TOKYO (TR) – Yasukuni Shrine is Japan’s most notorious rallying point for nationalist sentiment. A heated debate on an average day, the controversy surrounding Yasukuni Shrine becomes a spark landing in a tinderbox on August 15, the anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, when right-wing groups descend on the shrine’s grounds and pay homage to Japan’s military history.
The shrine, located in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, confounds its left-leaning detractors and inspires patriots due to its enshrinement of roughly 2.5 million soldiers, airmen, and seamen, many of whom were encouraged by the belief that their spirit will be enshrined should they die in battle fighting heroically for the Emperor.
Yasukuni also memorializes 14 Class-A war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. As a result, visits to the shrine on August 15 by Japan’s high-ranking officials, such as that of Junichiro Koizumi, who repeatedly paid his respects during his administration (2001-2006), raise tensions with China and Korea, two countries that suffered the wrath of Japan’s military might over a half-century ago.
This past August 15 was no exception. The photographs above depict some of the activities on the shrine’s grounds and the anti-Yasukuni Shrine demonstration held in nearby Kudanshita, in which right-wing groups attempted to hassle left-wing protesters for their vocal disregard for the shrine.