Yasukuni Shrine and the government discussed enshrining Class-A war criminals in 1969 and the shrine approved including them, nine years before it included their names, according to documents among papers related to the Yasukuni war criminals released Wednesday by the National Diet Library.
The collection “A New Compilation of Materials on the Yasukuni Shrine Problems” contains 808 items, including nearly 180 documents the Shinto Shrine has disclosed for the first time.
Among the documents are lists dated from Jan. 31, 1969, presented at a meeting between shrine officials and the then Health and Welfare Ministry of people who could be enshrined at Yasukuni and the document says the shrine and the ministry shared the view that Class-A war criminals are “able to be honored.”
The ministry and the shrine also agreed not to make public the idea that Yasukuni would enshrine the war criminals, a decision that appears to be linked to the constitutional issue of state and religion remaining separate.
Yasukuni, which enshrines the war dead, also included the names of 14 Class-A war criminals in 1978. After that time, the late Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting the shrine. The war criminals died after the war, including some who were hanged.
The issue of government involvement in Yasukuni’s honoring of war criminals and Japanese leaders’ visits to the shrine have been a diplomatic sore point with other parts of Asia, particularly China and South Korea.
Included in the 1,200-page packet are 15 documents related to the policy on Yasukuni of the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, which governed postwar Japan. These documents were collected by William Woodard, a GHQ researcher on Yasukuni, and were obtained by the library through the cooperation of the University of Oregon.
The last release of documents was of a collection in May 1976. The library has been receiving a growing number of inquiries from lawmakers about Yasukuni, a reflection of the growing debate over whether lawmakers should visit the war shrine and of its future.
Influential lawmakers have proposed putting the shrine under state control or building a secular national memorial to enable everyone, including the prime minister and the Emperor, to lay flowers, particularly since the annual Yasukuni visits starting in 2001 by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi angered neighboring parts of Asia.
The library said that due to the interest in the issue, it began looking for documents last year.
The library has printed 1,800 copies of the packet, which are only for lawmakers, administrative and judicial bodies, the media and other public organizations.