaring the official shrine visits to be a violation of the constitution, and many meetings this year on the anniversary of the end of WWII in both Tokyo and Osaka. Many of these featured testimonies of persons from other Asian countries who were victims of Japan's wartime aggression. A meeting held on Aug. 8 in Tokyo declared, "We will never again allow official visits to Yasukuni Shrine!"

7:00 am: Christians pray for Peace at Chidorigafuchi War Dead Tomb near Yasukuni Shrine

And although this year the Aug. 15 official government visit to Yasukuni Shrine by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister was cancelled, 5 members of the Prime Minister's cabinet actually paid visits in their official capacity, while 11 other cabinet ministers paid their respects to the spirits of the war dead in a private capacity.

As can be seen by such statements as that of Education Minister Fujio, who recently declared, "Korea also bears some responsibility for Japan's annexation of that country" , Japanese people today are far too unaware of the sacrifice of persons colonized under the Japanese invasion. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that Japanese continue to hear the testimonies of Asians who became victims of that war.

The National Liaison Council of Associations of Wartime Bereaved Seeking Peace was organized in opposition to the Japan Association for the Bereaved Families of the War Dead, an association which promotes the official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. These visits are in themselves preparation for war. This newly formed Liaison Council will no doubt continue to expand in the future.

This year, although the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and others did not pay a visit to Yasukuni Shrine, this in no way represents the government's withdrawal of its arguments on the constitutionality of such official visits. Rather, the government is aiming to reach an agreement with the Diet on this issue. Furthermore, it is concocting a scheme to withdraw the enshrined Class A war criminals from the shrine, thus avoiding criticism from other countries. However, this plan to remove those officially enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine, an officially registered religious body, represents a total violation of the separation of religion and state.

The government was forced to accept severe criticism, both at home and abroad, for the first official visit to Yasukuni Shrine. In spite of the fact that such a visit had been an impossibility originally, at the point at which it was brazenly carried out, it resulted in many thorny problems.

As a Japanese, I regret the fact that Japanese citizens were unable to prevent the official government visits to Yasukuni Shrine. My fervent desire is that we may now join together in increased solidarity with other Asian people to continue in this struggle.


Pastor, Honjo Rokusei Church; Secretary of Kyôdan Special Comm. on Yasukuni Shrine Issue (tr. by CF)
Quelle: Kyôdan Newsletter 208, September 20, 1986


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