Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Spirits of Heroes: What is Wrong with Yasukuni

Via ShisakuBlog, the Saturday (August 24) of Shisaku’s local newspaper, Tokyo Shimbun, published a letter-to-the-editor (in a special box, so as to attract the eye) by a reader who took issue with the whole concept of heroes being enshrined at Yasukuni:

[Dear Editor]

Last year my grandfather passed away. He served in the war as a merchant marine sailor. The story is that the ship that my grandfather was on was attacked by Americans and sunk. My grandfather, in the confusion inside the ship, grabbed ahold of a door. By holding tight to the floating door, he survived to be picked up by another merchant marine vessel, thereby escaping the fate of losing his life in the battle zone.

Many times did my grandfather say to me, "Had I died then, your father, and of course you, Tetsu, would never had been born." However, never did anything like "Ah, to fight for one's country is a glorious thing!" come to his lips.

Those wishing to legitimize Yasukuni or the Great War always talk about "heroes (eiyu) who died fighting for their country" or some such thing. But to make it sound like a Hollywood movie where alien life forms were coming to our land to unilaterally to attack us -- this is mistaken. Those whose lives were sacrificed in that war were sacrificed for the idiotic lusts and policy failures of the military leaders and the politicians, and the capitalists who insinuated themselves into their company.

In the first place, as was written in the Sanmen no kakushin article "Thinking about visiting Yasukuni" (Yasukuni sanpai o kangaeru) published in this newspaper on the 14th [of August], how much value should we be assigning Yasukuni? The shrine was built to honor the battle dead of imperial forces, those who died in the Meiji Restoration and other conflicts of the time, using Japan's tradition of imperial rule to political ends.*

If there are those who wish to believe that the spirits of their ancestors, who, unlike my grandfather, did indeed die on the battlefield, are honored at this shrine, fine -- I have no problem with that. However, the statement "They died fighting for their country" -- that I want revised. At the very least, it was not for these chest-thumpers in the present day who say "the honored dead (eiyu) are the pride of Japanese people and the State (kokka)" that those who sacrificed their bodies and lost their lives on the field of battle did what they did.

Kameda Tetsu
Age: 35
Occupation: company employee
Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture

* The implication being that far from being a place for honoring those who fought for the protection of Japan, Yasukuni was at its origins a shrine tasked with the placation of the spirits of those who lost their lives in domestic political violence, a civil war.

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