Monday, August 15, 2016

On The Meaning Of Yasukuni Today

Over the next few hours a herd of Diet members will march through the confines of Yasukuni Shrine, participating in an annual political and personal rite. The march will offend many inside Japan and many outside of it. The governments of China and South Korea will offer critical comment.

One focus of attention attention today will be on the number of Diet members who show up (we should expect an uptick from last year's numbers as newly elected members of the House of Councillors make their debuts). Another will be a will she/won't she as regards newly-elected governor of Tokyo Koike Yuriko, whose heretofore staunch nationalist posture now clashes with her task of leading a cosmopolitan metropole.

The greatest emphasis, however, will be on visitations by members of the Cabinet. One, Minister of Reconstruction Imamura Masahiro, already paid his visit to the shrine on Thursday the 11th. Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Takaichi Sanae has vowed to pay a visit today. Minister of Defense Inada Tomomi, who leads a special group within the LDP dedicated to visiting Yasukuni, was suddenly dispatched a study tour of SDF operations in Djibouti. Her gleeful departure from the airport on Friday left little doubt that the purpose of of her trip was the government's trying to keep her away from the shrine on the end-of-war day.

In light of Minister Inada's bubbly egress from Japan it is not inappropriate to revisit a point I have made previously about the August 15 Yasukuni sampai.

For some of the 210,000 or so who visit the shrine on a typical August 15, a visit on the end of war day is an act of REVERENCE, a time to reflect upon and pay tribute to the sacrifices of those died in service to the nation.

For many, including those who arrive in various kinds of dress up – black suits and ties, phony military uniforms or Hawaiian shirts (a favorite of gangster bosses) – the visit to Yasukuni on August 15 is an opportunity to TRANSGRESS, to engage in an activity notable only for being in very bad taste. It is the same delicious sense of being stupid and bad in public, of violating the rules of good society along with one's equally transgressive peers, which is the foundation of the current political support for Donald Trump or the hero worship of Vladimir Putin.

The qualitative difference between the two can be summed up by the difference, in English, between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is (and for this definition, I am indebted to my TUJ Summer Semester student T. S.) when one loves one's country enough to die for it. Nationalism is (and for this definition, I am indebted to my TUJ Summer Semester student L. K.) is when one loves one country so much one one hates others for it.

For too many showing up today at Yasukuni today it will be nationalism, not patriotism, which propels them through the torii.


Ed Neiheisel said...

I have not been to Yasukuni now for perhaps 20 years and have never been there on Aug. 15 as I detest the circus atmosphere that some of the fringe cases provide. That circus in my mind is all about them and disrespectful to the war dead. I decided to go on a different day and go to Chidorigafuchi at the same time. I have always found it a great shame that one cannot be freely patriotic in Japan - along the lines your student defined it - while a relatively small group of fringe characters can display their cariacture of extreme nationalism and it is the latter not the former that get all of the press when it is the former that represents the super majority in Japan. If becoming a "normal country" means that Japanese can show love of country without this meaning they have forgotten the mistakes of the past nor are becoming nationalists or fascists then I am all in favor of that.

rontokyo said...

A general comment:
Admittedly I've been disappointed that you haven't been posting regularly since Tokyo on Fire has begun focusing on current topics, but please know that that video series has been a highlight of the week. Your insights have proven to be an invaluable source of information for even a long-time resident of Tokyo such as myself. Many thanks.

rontokyo said...

Well, crap. You've been absent from Tokyo on Fire for a couple of weeks now. I had hoped you were simply on vacation but now I've got to wonder, particularly as Langley makes no mention of your absence. Here's hoping you'll return to ToF or start your own video blog. Or post here regularly. You're sorely missed, Michael.