People who lost relatives during the war and are against politicians’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine gathered Wednesday in Tokyo to confirm their commitment to protecting the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9.
They are hopeful that the Liberal Democratic Party’s defeat in the July 29 Upper House election has dampened political calls to rewrite the Constitution.
But as the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ activities has been expanded in the past several years, participants said it is increasingly important to raise their voices.
“We should never forget what the country did in many parts of Asia (during the war), and continue to protect the Constitution,” said Shigenori Nishikawa, a representative of the group Heiwa Izokukai Zenkoku Renrakukai, which organized the rally.
The 260 participants held a minute of silence to pray for the victims of the war instead of going to the national memorial service for the war dead held by the government at Nippon Budokan Hall in Chiyoda Ward.
Shortly past noon, the participants paraded near Yasukuni Shrine, many of them holding banners and placards that read: “Yasukuni Shrine visits (by politicians) are unconstitutional,” “Let’s unite to keep Article 9 as it is” and “Don’t use the deceased as political tools.”
The participants were warned by the organizer in advance not to be angered by rightwingers who might try to provoke them during the 30-minute walk near the shrine.
Among those marching under the hot sun was Katsuko Tsuhako, 68, from Kanagawa Prefecture, who has taken part in the annual rally since 1985, when the group was established to protest then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s official visit to Yasukuni Shrine. His visit provoked outrage both in Japan and abroad.
Originally from Okinawa, Tsuhako said she lost her father in combat in the Philippines when she was 3 years old.
“A war not only takes people’s lives but really takes away the power of those who are left behind. It also destroys the environment as well,” said Tsuhako, noting she doesn’t have any memories of her father. “I really want people to understand that peace is the only thing that can save all humans.”
A 67-year-old woman from Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, who also has participated in the event every year said she opposes political leaders’ visits to Yasukuni because the Shinto shrine was an institution that induced people before the war to believe that dying for the country was an act of glory.
“I sincerely feel sorry for families who lost loved ones during the war (and visit Yasukuni), but what the shrine represented was wrong and scary, and I want more people to realize that,” she said.