In a recent posting I summarized some recent developments related to the Yasukuni shrine issue in Japan. In addition to a steady stream of articles in the Japanese media about whether or not Koizumi or the most likely future Prime Minister Abe Shinzô will be visiting the shrine, etc. there has also been several new discoveries related to the history of the shrine.
1. Yutaka Shuichi and a friend of mine, Miyaji Yu wrote an article on Asahi’s scoop related to two 1956 documents discussing government policies towards the shrine. Their article shows that as late as 1956 the central government was considering a reversion to the prewar practice of choosing who to memorialize—the postwar constitution notwithstanding. The documents help clarify, at the very least, what kinds of cooperation between the government and the shrine were being considered.
Though a lot remains unclear about the inner workings of this process at the time, the article notes that the following year, 1957 (two years after the consolidation of the right and the formation of the LDP we might note) 470,000 names were memorialized in contrast to the decade since 1945 when only twice did the number exceed 100,000.
2. This Japan Times article claims that a document obtained by the writer Yamanaka Hisashi around 1980 shows that in July of 1944 Tojo Hideki, who was executed for war crimes and later memorialized at Yasukuni in 1978, ordered that ‘only military personnel and civilian military employees whose deaths “resulted directly from military service” should be enshrined at Yasukuni.’ Those who did not die on the battlefield were not to be memorialized. Though this contributes very little to the debate, it does add to the “irony factor” of people like Tojo, who certainly did not die on the battlefield, even if they are seen as “Showa’s martyrs” being memorialized at the shrine.
3. Since the memo regarding the emperor’s opposition to the enshrinement of war criminals came out, a former Yasukuni Shrine official Baba Hisao has made some interesting comments that are quoted in this Japan Times article (Free registration required). He claims that he remembers that during the period when Yasukuni was considering the enshrinement of the war criminals, there was opposition from the Imperial Household Agency and the shrine officials were told that the Emperor would stop visiting the shrine if the war criminals were included. The article also briefly discusses the question of whether visiting the shrine can every only be interpreted as going to “mourn” or includes, as has been the practice up to the end of the war, an “honoring” of the enshrined souls of the shrine.