Skip to main content

Re-educating a Japanese man: Yasukuni

A Japanese client had asked me about sights and good places to eat in Tokyo. Instantly, two places came to mind, Yasukuni Shrine and the Yushukan.  No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to these places; just visiting the alter of this sacred shrine wouldn't be enough and neither would it suffice the enormous cultural and spiritual significants attached to it. The legacy of the men and women who fought for the country are interred there, so it's much more than just a place to snap pictures of cute gargoyles and blonde haired kimono clad young Japanese girls. It's a place where the bereaved mourn their loss and a place I feel that all Japanese and tourist should visit at least once in their life time. I was asked, so I delivered. Welcome to Yasukuni, again.

It's not the first time I've taken Japanese people to their own shrine.  Since 2004 I've been re-institutionalizing Japanese about their history.  I have  taken females, high school students, and even business men to Yasukuni - all Japanese. Yasukuni represents to me an enormous piece of world history, not just Japanese history that's gone missing in academia, a piece of history shared by both of our countries;  two men who would've fought to defend their country had they been called to serve, and two men who were spared such misery by destiny can now walk in peace together down that  yellow autumn lane full of dead autumnal beauty...amongst the pain and the guilt and the shame. 

Many ordinary Japanese know little about this place, but the ones who do know,  and who have come to terms with the war and its aftermath have come away from this shrine with a deeper and richer understanding of themselves and the sacrifices made by their countrymen and women in uniform. I thought to myself this would be a great way we both could share a bit of history between our two countries without all the other shallow talk over nonsense topics.

After arriving we headed through those enormous gates adorned with the emblem of the imperial seal called "Kiku" in Japanese. As we approached the main alter I could see yellow leaves falling from the trees and resting along the pathway leading up to the offering box like a warm golden energy. We shared a moment of silence there, heads bowed, then headed over to the Yushukan, a war museum, perhaps the the most thorough and well planned out war museum I have ever visited, aside from the Korean War Museum in Seoul. My client was fascinated by all of the history and exhibits that were on display. The thousands of names of the fallen, both men and women - all Japanese. The artillery and bullets along with the shrapnel were all there.  Remains of old soldiers uniforms and diaries, and other memorabilia, which were all on display. He like I was moved because we were in a museum that honored its own people, not condemned them.   

After spending about an hour or two in the Yushukan (which I did not take a picture of) we decided we had had enough. The sense of loss there was enormous and required time to digest just the basic historical points that so many ordinary people know very little about.   I am lucky. My client is lucky. I wonder how many of us expats and Japanese alike can realize that...? Why do people come to Japan? I know why I came. Do you...? This is Japan, I hope it never changes.

I was astounded at how curious he was and the level of interest he showed.   Yasukuni is a piece of history that too many Japanese have missed out on.  I remember back in 2004 when I first visited, there were hardly any people visiting this shrine.   It wasn't until former prime minister Koizumi started making his yearly pilgrimages there that the shrine became extremely popular to visit.  Now the place is flooded with Japanese on August the 15th.   In order to forgive, one must know the truth of their history.    The judicial martyrs who  were convicted by an all white courtroom were the scapegoats for the war.   For my Japanese client hearing this come from me was astounding because he had never had such an education before.   All he understood was white worship and peace taught to him by The Board of Education.   After that day he was reawakened.   It is time for the Japanese to be re-awakened.

Popular posts from this blog

Shin-Okubo: Little Korea

So I finally got around to going up there to Shin-Okubo,  the land of Seoul via the Yamanote Line.  Been putting this trip off for years for personal reasons;  I am not a fan of Hanlleyu.      I knew why I came up this way, and for none other reason than the food, and maybe to bask in the nausea of Korean romanticist who steal Japanese Jukujo's souls.    But honestly, I like spicy food and stews and pickled vegetables that challenge my taste buds.    I also love the little funky cafes that line the main thoroughfares and alley ways, each with their own little eclectic menus and interior decor.     This place is Korea.  

Shin-Okuba represents more than just a place to relish in Korean culinary delights and K-pop culture, but a place where Koreans can express themselves through their culture.    You can feel the local vibe in the air as you're walking down narrow walkways and footpaths.    I have personally been to mainland Korea six times, so a lot of the nostalgia was there …

August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, especially  in places like Tohoku and Kanto regions.  August is also  the most contentious month of the year in Japan; with the end of the war and war-related guilt.    Then there's the great exodus back home for millions of Japanese.   Obon season is what it's called in Japan, and it's  where families return to their hometowns to remember their ancestors and to spend time with loved ones.  Gravestones are visited, cleaned, and washed; rice or alcohol is often placed on  miniature altars next to a  headstone.  This is a way for Japanese to reconnect with their roots; a way for them to stay grounded and founded in the ways of tradition and cultural protocol.   

For the foreign tourist, some places will be overcrowded and expensive to reach; for Japanese, this is normal and can't be helped.   Wherever you go there will be lines and h…

Japan Board of Education: Amazing Grace...?

Japan Board of Education Textbook.
Amazing Grace
Shuken Shuppan  Polestar textbook English Communication

Preface:  Japanese / Japan is  one of the leading donors in humanitarian aid around the world.   They have donated billions of yen to charities, developing countries, and startup business to just about every country on the globe.  Some Japanese have even taken matters to the extreme  to the point of poking their noses into hotspot areas like Palestine and Isreal, things the Japanese may want to avoid.  Had Japan shared its borders with an ethnic minority with its own government, the relative peace and calm of this country would be questionable.   No other country can be like nor emulate Japan.   So, where does this spirit of charity and altruism come from exactly?   Why do the Japanese feel they need to save the whole world, while caring very little for its own people?   It's the Board of Education...?  The essay below is one such example of what Japanese kids learn in school,…