Yasukuni Jinja
   The Yasukuni (the name means pacification of the country) Shrine was constructed after the Meiji Restoration to enshrine the 7,751 spirits of those loyalists who had died during battles related to the restoration. It was first known (until 1879) as shokonsha and became increasingly important as a focus for patriotic loyalty from the 1890's. It was considered an unsurpassed honour to be enshrined at Yasukuni, since the souls there were paid reverence by the emperor. The Meiji emperor visited Yasukuni seven times on special occasions, the Taisho emperor paid tribute twice and the Showa emperor Hirohito visited on average once a year up to 1945. Nearly two and a half million war dead from Japan's military conflicts including the wars with China (1894-5), Russia (1904-5) and the battles of two world wars have been enshrined there, including 'class A' war criminals from the second world war enshrined as late as the 1970's. A mitama-matsuri (soul festival) in honour of the war-dead is held from July 13-15th each summer with thousands of lanterns and ritual dancing. In the prewar period the cabinet visited the Yasukuni shrine twice a year at the time of the spring and autumn festivals and the shrine was supported by the Army Ministry. In the Shinto Directive the Yasukuni shrine was singled out for special treatment and classified unequivocally as a religious institution rather than simply a burial place, on the grounds that professional Shinto priests serve the shrine, kamidana and amulets are provided to the bereaved family and prayers of gratitude are offered to the enshrined spirits. The shrine is not affiliated to the Jinja Honcho. Since the war, visits by prime ministers of the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which has been in government throughout most of the postwar period have continued this practice with, from 1974, an additional visit on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender. In most cases Prime Ministers have visited ostensibly as private individuals or were deliberately ambivalent about the status of their visit. Because of the separation of religion and state and the prohibition on use of public funds for religious rites prescribed in the postwar Constitution of Japan, these semi-official visits have provoked continuing dissension and opposition especially from non-Shinto religious groups and democracy activists in Japan. Visits to the Yasukuni shrine are a matter of particular sensitivity because since 1872 the shrine has functioned as a war museum, managed until 1945 by the war ministries, displaying with pride items such as fighter planes, submarines, tanks and guns, and with plaques celebrating Japanese military exploits in Asia including the Nanjing massacre. Following five unsuccessful attempts by the LDP government in the early 1970's to have a bill passed by the Japanese parliament for state support of the Yasukuni shrine, Prime Minister Nakasone, Yasuhiro visited the shrine in 1983 and signed the register with his official title. On 15 August 1985, despite publication of an inconclusive report on the issue of the shrine's status by an advisory committee, the LDP cabinet paid formal tribute at the shrine. This action met with strong opposition in Japan and infuriated Japan's Asian neighbours, with the result that further visits were suspended. The government nevertheless indicated that it still proposed to move towards formal tribute at the shrine by the Emperor, the cabinet and the jietai (the Japanese armed forces). There have been other cases brought against prefectural goverments who have made donations to Yasukuni. The Yasukuni shrine question turns on the issue of whether Shinto is a religion, and whether Shinto rites can be performed as civic ritual, and is thus intimately connected with cases such as the Tsu jichinsai and the self-defence force goshi case.
   See Gokoku jinja.

A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. .

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