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Review of Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine
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Full-Day Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo with Kitanomaru Park
Ranked #5 of 342 things to do in Chiyoda
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Owner description: A large, torii gate stands at the entrance to this shrine built in memory of those who lost their lives defending Japan. Many officials still come and offer prayer annually on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.
Reviewed August 19, 2013

Easy walking and beautiful architecture. Great intro to Shintoism. Crowds not bad. Great place to learn about religious beliefs in Japan.

1  Thank frequenteater
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 13, 2013 via mobile

Decided to tour the shrine because the gardens at the Imperial Palace were closed. It was interesting to see a shrine dedicated to the souls of those who died for the emperor. The museum was great. Most displays were in English and Japanese. Took a while to understand different opinions than im used to. A lot of the museum is dedicated to those that gave their lives in battle.

2  Thank JohnTSanAntone
This review is the subjective opinion of an individual traveler and not of TripAdvisor LLC nor of its partners.
Reviewed August 2, 2013

Why a Visit to the Yasukuni Shrine?

“I will meet you at the Yasukuni Shrine.”
When a Japanese soldier said that in WWII, it meant that he was ready to sacrifice his life for his country. (Please refer to the Movie “Letters from Iwo Jima” if interested.)
When I requested a guided tour of the Yasukuni Shrine from the Japan Free Tour Guide Service, which has helped thousands of foreign visitors, I got no response. Hesitation probably indicates controversy.
However, controversy is an important part of life. I went regardless because my Tokyo tour would not be complete without it.
The Yasukuni Shrine is quite a catch phrase in Asian politics and international relations. The controversy is that some Japanese “ war heroes” worshipped here are seen as war criminals in countries which were attacked, invaded and occupied by the Japanese imperial army and navy in WWII. High-ranking Japanese officials’ formal visits to the Shrine on sensitive dates further complicate the issue.
As a serious and conscientious tourist, I did my homework before my “formal” visit. Reading all the related books I could place my hands on is a must, to begin with. I also have a movie list including
“Tora! Tora!Tora!”
“Pearl Harbor”
“The Bridge on the River Kwai”
“The Pacific”
“Kaiten :Human Torpedo War,” among others.
You may also wish to watch “Wasabi” and “lost In translation.” They have nothing to do with wars, but the cultural shock as expressed in a subtle way in the movie might whet your curiosity about Japan and Asia in general.
The military museum, known as “Yushukan” in Japanese, impressed me most of all. Politics aside, it is well-organized and well displayed. Groups of local visitors receive well-arranged guided tours here , in Japanese only. Having learned the Allied side of WWII stories, I would not mind hearing the Japanese side of the war stories, told in an official way. Exhibitions have both Japanese and English descriptions. Photography is forbidden inside the museum exhibition rooms. But there is a complete museum book for sale at the gift shop, a Japanese version and an English version. I bought the Japanese version, because some contents and photos are lost in the English translation.
The Zero fighter plane placed at the museum entrance reminded me of my visit to the War Memorial in Canberra, Australia, where they have on display both a zero fighter and a midget suicide submarine, which was spotted and later recovered off the coast of Brisbane, having presumably failed in its suicide mission. In the military museum in Auckland, New Zealand, a Zero fighter is on display together with a British Spitfire, which is a famous frontline fighter plane used by the Allied countries.
The locomotive engine at the Museum entrance reminded me of my visit to the bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanabari, Thailand. They have quite a few old Japanese locomotives there, an Allied cemetery, a POW museum, and a museum/research center on the Thai-Burma railroad. By the way, “the Bridge on the River Kwai” is the best movie of the year(1957) and won several Oscar nominations then.
At Yushukan, there is a special exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of the war in the Pacific. Admiral Yamomoto’s binoculars was on display. He was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese combined fleet, and the mastermind of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. For more information, please watch the Japanese movie “Admiral Isoruku Yamomoto, Commander-in-chief of the Japanese Imperial Navy.” Having served as the naval attaché in Washington, he was against the war with the USA at first and survived assassination attempts by the militarists. But when ordered, he successfully planned and executed the sneak attack against Pearl Harbor that paralyzed the US Pacific Fleet.
In the Maritime Museum in Hamburg, Germany, There is a whole section dedicated to the world Naval history. I saw, among the statues of the world famous admirals, only two Asians. One is Zheng He (Cheng Ho), a Chinese court eunuch who commanded voyages to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and East Africa in the 1400’s. The other is Isoruku Yamomoto.
Sorry for the digression into Europe. Back to Asian business.
I hesitated to write a review on Yasukuni because I am not sure how to approach a controversial topic and make myself understood. Sharing and communicating is a joy and hard work as well, sometimes. But Tripadvisor has been twisting my arms ever since my trip to Tokyo. So, here it is. Mission accomplished.
May I finish my review with two movie quotes:
"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve” --Adm Yamomoto after his victory at Pearl Harbor (Tora! Tora! Tora!)
“Are we better than the Japanese, or just luckier?”
--Adm Nimitz after his victory at Midway (Midway)

11  Thank goethelyc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2013

You should put a visit to Yasukuni near the top of your list of things to do in Tokyo, much more than the nicely situated but somewhat bland Meiji Shrine. Notoriously known in the West as the “War Shrine”, Yasukuni is where (some) Japanese believe the souls of those who had died defending the country rest, Of course, most countries have a Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and, like in Japan, Ministers and other high ranking politicians go to pay respects. Unfortunately, in the late 1970s, the organisation running the shrine (which, unsurprisingly, falls on the far right of the spectrum of Japanese politics) also arranged for the political and military leaders who had planned and instigated WW2 to be honoured, ensuring diplomatic rows and a longstanding political issue for decades to come. Official visits to the shrine remain an emotive and divisive issue in the country, and though some governments tried to make a separate monument for the fallen, these plans went nowhere.

The shrine is pretty much just another shrine, but it’s important to pay a visit to the museum inside the grounds. This museum basically exists to propagate the right wing version of Japanese history, from modernisation through WW2. While this point of view is usually met with snorts of derision in the West, there was a context here – European imperialism, racism, unfair trade treaties, etc. It’s a pretty safe bet that most of Asia would still be ruled by Europeans had Japan not kicked them out. That is not to say that Japanese abuses during the war (towards others and also its own people) should be justified, but that the situation was much more complex than the usual “white hats and black hats” version that most Western people seem to be spoon-fed.

There is a gift shop selling the usual variety of trinkets, though much of the items will not be too interesting if you aren’t fluent in Japanese (for example, there is a good selection of right leaning literature). If it flicks your switch, there are also a lot of books and DVDs on military matters, ranging from WW2 documentaries to promotional stuff for the Japanese air force (though all of this is also in Japanese). There is also a café, though I would highly recommend giving this a pass – it is substandard and overpriced, and basically preys on the elderly Japanese tour groups that visit the shrine in busloads. Don’t be fooled by the “Imperial Navy Curry”, which is an utter rip off.

2  Thank the_green_line
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 20, 2013

mind was sorrow, and easy to walk to there. you can think about at sinsa, what is Japanese nationalism, what was a second world war to us

1  Thank whechon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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