Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Akira Momochi

【#536】Hoping Emperor May Visit Yasukuni Shrine Next Spring

Akira Momochi / 2018.08.22 (Wed)

August 20, 2018

     On August 15, the last war-end anniversary in the Heisei Era, 50 lawmakers belonging to a “Diet Members’ Group for Visiting the Yasukuni Shrine” visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine dedicated to the war dead. However, no cabinet minister visited. In addition, the number of visiting lawmakers was smaller than that of last year. I felt so miserable.

Abe should make another year-end visit
     Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni as a prime minister for the first time on December 26, 2013, just one year after his second cabinet was inaugurated. Though coincidentally, I called on the prime minister to “visit the shrine while believing in help from the spirits of the war dead” in the Seiron opinion column on The Sankei Shimbun newspaper on the previous day.
     Prime Minister Abe has never called at the shrine since then. I have no doubt that he has made remarkable achievements in political, economic, diplomatic, defense and other areas for Japan’s prosperity and development during the past five years and has thus provided the people with vigor and energy. I also understand there were reasons that made another visit difficult.
     However, it is natural for a prime minister to visit Yasukuni on behalf of the people to thank and console the war dead who fought and died for the country. Such visit should be separated from political or diplomatic consideration. Even Abe supporters may grow dissatisfied with his failure to do so.
     A prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni has no problem with the constitution as clarified by a government view. The Supreme Court has effectively concluded a prime minister’s visit to the shrine as constitutional. All lawsuits against visits to the shrine by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Abe have been turned down. Prime Minister Abe does not need to worry.
     The only problem is with foreign relations. However, Japan’s relations with the United States and China may have been significantly improved during the past five years. The U.S. Trump administration advocating “America first” cannot be expected to complain against the prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni. Japan is in good relations with China ahead of this autumn’s 40th anniversary of the effectuation of the Japan-China peace and friendship treaty.
     Prime Minister Abe is serious about achieving constitutional amendments as a big national project. I want him to carry out his first visit to Yasukuni in five years at the end of this year to pray for help from the spirits of the war dead anew.

Emperor’s final place to console the war dead
     After the prime minister’s call at Yasukuni, I would hope Emperor Akihito to visit the shrine under an advice of the cabinet.
     As well known by the Japanese people, Emperor Akihito has taken care to console the war dead for many years. The emperor has attended the annual memorial ceremony for the war dead and toured Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan, Palau and the Philippines to solemnly console the war dead.
     The tour should end with a visit to Yasukuni. He had visited the shrine as crown prince four times. The war dead and their bereaved families will be more than happy if Emperor Akihito visits the shrine during its spring festival before his planned abdication in April 2019.

Akira Momochi is a director, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a special professor at Kokushikan University.