Yasukuni Shrine

Koizumi will be remembered as Asia's most stubborn man

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 August, 2006, 12:00am

Japan's leader may have rightly earned himself, among other things, the title of 'The Most Honourable Pig-Headed Man in Asia' following his impromptu and unnecessary visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi purposely went out of his way to offend his regional neighbours by visiting the war shrine on the anniversary of Japan's surrender that marked the end of the second world war - a solemn day for the Japanese.

Unfortunately, we may see history repeat itself because many younger generations of Japanese do not know that although the Chinese and South Koreans endured great suffering as a result of Japan's hostility during the second world war, they were not the only ones.

Other nations suffered, too. They included Russia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Myanmar, the United States and Australia.

Given the present state of education in Japan, it is likely that we will see the events that led up to the second Sino-Japanese war, and resulted in the second world war's Pacific war, happen again, as they are taboo in Japanese classrooms. Also, the editors of Japanese textbooks delete any reference to this shameful aspect of Japanese history.

Visiting the Yasukuni Shrine is questionably against the constitution of Japan, and it is a grave insult to those people who were victims of Japan's aggression.

As a former soldier, I understand it is appropriate that people have an opportunity to pay their respects to service personnel who gave their lives for the benefit of the present generations. However, the Yasukuni Shrine is not the appropriate place for this because it holds the remains of 14 class-A war criminals.

It is time that Japan built a new monument, a Japanese version of the 'Shrine of Remembrance', where not only prime ministers, but also the public, can go to pay their respects to dead service personnel. As this is a ritual ceremony, even the Chidorigafuchi cemetery of unknown soldiers - which is close to Yasukuni - is a much more appropriate place.

Mr Koizumi certainly is a stubborn man. Just because he promised that he would visit Yasukuni each year when he became prime minister, it does not mean that he has to ignore how the rest of the world feels about it.

TONY KENNEDY, Iwate, Japan