‘Yasukuni’ director suspects political meddling


Li Ying, the Chinese director of an award-winning documentary on Yasukuni Shrine, said Thursday he was perplexed to hear that a key figure in the film, sword smith Naoji Kariya, has reportedly asked that his appearance be entirely deleted.

Liberal Democratic Party House of Councilors member Haruko Arimura reported the decision at the chamber’s March 27 Cabinet committee meeting.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kariya do not accept at all that his image will be included in this movie, and are hoping his image will be removed entirely from the film,” Arimura told the committee, according to her Web site. Arimura said she confirmed this request with Kariya personally on March 25.

“I cannot believe at all that Mr. Kariya (reportedly) asked that his part be deleted,” Li told a Tokyo news conference Thursday afternoon. “I do not want to believe (that), even now,” the director said.

Li, who said he had not heard from Kariya himself yet, suspects the lawmaker pressured the sword smith to reconsider his appearance.

“I wonder what kind of pressure (the Diet member) applied to get him to change (his mind) to that extent,” Li said. “I just wonder if (the lawmaker) can do that.”

A response from Arimura was not immediately available, but a statement released by her office Wednesday, in response to a Kyodo News interview in which Li also raised the same question, denied that the lawmaker had pressured Kariya and his wife.

Li said the movie was not viable without Kariya.

“Certainly, I can only interpret that (the lawmaker) is working to cripple this film,” Li said. “If the movie cannot stand, of course (we) cannot screen” it in cinemas, Li said. “Is this her aim? I do not know.

“But I am very concerned now that this will happen,” the director said.

The movie, which records various views of visitors to Tokyo’s contentious war-related shrine, is centered around Kariya, a sword smith who makes “Yasukuni Swords.”

The producers of the 123-minute film, which won a best-documentary award at the 32nd Hong Kong International Film Festival, received ¥7.5 million in grant money from the Japan Arts Council under the Cultural Affairs Agency.

Following a magazine report in December that the film had “anti-Japan” content despite receiving a government subsidy, lawmakers in February requested a preview. That special advance screening in March generated negative publicity, which prompted five cinemas in Tokyo and Osaka to cancel their plans to screen it.

Meanwhile, more than 10 theaters nationwide plan to screen the documentary in May or later.