Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Why visits to Yasukuni are unacceptable

By Xie Yun (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-27 07:46

Believing China's civilization based on scholars and officials was too weak, the Shinto religion in Japan's Edo period (1603-1868) was reformed into the Bushido spirit. After the signing of unequal treaties with Western powers during the late Edo period, Ito Hirohumi and other key members of the Meiji Restoration (of imperialism in Japan) came to believe that Japan's losses to Western powers should be made up by the neighboring countries.

During the Meiji Restoration, Shinto's expansionist ideology evolved into militarism, with Tennoism and the Yasukuni Shrine becoming its integral parts, and turned Japan into a brutal military power seeking foreign expansion through the use of forces.

After World War II, Japan neither reflected on, let alone abandoning, the expansionist ideology. As a result, many even in postwar Japan believe the ideological development that began in the 16th century was rational. Internationally, too, some scholars view Shinto as the core element of Japanese culture and folk customs, and thus conclude that Japanese traditions and culture must be respected and protected if the US wants to make its global leadership acceptable to Japan. Such a view has helped preserve Shintoism and Tennoism even after Japan's surrender to the Allied forces that ended World War II.

Shintoism is not by any means a modern ideology, as some Japanese have claimed. Instead, it is a military ideology coated with a strong religious color, with Tennoism on one side and the Yasukuni Shrine on the other.

The author is a scholar with the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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