Sunday, 9 March 2008

靖國神社 Yasukuni Shrine

I would suppose the name 靖國神社 Yasukuni Shrine rings a bell in your ears? If not, let me help: It is the shrine, for which's annual visit of Japan's Premier Minister always causes international criticism.
It is a shrine dedicated to the "war heroes" of World War II, meaning the Japanese soldiers who died in it.

I think you can compare it to something like Mittenwald in Germany, where Bavarians Ex Minister Stoiber would also honor the fallen Wehrmacht soldiers during Nazi Germany.

none the less we entered unafraid

the main shrine

The Nanking Massacre

Being curious and not afraid, we wanted to see this place and headed to it. We were not surprised to see old men dressed up in WW II military uniforms around the shrine or one of those notorious black buses from the rightwinged parties proclaiming anti foreigner policy at the site of the shrine.

notorious black bus

However we where surprised by a man who handed us a sheet of paper both in English and Japanese talking about the Nanking Massacre. Read the Wikilink, in case you don't know about it. If not, think of the Holocaust.
Now the sheet and the man would explain to us that the Nanking Massacre was a lie and never happened. It even went further and blamed a Chinese conspiracy desiring to evoke anti-Japanese feelings for having made up the story to injure Japan internationally. Furthermore he displayed pictures having captions like: Japanese soldiers giving caramel candy to Chinese children in Nanking.

Wow that is hard stuff. I feel reminiscent of home, where people like him would deny that the Holocaust ever existed or that any Jews were killed. However in Germany this is considered a crime, while the man here can distribute his anti-Chinese propaganda openly on the street.

here are the pictures of the guy claiming Nanking Massacre never existed

World War II Memorial Museum

On the site of the shrine you can find many statues that honor the Japanese generals and war machinery used in World War II. There is even a whole museum about it. When entering you will be surprised to see real artillery and a fighter plane as exhibitions. Both were actually used in the war to kill people and are now proudly presented as WWII Japan's instruments of war.

a war hero having killed many lives

WWII plane

and artillery

and a model statue of a warship

There is also a book store selling a lot of problematic books about World War II. I read titles like "We never lost the war" and more worrying titles referring to the Nanking Massacre.

What also surprised me is the way they deal with it, by seeing it as something that can be marketed. So you will not be surprised that you can find 軍艦珈琲 War Marine Coffee in the Cafe or the Japanese World War II Warflag as Omiyage. You can also find lots of caps and other garments with the emblem of a WWII fighter squad and other military divisions.

All in all I was really worried how unreflected this museum and the shrine deals with the war crimes committed on Japan's account. However luckily I have also seen the other side of the story in Hiroshima, where a museum accurately deals with the happenings in World War II. Also coming from Germany I know that the same kind of people are living in Germany proclaiming the same badmouthing and blatant lies about the second world war. Yet I do find it worrying that the Japanese government allows for a museum and shrine like this in the middle of Tokyo.

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