Saturday, 29 September 2007

Yasukuni Shrine and my dilemma

The Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社) is a place that I have decided to visit as soon as I knew I was going to Tokyo. This place is so full of controversy that I just had to take a look at it myself to find out why.

The Yasukuni Shrine is not a main tourist attraction in Tokyo and some of the maps did not even mark its location. In fact, I do not believe many Japanese think much about it. It is about just as simple as you can see in the pictures here.

Built in 1869 by the Emperor in the Meiji era, the shrine is where the dead soldiers who lost their lives fighting for Japan are remembered. Out of the 2.5 million dead souls commemorated here, more than 2 million are war deaths from WWII. It is said that amongst the names listed in the "Books of Souls", 14 are suspected or convicted by the International Military Tribute of the Far East as Class A war criminals. It is no wonder that everytime a Japanese leader visit the Yasukuni Shrine, it evokes plenty of protests and controversy internationally, for this is viewed as embracing the militarism past of the Empire of Japan.

As I walked into the shrine, I could feel that the air was filled with solemn. Honestly, I also felt a little intimidated. Afterall, being a Chinese and armed with nothing but a compact camera, I was rather worried what the Japanese will do to me if they discovered my origin. Not that they will spit at me or throw stones at me but the look of discontentment would be enough to kill me.

At the altar, many people were observing the simple ritual of "pray, clap and bow" (一拜,二拍,一鞠躬). I deliberated a long long time and decided that I will not be doing so. As a Chinese, it may be too much to ask for me to pay respect to those "enemies". You may say it's the little of the Chinese pride left in me that caused me to do so, but we simply have lost too many of our people during WWII under the terrible regime of the Japanese Imperial army. I don't hate them, but I just cannot forgive or forget.

Lots of Japanese who visit the shrine will write their wishes on a piece of paper and tie it around a tree. Make a wish, say a prayer... is it love, health or fortune that one wishes for? Anyone put a note in there to wish for world peace?

This is the "Statue of a Mother". It is dedicated to women who had lost their husbands in the wars and had to single handedly raise their young children. Alas, I was so touched by this. Who in this world is not the child of a mother? It must have given so much grief to mothers who lost their children in the wars, doesn't matter if it was a Chinese or a Japanese. Maybe I was wrong earlier, the deads have no nationality or political positions. At that moment, I really don't know what to think. It may be best that I leave the place as soon as possible.

People don't forget do they? Look at how these 2 old gentlemen are still promoting the spirit of militarism, carrying a Japanese national flag and military flag. I saw one lady crying by the side of the road when she saw this.

My visit to Yasukuni Shrine has created great emotional drift in me, not to mention the dilemma that I can still feel as of today. I have decided that this is a place that I will never visit again, for it is where hatred and misgivings concentrate. In fact, I think none of the Chinese should ever step foot in it.


Yen said...

I think this is the reason why I have been to Japan a few times but never visited this shrine. We learnt from the history, but not live or stay in the history.

Ling said...

Yes, don't go there.