When I see a phalanx of 150 Diet members, led by the usual suspects, tramping along the hallways of Yasukuni Shrine on a festival day, what I see is neither menacing nor distressing. What I see is a crowd of really uninteresting men and women. (Link)
To visit Yasukuni, an amusement park of death, is to reject the principles that have made postwar Japan great. Global society, in which modern Japan plays a huge part, rejects the concept of service unto death being ennobling irrespective of the regime for which it is done. As for the core trade off in Yasukuni's founding ideology -- the Emperor is a kami but you, poor peasant, are not and will never be...unless, of course, you die in the service to the Emperor, at which point we have a promotion option for you -- it is meaningless in a world where the Emperor renounces his divinity.
Which highlights the real paradox at the heart of post-1979 Yasukuni sampai: while Yasukuni is a religious site, the goal of a pilgrimage there is almost never to show reverence. The goal instead is to transgress -- to thumb one's nose at polite global society, to thumb one's nose at Korea and China (which, when you go to Yasukuni, you further prod with the derogatory appellation Shina rather than the neutral Chugoku), to thumb one's nose at the San Francisco Peace Treaty, to thumb one's nose at the Military Tribunals for the Far East, to thumb one's nose at the leftists and members of religious orders who suffered under the Meiji Constitution regime.
How many of yesterday's herd of lawmakers would have visited the shrine if it did not jolt them and their supporters with an adolescent thrill of being deliciously bad? Even General Affairs and Telecommunications Minister Shindo Yoshitaka, with his hair dye job insulting the eye, who as the grandson of military great Kuribayashi Tadamichi has a real reason to pay his respects at Yasukuni, dodged and weaved in his defense like a high school student caught with a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. (Link - video J)
Contrary to my guess of a month ago, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo again stepped away from a confrontation with China and South Korea over a visit to the shrine. Despite having his hand slapped away, figuratively, by Chinese president Xi Jinping and South Korean president Park Gyun-hye in Indonesia (the very sharpest take on the snubs being this article), he restricted himself to yet another visit-via-symbolic object (Link). He has, given his proclivity to fly off the handle at challengers (Link) stayed remarkably true these past few months to a course of inaction on Yasukuni. It is as if, with the deeply China- and South Korea-invested big business establishment as his new spirit guide, he has taken to heart the lesson of patience and forbearance in Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #109 ("Dignity and an empty sack is worth the sack" - Link). Of course, the recent quiet but pointed wreath-laying by the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense at Chidorigafuchi can probably be seen has having slammed the door on any consideration of a Yasukuni autumn festival visit.
However, as the TBS video above concludes, Abe has limits on how much longer he will delay a prime ministerial Yasukuni pilgrimage. Chinese and South Korean ingraciousness can only be allowed to proceed so far without a response. Furthermore, Abe must in someway answer for his public expression of regret for having not made the journey to Yasukuni during his first stint as prime minister. Finally, though perhaps this is less of a threat than it might seem, he has to address the growing chorus of outraged supporters (check out the comments section on Abe's Facebook page -- the formerly overflowing waters of the Sea of Abe Shinzo Fandom are drying up) who have been wondering when the Yasukuni Commuter Real Abe they know and love will show up.
Image: Yasukuni entrance on August 15, 2013
Image courtesy: MTC