Yasukuni Shrine | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Yasukuni Shrine

Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine was originally established by the first emperor of modern Japan, Emperor Meiji in 1869 in honour of those who fought and died for the country.

History of the Yasukuni Shrine

The shrine was initially established in 1869 to commemorate those who gave their lives in service of the Emperor during the Boshin War. Since then, over 2,500,000 names have been enshrined at Yasukuni, amongst them the casualties of wars since 1853, including those killed in the Boshin War, the Seinan War, the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, World War I, the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident and World War II, known in Japan as the Greater East Asian War.

Yasukuni has become seen as a controversial site since the enshrinement of 14 class A war criminals there in 1979, despite the fact that six of them had been executed by the

International Military Tribunal for the Far East: many view this as a glorification of Japan’s brutal wars of expansion in the 20th century. Other Asian countries, particularly China and South Korea, find visits to the shrine extremely offensive and hurtful, suggesting it shows a lack of understanding and remorse for Japan’s war crimes.

Ever since then, the site has been shunned by many: Emperor Hirohito refused to visit the site following this enshrinement, and Prime Ministers have generally followed suit. Shinzo Abe caused a stir after he visited the shrine to inform the spirits about his resignation from office.

Yasukuni Shrine today

The Yasukuni Shrine follows the traditional Japanese customs of offerings to the dead such as food and ceremonies of appreciation. The Yasukuni Shrine treats every one of the names enshrined there equally, worshipping them as divinities.

The shrine is part of a six hectare precinct and the shrine itself is surrounded by statues and commemorations to other victims such as war widows, the kamikaze pilots and animals. You’ll enter via the impressive 25m high steel and bronze torii, which was first erected in 1921 to mark the main entrance to the shrine.

Near Yasukuni stands the Yushukan Museum, one of Japan’s war museums and often a subject of controversy for foreign visitors due to its portrayal of World War II. The English translations here are less comprehensive than they might have been, but overall it is fascinating, covering Japanese military history dating back to the days of the Samurai.

Getting to the Yasukuni Shrine

The shrine is located in central Tokyo, very close to the Imperial Palace complex: it’s easily accessed via public transport. The nearest stations are Kundanshita and Ichigaya, both under a 10 minute walk away. Taxis from anywhere in the city will be able to drop you here.

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