Group tells Yasukuni Shrine to ditch convicted war criminals

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

An influential group that represents families of the war dead is urging Yasukuni Shrine to remove the names of the convicted war criminals currently enshrined there, an official said Wednesday.

A chapter of the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association passed a resolution at its annual meeting Monday, calling on the shrine’s governors to delist the names from the 2½ million Japanese souls honored there.

The change would enable “the Emperor and the Empress, the prime minister and all Japanese people to visit Yasukuni Shrine without discomfort,” an official from the group’s chapter in Fukuoka told reporters.

Similar calls have been heard over the years, both inside Japan and overseas.

The names include that of army Gen. and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nationalists, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, argue that the Tokyo shrine is no different from war memorials in other countries, such as Arlington National Cemetery in the United States.

But the secret addition of World War II leaders to the Yasukuni list in 1978 caused Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, to cancel a planned visit, according to a memo by one of his aides.

His son, Emperor Akihito, has never visited the shrine.

Japanese politicians stoke anger in China and South Korea whenever they visit the shrine. Those nations suffered at the hands of Japanese aggression in the first half of the 20th century and regard visits by political leaders as insensitive triumphalism.

A small section of the political right believes Japan is unfairly criticized for its wartime past, saying the international military tribunal that convicted the leaders was practicing the justice of the victors and that Japan’s empire-building was no different from that of the European powers.

The issue has soured ties with Japan’s neighbors and even prompted a scolding from the United States when Abe visited the shrine last year.

Japan’s leader has not held formal talks with either China’s President Xi Jinping or South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye since they came to office.

Abe’s visit to the controversial shrine came amid a near-crisis in relations with Beijing, strained by sparring over the sovereignty of an island chain in the East China Sea.

Abe made brief contact with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang earlier this month at an international gathering in Italy, a sign that relations may be thawing. Abe hopes to meet with Xi on the sidelines of an international summit in Beijing next month.

In an effort to lay the groundwork for a bilateral summit, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda met with Xi in Beijing on Wednesday, less than two weeks ahead of a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders.

  • Japanese Bull Fighter

    “A small section of the political right believes Japan is unfairly
    criticized for its wartime past, saying the international military
    tribunal that convicted the leaders was practicing the justice of the
    victors and that Japan’s empire-building was no different from that of
    the European powers.” This is not the view of just the Japanese right-wing. The term “victors justice” originated with the American historian Richard Minear and his book “Victors Justice” published in 1971. The idea that “Japan’s empire-building was no different from that of the European powers” was the view of Radhabinod Pal a Bengali judge at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (aka Tokyo War Crimes Trial). Americans criticizing the trial have been toward the left, not the right. Pal was no rightist.

    • JimmyJM

      I recommend reading the book The Tokyo War Crimes Trial by Yuma Totani. The author pretty well lays to rest the idea of “Victor’s Justice”. While the trial was hardly fair and unbiased, it did cover most of the crimes committed by the IJA/N and the main perpetrators. And Justice Pal who was well known for his anti-American and leftist views gets a fair shake. He did vote against virtually every decision the tribunal made.

      As for this article, I couldn’t agree with the War-Bereaved Families Association more. If the Emperor and Empress won’t visit the shrine while the convicted criminals are interred there, it hardly seems right for any Japanese PM to do so.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Yuma Totani basically says that when the American prosecution could not prove that those on trial were guilty of crimes against peace (rather like Bush, Cheney, and Blair), they added conventional war crimes (atrocities) into the mix. To convict people they relied on their assertion that if you failed to prevent an atrocity, you were guilty. They thus convicted civilians of atrocities carried out by the military although those civilians had no control over the military. Pal was not notably anti-American. If anything as a Bengali living under British colonial rule of India, he was anti-British. There is not a single “convicted criminal” interred at Yasukuni Shrine. Indeed, there is not a single person interred there. It is not a cemetary. It maintains a registry. That’s all. There is a cemetary in the neighborhood, the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetary for unknown war dead, but it is not connected to Yasukuni Shrine and it has not been a political issue.

      • PettyJapanTimesMods

        People defy logic.

      • PettyJapanTimesMods

        Well; was it the Emporer the one who ultimately ordered the war (perhaps to prevent Japan becoming like another Moari population as per New Zealand taken over by the British?), and not the PM responsible? The PM represents the families of the ordianry Japanese people killed in the war/s they were conscripted to (including representing the hundreds of thousands of Japanese women and children burned alive in the Japanese cities during `allied` carpet-bombing? [and nukes]).

        All in all; it would be easier to have a ceremony to remove the sins of the guilty with a forgiving ceremony for the dead AFTER understanding all aspects of why the war started (if that is possible without starting another war) and after getting the understanding of the countries who had tried to invade Japan a number of times over the Centuries.

    • GIJ

      The author of this article never explicitly implied that members of the political right wing in Japan are the only people on earth who subscribe to the “victors’ justice” view of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. Of course that is not the case and most people realize that. Not surprising that some overseas academics like Minear and other outsiders sympathetic to Japan came to believe such a thing. But members of the political right wing in Japan are the only people who matter electorally to Abe Shinzo. I doubt he really cares what American professors of modern Japanese history think, no matter what their views.

      Also, regarding Judge Pal on India it may very well be the case that he saw moral equivalency between Western and Japanese imperialism. But this isn’t the narrative that Japanese right wingers promote. Instead they have portrayed Judge Pal as a pro-Japan jurist who viewed the Japanese as somehow superior to the Western powers. This is not true, as a full reading of Judge Pal’s comments on Japanese wartime conduct show.

      This distortion of Judge Pal’s commentary by Japanese right-wingers has led some people in Japan to believe that he and Indians in general were willing to exonerate Japanese for their wartime conduct and perhaps even felt regret that Japanese armed forces were unable to break through past Imphal and make their way to Calcutta and “liberate” Indians living there under British rule. I find it hard to believe that more than a tiny group of Indians or even just ethnic Bengalis ever felt this way, even when the British were presiding over a famine that killed some three million people in Bengal in 1943.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        You are partially right on Pal. I always point out to any Japanese who celebrates Pal that he in fact harshly condemned Japanese imperialism and wartime atrocities. He did not exonerate the Japanese but rather said that white imperialists were not the people who should be judging them. There were in fact a fair number of Indians who supported the Japanese. Look up “Indian National Army” or “Subhas Chandra Bose” for details. “Members of the political right wing” are NOT the only people who “matter electorally to Abe Shinzo.” For better or worse, he enjoys fairly broad support. Neither he nor the LDP would win elections so consistently if they only depended on “right-wing” support. If you want to know what real “right-wing” politics are about, read up on the French National Front or the British BNP. Further, I would note that in American terms, Abe is not a right-winger. He is not trying to take away the national health insurance system, he is not anti-abortion, he is not anti-immigrant, he is not for lower taxes and smaller government, he is not trying to put prayer into our classrooms, he is not trying to get the Biblical account of creation taught along side or in place of evolution, etc.

      • GIJ

        Let me rephrase what I meant to say about electoral politics in Japan: Of all the people are on earth who subscribe to what some would call the “right-wing” or “revisionist” view of Japan as a victim of victors’ justice after World War II, the only ones who matter to Abe are Japanese citizens residing in Japan because they vote. Of course Abe’s domestic political coalition extends beyond the Japanese right-wing. It is individuals outside of Japan who share this “victors’ justice” view who do not matter electorally to Abe and the LDP. That is what I meant to write in response to your bringing up somebody like Richard Minear.

        RE India during World War II, yes of course Bose and the Indian National Army are well known. What is inaccurate, however, is this seemingly widespread notion among some revisionist Japanese that Indians spent the war years praying to their Hindu and Muslim and other gods that those “benevolent, anti-imperial” Japanese soldiers would break through at Imphal and come to “liberate” their “little brown brothers” from 200 plus years of British imperial domination. Again, I really very much doubt that any such thinking became commonplace among ordinary Indians during the war years. People like Bose (an elite Indian who attended Cambridge) were another matter.

        In the end, my main point is that the appropriation of Judge Pal by certain elements within Japan has created distorted views of what exactly *ordinary* Indians wanted during that era. Of course, “right-wing” types in India today share a good deal of the blame for promoting these distorted views too, as they see great benefits in linking up with revisionist types like Abe in Japan for the purpose of forming some kind of imagined Indo-Japan coalition against China.

  • timefox

    A participle is the same as denying the doctrine of Yasukuni Jinja. It could not interfere in a doctrine, if separation of church and state is followed at all.

  • Ahojanen

    Two questions arise;

    1. Technically is it possible to separate Class-A war criminals from other “ordinary” war dead? How exactly is it done and confirmed? I mean, there are no dead bodies or any remains inside Yasukuni (which lots of people seem to misconceive. Rather it is sort of registration on the list.

    2. Could such a “deal” satisfy China or Korea? I am afraid that they will never stop politicising the issue. Their demands would be escalating, like the entire removal of war criminals –> the destruction of Yasukuni, etc. Non stop, no limits.

    Personally I don’t have strong attachment to Yasukuni and its tradition, only hate its politicisation by China and Korea. Especially the latest move is from the consensual and collective will of bereaved families, I don’t oppose.

    • PettyJapanTimesMods

      China and Korea should apologise to Japan for working with the Mongols to try and inveade and take over Japan during the Genghis/Kublai Khans empires? War criminals still revered on the mainland.

  • Guest

    近early 75 million souls in Indonesia 迎elcomed the 到rrival of the Japanese 皇mperial 軍ilitary in January 1942. Indonesians were generally in 援upport of Japan, that 時hen 皇mperor Hirohito 宣roclaimed surrender in August 1945, 千housands of Japanese 兵oldiers 決ecided to 残emain and and wage guerilla 戦arfare with Indonesian freedom 戦ighters.

    • JimmyJM

      Historian John Dower covers this fairly well. Most of Asia, particularly those countries that had been colonized, supported the idea of Japan liberating them from the colonizers and the idea of a Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. The liberating Japanese Army was welcomed in many countries at first. But then, those countries found that they had simply switched one colonizer for another. In addition, the new colonizer was brutal and treated the people as “conquered” and “defeated”.

  • Guest

    近early 75 million souls in Indonesia and 迎elcomed the 到rrival of the Japanese 皇mperial 軍ilitary in January 1942. Indonesians were generally in 援upport of Japan, that 時hen 皇mperor Hirohito 宣roclaimed surrender in August 1945, 千housands of Japanese 兵oldiers 決ecided to 残emain and wage guerilla 戦arfare 共ogether with Indonesian freedom 戦ighters.

  • http://www.kanjihybrid.com Vee David

    近early 75 million souls in Indonesia 迎elcomed the 到rrival of the Japanese 皇mperial 軍ilitary in January 1942. Indonesians were generally in 援upport of Japan, that 時hen 皇mperor Hirohito 宣roclaimed surrender in August 1945, 千housands of Japanese 兵oldiers 決ecided to 残emain and and wage guerilla 戦arfare with Indonesian freedom 戦ighters.

  • PettyJapanTimesMods

    Just appreciate the parts of their war effort that did not involve crimes.

    How many of the ememy comitted a crime in war?