Following his historic visit to Yasukuni Shrine last Tuesday on the 61st anniversary of Japan’s surrender, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi spoke to the media. As usual, his comments had the bland quality of safely scripted pronouncements, but at one point he paused significantly: “I prayed for those who sacrificed for their country and . . . their families.” Koizumi, of course, was about to say “the Emperor,” since that is what Yasukuni is all about. It’s what it was built for, and in the context of the hackneyed phrase Koizumi was uttering, it makes more sense.

Even Koizumi can’t believe that all those soldiers thought they were dying for their families, since he also mentioned they probably didn’t want to go to war. They were sacrificed for the Emperor, the kokutai, the spirit of Yamato — whichever lofty abstraction you prefer. That’s why they’re enshrined in Yasukuni.

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

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.