Hirohito rued war criminals’ enshrinement

'Sorrow' in poem over Yasukuni's shift, impact Kyodo News

Kyodo News

The late Emperor Hirohito worried that Yasukuni Shrine’s move to honor Class-A war criminals would adversely affect Japan’s future relations with its former wartime foes as well as change the nature of the institution dedicated to the nation’s war dead, a source said Friday.

It was reported in July last year that a memo by a former Imperial Household Agency chief indicated that Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, was displeased by the Tokyo shrine’s 1970s inclusion of Class-A war criminals.

But the specific reasons for his discontent about the war criminals’ enshrinement were not known.

According to poet Hirohiko Okano, the late Yoshihiro Tokugawa, a former grand chamberlain to Emperor Hirohito, revealed to him the views expressed by the monarch.

Tokugawa visited Okano in fall 1986 to seek his advice regarding dozens of “waka” poems that were composed by Emperor Hirohito, Okano said.

One of the poems had a line expressing “deep sorrow” about Yasukuni Shrine.

Okano said he asked Tokugawa about what the “sorrow” could possibly refer to and Tokugawa cited the honoring of Class-A war criminals at the shrine and said, “His Majesty held a view opposed to the enshrinement of Class-A war criminals. There are two reasons.

“One is that he believes it would alter the nature of the enshrined deities when (Yasukuni Shrine) is made to soothe the souls of people who went to war for the country and died in wars,” the grand chamberlain was quoted as saying.

Tokugawa also said that Emperor Hirohito held “the view that it will leave a deep source of problems for the future with regard to countries involved in war” with Japan, according to Okano.

Okano said that in explaining the background to the composition of the verse, the former grand chamberlain told him that, “If such ‘sorrow’ had been explicitly represented in the poem, it would have had an adverse effect, so a request was made to add a touch of euphemism.”

Okano was a professor at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo at the time Tokugawa consulted him about the poems.

Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting Yasukuni Shrine in 1975.

He reportedly said after the Class-A war criminals were included that he had no plans to visit the shrine again.