Temples & Shrines: Yasukuni Shrine
Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社
- Located north west of the Imperial Palace, central Tokyo.
- Founded in 1869.
- Japan's most controversial shrine.
- War museum on the grounds.
- Dedicated to Japan's war-dead.
- 2.5 million souls are enshrined here.
Yasukuni Shrine is adjacent to Kitanomaru Park, north west of the Imperial Palace, in the center of Tokyo.
Yasukuni Shrine was founded in 1869 to honor the men who fell in the Boshin War that restored the Meiji Emperor to power in 1868-9.
Since then Yasukuni has expanded to include the war dead of all Japan's subsequent conflicts and now the names, or the Shrine would say "souls", of over 2.5 million fallen are enshrined here.
Main torii gate at Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo
Yasukuni Shrine became controversial when Japan's wartime leader General Hideki Tojo and 13 other Class-A war criminals (found guilty by the victorious allied forces after World War II at The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) or Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal) were enshrined here under secretive circumstances in 1979.
Subsequent visits by Japanese prime ministers and other politicians continue to enrage Japan's Asian neighbors China and South Korea and Yasukuni has become something of a mecca for Japan's right wing.
However, the Showa Emperor did not visit Yasukuni Shrine after the enshrinement of the Class-A war criminals and his son has not done so either, continuing his father's boycott.
The grounds of Yashukuni Shrine contain an interesting, modern war museum which puts a different spin on Japan's conduct in the Pacific War.
Entrance to Yasukuni Shrine is through a massive gray, metal torii gate, said to be the tallest in the country at 22m (72 feet) and a stately avenue of cherry and ginkgo trees.
Yasukuni plays host to an annual exhibition sumo tournament at its spring festival April 21-3 and there is an autumn festival October 17-19.
Yasukuni Shrine grounds also contain Japan's first Western-style bronze statue, that of Omura Masujiro, the first Minister of War after the Meiji Restoration, which was erected in 1896. Also of note are two huge stone lanterns - Japan's largest - built in 1935 which honor the Army and Navy respectively.
In the area outside the Yushukan War Memorial Museum are various statues paying tribute to every horse, every dog and other creatures that served in Japan's military in its various wars. Other monuments pay tribute to Chief Justice Pal from India, who found all the defendants of the Tokyo War Trials not guilty, and to the wives and children of service personnel who served in the IJA overseas.
Shrine gardens and pond at Yasukuni Shrine
Statue honoring horses that served in the Japanese military at Yasukuni Shrine
The Yushukan War Memorial Museum, on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine, is a modern military museum dedicated to Japan's armed forces since the start of the Meiji Period, when a national military, based on the western model, began to fight in wars on the Asian continent.
The version of Japanese military history presented at the Yushukan and in its video theater may not match that of nationals from other nations. The Japanese military in Asia in World War II are depicted as liberators of the continent from Western imperialism and welcomed by the native inhabitants.
Little or nothing is said of the events that occurred in Nanking in the 1930's, the treatment of Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) and any Chinese nationals thought to be Communist sympathizers in Japan's occupied territories, or indeed the activities of the top-secret Unit 731, which carried out vivisections and experiments in germ warfare on the Chinese mainland.
Yushukan War Museum at Yasukuni Shrine
Statue honoring dogs that served in the Japanese military at Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo
Kudanshita Station (Toei Shinjuku, Tozai, Hanzomon Subway Lines).
Map of Yasukuni Shrine
A visit to Yasukuni Shrine can be combined with other attractions in nearby Kitanomaru Park including the Budokan, the Science Museum and the Crafts Gallery. For a counterpoint to Yasukuni visit the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, which commemorates Japan's unknown soldiers. Also nearby is the Imperial Palace.