The politics of Yasukuni Shrine and war memory

Authored by: Jeff Kingston

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315746678.ch31

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Abstract

In the twenty-first century, the Yasukuni Shrine serves as an awkward talisman for national identity in Japan because it is the ‘ground zero’ for an unrepentant view about Japan’s shared history with Asia in the twentieth century. The adjacent Y?sh?kan Museum features a glorifying and validating narrative of Japan’s imperial aggression 1895–1945. As such, this controversial site is divisive among Japanese and between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, ensuring that visits there by leaders such as Koizumi Jun’ichir? and Abe Shinz? have drawn considerable criticism. Japanese emperors have boycotted Yasukuni ever since fourteen Class A war criminals were enshrined there in 1978, a poignant rebuke of right-wing groups and their ultranationalist agenda. This chapter examines the politics of Yasukuni and what it signifies about Japan’s troubled relationship with its wartime past and contemporary identity politics.

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