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Senior MSDF officers flocking to war-linked shrine

Kyodo

More than 100 senior Maritime Self-Defense Force officers have made an annual visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine this year.

According to a newsletter issued by the Tokyo shrine, 119 MSDF officers clad in uniform visited on Tuesday, May 20, just before embarking on a long training exercise.

Some intellectuals say the visits may breach the constitutional separation of state and religion, and that such action in uniform on a weekday could be viewed as a public duty.

The Defense Ministry insists the officers went to the shrine on their own accord during a break, and that they visited the Yasukuni facilities for educational purposes.

The newsletter has published articles on visits by MSDF officers every year dating back to at least 2000.

In the February 2012 issue, Upper House member Masahisa Sato, a former officer in the Ground Self-Defense Force, wrote an article saying that Japanese citizens should think about what to do to help bring Yasukuni and the SDF closer together.

Article 20 of the Constitution says “the state and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.”

Yasukuni began honoring wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and other Class-A war criminals in 1978, stirring controversy in Japan and abroad.

Visits to the shrine by political leaders always spark criticism from China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression and see Yasukuni as a symbol of the country’s past militarism.

Yasukuni Shrine enshrines about 2.47 million people “who dedicated their precious lives to defend the country,” mainly soldiers of Japan’s modern wars.

  • JimmyJM

    This is somewhat silly, or media trying to make a story out of nothing. Like civilians, military members are generally free to worship as they choose where they choose. Military members in other countries go to their houses of worship in uniform everyday. This action cannot be interpreted as a violation of the separation of church and state. The state did not tell these MSDF members what religion they must practice or when and where to do their communion. And the religion does not tell these members how to perform their military duties.

    • kension86

      Well in Canada and US, a cop’s prohibited from wearing uniform at a political meeting, with the only exception being he’s assigned to be on duty at that place. So the symbolism is there. On the other hand, the West do NOT prohibit cops or soldiers from wearing uniform in Church, even though a similar line of argument could be applied the same way they do for prohibition in political meeting. So it’s just a matter of where the line should be drawn.

      • JimmyJM

        Well, that’s police and at a political meeting. Entirely reasonable as people could take the wrong impression. In many countries (not already controlled by the military), the military is banned from attending political rallies in uniform. I know that applies to the U.S. and I believe it applies to Japan. I think religious observances are another matter.

  • David Christopher

    It means they have no remorse, and will do the same as their ancestors if and when asked to do so.