Last week the New York Times ran an interesting article about Yasukuni Shrine and the War Bereaved Families Association (Izokukai), one of the Shrine’s bigger patrons. Abe visited Yasukuni again this past August to the typical responses from the world at large. The NYT tells us that Izokukai has an interesting request for the shrine: remove the Class-A war criminals. Izokukai has joined other people in protesting the presence of the class-As since they were enshrined in 1974. But Izokukai also calls on the Prime Minister and the Emperor to pay homage at Yasukuni. The Emperors have boycotted Yasukuni over the class-As investiture. It is interesting to see this nuance from Japan about the controversial shrine, but removing the Class-As would not make a difference to other people around Asia.
Yasukuni’s response to calls to remove the class-As is always negative. The shrine insists that would be impossible because when they enshrine someone, the souls comingle and unite. Normally, when a person is deified in Shinto and given a place of worship, it is done individually. When a single Shinto shrine hosts worship of multiple gods, each god receives their own altar. The numerous souls at Yasukuni do not get their own altars; they share a single one. While removing the Class-As would make Izokukai’s members happy, it would not improve Yasukuni’s reputation around the world. I wrote last year that the Class-A war criminals were not the sole objection people in Korea, China and other countries have to Yasukuni Shrine and visits by high officials. The other souls who fought in World War II committed atrocities themselves, sometimes of their own volition. Souls of captains, lieutenants and enlisted men would still be worshipped. Other Asians would still find it insulting.
I'm sure this is not the last piece I will write about Yasukuni Shrine. It will come up again, along with more issues that harm Japanese relations with South Korea or China.