Thursday, April 08, 2004

Koizumi and Yasukuni

IE just flipped out and ate my post, so I'll try to recreate it. Yesterday, a Japanese district court ruled Prime Minister Koizumi's 2001 visit to Yasukuni Shrine an unconstitutional mingling of state and religion. When told of the ruling, Koizumi said, "I don't understand why visits are unconstitutional." For those of you who are interested, Art. 20 of the Japanese Constitution (English version here) reads, in relevant part, "The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity."

For those of you unfamiliar with Yasukuni-jinja (Shrine), it has an English web site in addition to the Japanese one. Basically, it's a shrine to Japanese war dead from the Meiji restoration in 1867 until the end of the World War II. Most controversially, it includes the 8 Class A War Crminals, headed by PM Hideki Tojo, who were executed by the Allies. Visits normally occur on Aug. 15 in honor of Japan's surrender in World War II. On a personal note, I visited Yasukuni in the fall of 1998, and found it probably the most disturbing place I've ever been to. The question of how you should honor participants in what was basically an orgiastic death cult for the last year of the war is a difficult one, of course, but it's still a little bit unusual to see what are essentially flying bombs and swimming torpedoes, particularly when they were used in (generally not very successful) efforts to kill your countrymen. After visiting there, though, I can see why Lee Kwan Yew said that allowing Japan to participate in overseas military peace-keeping is like giving whiskey-filled chocolate to an alcoholic.

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