Sunday, May 25, 2008

やすくにじんじゃ (Yasukuni Shrine)

Once again, i just want to mention that i have not written any of this to offend anyone and i hope that my opinions and observations dont offend anyone.

So after seeing the film Yasukuni and i really wanted to visit this controversial shrine. I was a little disappointed but i am glad that i went. It was a very beautiful complex. And it was good to see the complex after watching it in the film.

The Museum
Firstly, we went to the museum that is on the shrine grounds. It is considered controversial by some because of the way it represents the military history of Japan. It was very interesting to see that only parts of the museum had English. And we were following the same path as a Japanese tour group and they only ever went to the sections that had Japanese and not the sections that had both Japanese and English. Made me wonder what i was missing out on.

We kinda skipped the earlier exhibits cause i was most interested in the ww2 section. Or as it is named in the museum "The Greater East Asian War". Now i am not sure when Australia and Hawaii and Papua New Guinea became part of East Asia. But there the battles with these countries were.... right in the "Greater East Asian War" exhibit. I thought this was quite interesting. There was no mention of the Japanese bombing Australia. I have actually seen the place where the old post office stood prior to the bombing in Darwin and there are many eyewitness accounts. So i thought there would be a least a small part of the exhibition devoted to the sucessful raid on Darwin. Even Pearl Harbour only really got a little display. And the lead up to this display focused alot on the USA and its oil embargo on Japan and how this was the reason that Japan had to go to war against the USA - self defense and survival. It was very interesting to read.

It was also interesting that there was no mention of the POWs that were taken by the Japanese. In the Burma section of the exhibit there a lack of information on this. See link below for more information. I thought this was strange because even though this is not a very favourable part of the era's history, i thought it would still be mentioned, to perhaps commemorate those who died as POWs, both Japanese, other Asians and allied and in the hope that we can avoid it happening again. I guess as a westerner it was a shock to see this was not included. But then it has taken Australia a long time to acknowledge its own controversial history with regards to the Aborigines and the white settlers.

There was also no mention of the Rape of Nanking. Here is a website that you can look at for more information. I also thought that this would be mentioned not to glorify it but just to acknowledge it. Another interesting aspect of the musuem.

However, it was the section devoted to the Kamikaze pilots that was most perplexing for me. There was a plaque that glorified the sacrifice and bravery of these pilots. This was surprising but not also not so surprising. I knew that the pilots' sacrifice was glorified during the war but it was strange to still read this. It made them sound like heroes. Which at the time, i guess they were because they destroyed the enemy. I went with my friend Becca, who is an American and we talked about it afterwards and how it made us feel quite uncomfortable. It is interesting to see how different countries represent their own history. I am really glad that i went and experienced this.

The only other thing that i found perplexing was the monument made for the only judge who gave a not guilty verdict when the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was trying those Japanese soldiers now considered war criminals. Have a look at this website for more information. This monument was only erected two years ago and if you read the article it talks about how some people in Japan, including past Prime Minister Abe, still question the validity of the trials and the resulting classification of 25 Japanese leaders from the ww2 era as class A war criminals. At the time, all Becca and I knew was that he didnt look Japanese. It wasnt until i read the information on the internet that i realised what the monument was. I am still not sure what to think about this monument.

This was an eye-opening experience and one that i am very glad that i had before i head back to Australia. As a history teacher it was very very interesting for me.

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