Occasionally an outsider might help resolve a contentious issue. As an American citizen with great respect for Japan, I would like to offer some thoughts about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit in December to Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to soldiers who died in service to Japan, and how Japan might remove a cause of international criticism.
In my 81 years, I’ve experienced the brutality of armed conflict, but recognize a soldier’s camaraderie. It is a given that nations and cultures will grandly commemorate fallen warriors. Defending family and homeland gains highest honor.
Until World War II, the soldiers honored at Yasukuni were assumed to have been in compliance with international law when they gave their lives for Japanese interests. But in the 1930s, Japan’s military-style leadership promoted an aggressive “co-prosperity” policy throughout Asia. Military attacks were launched. Many campaigns were extremely brutal. And do the citizens of Japan consider that era’s leadership beneficial to their needs and to their quality of life? After enduring — from the mid-1930s to 1945 — nearly 3 million military and civilian deaths, countless wounded and millions homeless, most Japanese would likely not! Therefore, the souls of that era’s command leadership, under the Emperor’s mandate, do not deserve to repose within Yasukuni Shrine. The principal leaders of that era, especially the accused and convicted Class-A war criminals, should rest outside of Yasukuni.
After an appropriate recognition of history, the world community should reasonably accept Yasukuni as a commemorative place where Japanese citizens can honor warriors who gave their lives to protect their country.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.