Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

A court struggle over the enshrine of my husband


At age twenty-three I was introduced to Christianity and was soon baptized. Ten months later I was married to a member of the Self-Defense Force, hoping that my marriage would change my life and would be pleasing to God. Though we moved to Iwate Prefecture I occasionally attended church, but this became increasingly impossible with my family responsibilities.

My husband had had family relationship problems in his youth, and so joined the Self-Defense Force. Nine years after our marriage, when our son was in first grade, my husband was killed in a traffic accident while on duty. At that time I returned to his family home, realizing both how economically and spiritually dependent I had become on him and that I must now be responsible for my own life At this time I once again returned to the church.

In the role of my husband's widow living in his family home, practicing my Christian faith became impossible, and while my father-in-law and other members of the family opposed my leaving because of the disgrace it would bring, I quietly left the house hoping that they might one day understand my position. After leaving I continued the Christian observance of my husband's death while my father-in-law memorialized his death in the Buddhist manner.

In 1972 when a local SDF representative repeatedly came to my house seeking various certificates related to my husband's death and his service and rank in the SDF, in reply to my questioning why they needed these documents, I was finally told that a deceased SDF member is enshrined as a god of the State at the local Shinto shrine related to Yasukuni Shrine. As a result of my study in church and my participation in various activities opposing the resurgence of Japan's militarism, I had come to feel that I wanted to have nothing to do with the SDF, and so I replied, "I am a Christian, and my husband's ashes are in the church vault. It is not necessary for my husband to be enshrined or memorialized in a Shinto shrine as well."

Despite this, three months later I was notified by the SDF that my husband was being enshrined at the local shrine. When I informed them that this was a mistake, they replied that even though I refused his enshrinement, it was only right to accept the State's small compensation for his death, and that it was their strong wish and duty to remember deceased members in this way in order to increase pride among SDF members. Thus, the enshrinement was carried out despite the family's wish. Even so, my answer has remained firm.

Each time I protest my husband's enshrinement I recall how the SDF took complete control of the events immediately following my husband's death to the extent that I was neither allowed to spend that first night by his body nor take his body home with my son and myself. In fact, I had no time alone with him even to hid farewell. So now, once again,at the time of his enshrinement I was separated from my husband by the SDF which completely disregarded my wishes.

Instead of acceding to my request, they approached my father-in-law and our go-betweens to exert pressure on me to cease my protests. When I refused I was told that my husband's actual enshrinement had been carried out by the Taiyûkai (隊友会), the Association of SDF Supporters, and that I should talk to them. I also received the copy of my father-in-law's petition stating that my position had angered the family and that my husband had once said that he would guard the nation even after his death. Thus, the enshrinement issue further ruptured our family relationship.

In this difficult experience I received much support from my local church, the district, the National Executive Committee of the Kyôdan, NCC-J, Christian lawyers who backed me in court and labor unions.

In 1973 in a court case against the State and the Taiyûkai, I demanded withdrawal of my husband's name from the shrine on the grounds of the separation of religion and the state and the freedom of religion as guaranteed in Article 20 of the Constitution. When damage fees were set at one million yen I received threats on my life, calling me a thief, anti-national and Communist both at home and at work. I was also told that I could not complain as I had willingly married a SDF member.

At that time I received many encouraging letters from individuals and support groups from whom I learned of the continued protest again the nationalization of Yasukuni Shrine in relation to my case, as well as Japan's wartime action in forcing other Asian nations into obedience to the emperor. I was reminded that any struggle against State power would be a long one. When I grew weary, the support I received made it possible for me to continue my struggle, not only for my own sake.

After twenty-four trials lasting six years which resulted in a favorable decision supporting my right to commemorate my husband according to my own religion even though his name is still placed in the shrine, the SDF has now appealed the case to the Supreme Court, but the decision will not be handed down for two years.

My life has been completely changed as a result of my husband's death. Every area of my value system has been called into question. I feel very strongly that we cannot avoid responsibility for the fact that our daily lives are closely related to the ongoing development of nationalism at the expense of the oppression of other human beings.

For me, the court struggle to countermand the enshrinement of my husband has become a personal struggle for liberation from a dehumanizing value system that was interwoven into the very fabric of my life. As I look back on the struggle of the past ten years, I pray for God's continued mercy and guidance in the future on the activities of the groups supporting me.

(Japan Christian Activity News 595, March 22, 1983)


Der Yasukuni-Schrein (2007)



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