Why does the prime minister continue his Yasukuni Shrine visits although he draws a line of distinction between his view of war and Yasukuni's view?
Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro made some telling remarks during Japanese Communist Party Executive Committee Chair Shii Kazuo's questioning at the June 2 House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting.
In reply to Shii's question whether the prime minister knows that Yasukuni Shrine "justifies Japan's past war," Koizumi answered, "I know that Yasukuni Shrine has and expresses that view," and added, "Yasukuni has its own way of thinking, but it is not the same as the government's." Prime Minister Koizumi, then, asked not to take his visit "as an expression of support for Yasukuni's view."
Concerning Ysukuni Shrine shifting the blame for the outbreak of the Pacific War onto the United States, Prime Minister Koizumi said, "In terms of responsibility for the war, Japan started the war, so the war responsibility rests with Japan." Thus, he expressed a position distinct from Yasukuni's view and admitted Japan's war responsibility.
Listening to the debate between Shii and Koizumi, many people began to ask, "Why does he continue visits to the shrine that declares its primary mission is to justify the war?"
For those who have this question, the Prime Minister's excuse, "I visit the shrine simply because I want to pay tribute to war victims", sounds extremely unconvincing and hollow.
The situation surrounding this matter is changing. Opinion polls show that the majority of the people are opposed to the prime minister's visits to the shrine. Even influential politicians of the Liberal Democratic Party have called for a cancellation or a review of the prime minister's visits.
Prime Minister Koizumi, however, intends to go ahead with his visits as a default policy and tries to get through the matter by switching the promise he made to other countries from "making appropriate decisions" on rights and wrongs of his visits to a "decision" on the date and time.
It is clear that Japan's diplomacy cannot get away from the present impasse by doing that. Yet, what makes Prime Minister Koizumi stick to his visits to Yasukuni?
Documentary film produced by the Association for Honoring Fallen Heroes
One of the keys to solve this question is found at Yasukuni Shrine.
On the second floor of the war memorial museum, Yushukan, there is a film hall on the east side of the exhibition hall. There, documentary films depicting Yasukuni's view of history are shown everyday. The film "We shall never forget" (produced by the Japan Conference and the Association for Honoring Fallen Heroes, sponsored by Yasukuni Shrine) is one of them. "Wish to come across you" is a similar documentary produced by the Association for Honoring Fallen Heroes.
The Association for Honoring Fallen Heroes is one of the main organizations supporting the Yasukuni's view of history. It has its office is in Yushukan.
The first half of the documentary film is devoted to describing Japan's war history in accord with Yasukuni's view. It is the same subject as "We shall never forget," but the film has its own keynote message.
It is a political message demanding the prime minister of Japan visit Yasukuni Shrine.
The film starts with peaceful scenery of present Japan. As it changes to a sea scene that reminds the audience of the Pacific Ocean, the following narration is heard.
Some 50 years ago, this country was fighting a war. Whether Japan would live or die, it was fought for the existence of this country. It was the Greater East Asia War. It was the war that Japanese people made their best efforts to win.
Why were prime ministers' visits to Yasukuni halted?
The scene changes to a spokesman of the Imperial Headquarters announcing on the early morning of December 8, 1941 the success of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a sortie base of the U.S. Navy. With the map of "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" showing how large the battle area is, the narration begins:
Every one capable of fighting went to the battlefields for the nation as well as to protect their loving families and sweethearts.
However, the voices of the noble souls of fallen heroes have not been heard by the country and the people. Furthermore, they have been forced to shoulder the guilt for the Japan's alleged war of aggression and wrongdoings by the army.
The Prime minister's Yasukuni Shrine visits as the head of the Japanese government have been suspended. Why?
Is it because some people criticize the Greater East Asia War? Is it because you feel that Japan carried out a war of aggression? Is it because you believe that the Japanese Army committed atrocities? Don't you have any sentiment to offer thanks to the souls of departed war heroes?
Thus, in the name of the "souls of departed war heroes," the prime ministers are condemned for suspending the Yasukuni Shrine visit. This is the point of the document.
The date of production is not indicated in the film, but according to association's documents, it was made early in 2000.
Since the prime minister's visits were suspended after Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro's final official visit in 1985, ideologues of the "Yasukuni's view of history" have been calling for its resumption. They made the movie in 2000 to have their demand take a contemporary form.
Call for Yasukuni Shrine visits in relation to war history
Following their calls for resuming top leaders' official Yasukuni Shrine visits, the film presents Yasukuni's view of Japan's war history from the Sino-Japan War and the Russo-Japan War to the "Greater East Asia War" by saying: we want to tell you "What was the truth about the war? What feelings did young soldiers have in order to defend Japan?" The commentator of the war history was a member of the Imperial Headquarters Army staff office. Explanations of war pictures are given just like the war propaganda the military imposed on the public during the war.
The narration emphatically repeats that the war Japan waged was for "survival and self-defense." Japan's series of victories at the initial stage of the "Greater East Asia War" reversed toward its defeat facing U.S. counteroffensives. Shots of the corpses of Japanese soldiers in heaps who died "honorable deaths" are projected on and on; it is to draw attention to the next narration.
The Japanese army fought till their last without surrendering themselves to the enemy. For what sake? It was for Japan's sake. They heaped their own corpses for the sake of their families, and loved ones, wishing the landing of U.S. forces on Japan's mainland be delayed.
Can you say to those dead Japanese soldiers that they were wrong?
Japan is now an independent country. Its pride and self-awareness must lead the Japanese government to the wholehearted mourning for the dead of the Greater East Asia War and other wars.
This narration to justify the war by making use of the public sentiment of mourning for the war dead is followed by the call for resuming Yasukuni Shrine visits by the prime minister, again in the name of the "souls of departed war heroes":
Only when the prime minister, all cabinet ministers, heads of other government branches of legislation and judicature, and His Majesty the Emperor make visits to Yasukuni Shrine, can the souls of the departed war heroes be reposed and all the war bereaved throughout the nation can be calmed.
First prime minister to give in to the request
Koizumi Jun'ichiro became prime minister in April 2001 after he won in the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party. It was the year after the film was made.
From the year he was first elected to be LDP president, Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine every year in a chain of four visits to date.
In the list of prime ministers since Nakasone Yasuhiro, no one, including Takeshita Noboru, Uno Sosuke, Kaifu Toshiki, Miyazawa Kiichi, Hosokawa Morihiro, Hata Tsutomu, Murayama Tomiichi, Hashimoto Ryutaro, Obuchi Keizo, and Mori Yoshiro, took a similar attitude to Koizumi's concerning their visits to Yasukuni Shrine. It seemed that some visited the shrine once during their term, but none visited more than once.
This demonstrates that, by visiting Yasukuni Shrine every year without fail, Prime Minister Koizumi has become the first prime minister to accept the request of advocates of the "Yasukuni's view of history", including the Society for the Spirit of War Dead Heroes.
The preceding paragraphs are given to show that their request for the prime minister's visit stems from their ambition to justify Japan's past war. Their request is unreasonable.
What is more, they slandered the prime minister's statement to the Japanese people and to the rest of the world about the government official position of remorse for "colonialism and aggression" as a "lie and error." (see Akahata June 7, "The Extremity of 'Yasukuni's View of History")
If the prime minister insists on making the Yasukuni Shrine visit partly out of the sense of obligation to the ideologues of "Yasukuni's view of history", he is putting partisan or, in more exact words, ideological interests before national interests, which is typically an inverted government.
The prime minister should cut any unreasonable ties and earnestly pursue a foreign policy for Japan open to the future.
They aim at making the Yasukuni visit a national event joined by the emperor
The request for Japan's war to be justified by the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni Shrine goes further. Advocates for "Yasukuni" have an outrageous plan that the "Yasukuni's view of history" be elevated to national theory by treating Yasukuni visits as a national event.
The above-mentioned film in its final part makes a proposal that the prime minister's Yasukuni visits be developed into a joint visit by all cabinet ministers, the chairs of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Further the emperor is also expected to join it. Thus, if visits to Yasukuni Shrine become a national event in which all state functions are represented, it will help the view that "Japan's war was a just war" to be officially approved as the recognized national opinion. The calculation they put in the plan is obvious.
Their ambition to reverse history must be thwarted for the sake of Japan's future and for peace in Asia and the rest of the world.
Prime Minister's decision on no more visits is necessary to break diplomatic difficulties and open Japan's future
As referred to in the beginning of this article, Prime Minister Koizumi in the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on June 2 made it clear that he is not siding with Yasukuni Shrine justifying Japan's war.
If this really stands for his true position, he should make a political decision to stop the shrine visits now that the shrine's extraordinary view of war has become clear and the "Yasukuni" group has revealed their political calculation of trying to impose their view of war on the people by taking advantage of the prime minister's shrine visits.
We again demand this of Prime Minister Koizumi.
The decision will make clear to the world that Japan's remorse for the past war and colonialism has serious substance. It will also greatly help Japan move away from the present diplomatic impasse, and this will without fail have positive effects for Japan in the future.
-- Akahata, June 11, 2005