OSAKA – The Osaka District Court on Thursday shot down a lawsuit calling for Yasukuni Shrine to remove from its enshrinement rolls 11 servicemen and civilian employees of the Imperial Japanese forces.
It is the first judicial determination at the district court level on collective enshrinement of war dead.
The suit against the Shinto shrine in Tokyo and the central government also sought ¥1 million in damages for each of the nine plaintiffs, whose relatives are honored at Yasukuni.
Similar suits have been filed with the Tokyo and Naha district courts.
Presiding Judge Hiroshi Muraoka brushed aside the plaintiffs’ argument that Yasukuni Shrine has infringed on their human rights to respect their loved ones and cherish memories of them by unilaterally enshrining them collectively without the relatives’ consent, saying such rights are out of the range of legal protection.
With their suit, the relatives were pursuing the government’s responsibility for the collective enshrinement, saying it has helped Yasukuni Shrine over many years by providing information on the war dead.
But Muraoka rejected their argument, saying it is up to the shrine’s discretion based on its religious principles to decide who it will enshrine.
Originally, 10 people filed the suit, but one, a resident of Taiwan, later withdrew.
Ryuken Sugawara, leader of the plaintiffs, said it was an unexpected decision and he deeply regrets the court’s failure to look into the collective enshrinement.
“The judge’s decision was made based on similar rulings in the past. I don’t think it is good to ignore the will of the relatives and continue the collective enshrinement,” Sugawara said at a news conference.
Yasukuni Shrine, established in 1869 as Tokyo Shokonsha and renamed 10 years later, is dedicated to some 2.5 million war dead, mainly those who perished during the last war.
Fourteen Class-A war criminals were collectively honored at Yasukuni Shrine in 1978. Among them was wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, who was hanged in 1948.
Junichiro Koizumi paid annual visits to the shrine when he was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, souring Japan’s ties with China and South Korea, which see it as a symbol of Japanese wartime militarism.
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