The Yasukuni Controversy

September 12, 2007

Here’s the main reason I will always feel a little bit sorry for anyone in the prime minister position in Japan: They will have to decide, every year, how to deal with what is probably the most public, and most closely internationally watched, act of national mourning in the world. The choice is to either visit the Yasukuni Shrine, or not.

The controversy in a nutshell:

Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 Yasukuni Jinja) is a Shinto shrine located in Tokyo, Japan, dedicated to the spirits of soldiers and others who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan. In October 2004, its Book of Souls listed the names of 2,466,532 men and women, including 27,863 Taiwanese and 21,181 Koreans, whose lives were dedicated to the service of Imperial Japan, particularly to those killed in wartime.

The shrine is a source of considerable controversy. Included in the Book of Souls are 1,068 people convicted of war crimes by a post World War II court. A total of 12 convicted and 2 suspected Class A war criminals (“crime against peace”) are enshrined at Yasukuni. The shrine’s history museum contains an account of Japan’s actions in World War II, which is considered revisionist by many outside of Japan.

Visits to the shrine by cabinet members have been a cause of protest at home and abroad. China, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan have protested against various visits since 1985. Despite the controversy, the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made annual visits from 2001 to 2006.

-from Wikipedia: Yasukuni Shrine

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Shinzo Abe Resigns

September 12, 2007

For those of you who haven’t been following Japanese politics lately, allow me to present a nice introductory set of links.

Sept 10, 2007: Japan’s embattled PM vows to stay

Sept 12, 2007: Japanese prime minister resigns

My first reaction to today’s headline about Abe’s resignation was to be amused, actually, because just last night, I was talking about how there was a rash of prime ministers around the world announcing they wouldn’t be resigning. (On Sept 11, there was this headline from Australia: “Australia’s PM vows not to quit,” which meant for a day the BBC’s Asia-Pacific page had nearly identical headlines from two different countries. But I digress.)

With more seriousness, though, I kinda have to feel bad for the guy. As this helpful BBC timeline of the low points of his tenure reveals, he’s managed to have a lot of unfortunate stuff happen to him and his cabinet during his rather short time in office. 

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