Wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo gave orders in a secret document that Yasukuni Shrine should honor only those who are killed in battle, according to the document made available Saturday.
The document, dated July 15, 1944, and issued under the name of Army Minister Hideki Tojo, says only military personnel and civilian military employees whose deaths “resulted directly from military service” should be enshrined at Yasukuni. Tojo was concurrently serving as army minister.
The document says those who died in places other than on the battlefield are in principle not entitled to be honored at the war-related Shinto shrine. If his orders were observed, Tojo and other Class-A war criminals should not have been entitled.
Enshrinement at Yasukuni “is a divine and unparalleled honor for those who died in matters of national importance during military campaign,” the document says.
As an exception, the document cites three cases in which people can be honored at the shrine: dying of serious infectious diseases such as malaria and cholera on the battlefield, dying from other illness on the battlefield, dying from illness or injuries while on special missions related to war.
Each case must be examined carefully as to whether the cause of death was directly related to military service, the document says.
The document, written in hiragana characters on 29 pages of manuscript, is believed to have been rewritten from katakana after World War II.
Writer Hisashi Yamanaka obtained the document around 1980 at a secondhand book fair as part of documents disposed by the old Health and Welfare Ministry.
Yasukuni enshrined Tojo and 13 other Class-A war criminals in October 1978.
An expert at the government-run National Institute of Defense Studies said the document appears to be authentic as it is written in the format used for secret documents of the Imperial Japanese Army and there are no inconsistencies about the content.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.