The politicians who persist in visiting Yasukuni Shrine say they visit it to pay their respects to the war dead who sacrificed their lives for the benefit of the nation.

Upper House lawmaker Aiko Shimajiri (an Okinawa Liberal Democrat), in response to a reporter’s question, said she had visited the shrine to pray to the souls whose sacrifice laid the foundation for Japan’s development and prosperity today.

It’s very natural and humane to pay one’s respects to the war dead, estimated at 2.3 million. The problem is the spirit in which many Japanese politicians pay their respects.

Can the souls of the dead rest in peace simply by hearing words of thanks for the way they fought the war and by being told it was a righteous war and that their choice to die, rather than be captured as prisoners of war, was a sublime act? How many chose death over life because of the strict military code of conduct?

Paying one’s respects to the war dead must be based on sincere repentance and compunction, since most of those sacrificed lost their lives because of mistaken national policy or, more directly, deception by the state. Is it not sacrilegious simply to say “thank you” to them?

Therefore, Yasukuni Shrine must be rejected as an institution at which we pray to the war dead. Visits should be made in view of the wartime leaders enshrined there — the ones responsible for pushing the nation into ruin and inflicting enormous damage and devastation on neighboring countries.

If Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet agree with this stance, can they get foreign nationals, especially the Chinese and South Koreans, to understand it?

yoshio shimoji

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.

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