There is probably no other shrine in East Asia which evokes so many feelings and reactions as Yasukuni in Chiyoda, Tokyo.
The shrine honors the souls of those men and women who had died in service of the Empire of Japan. It is, therefore, an historical and religious monument to those virtues of devotion and allegiance so revered in Japanese culture. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, has been quite attached to long-established visits to the shrine, and many of its members, including former prime ministers Hashimoto and Koizumi, paid homage to it.
Yasukuni, however, does enshrine also a few people who have been condemned as criminals of war by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Visits to the shrine raise complaints and criticism among those countries who have suffered from Japanese domination and colonial expansion – especially China and Korea. In the past, Chinese authorities inferred that by visiting the shrine, Japanese political authorities showed disdain for all the victims of Japan’s war crimes.
History plays a big role in the relations between China and Japan. Chinese authorities have often complained about the vagueness of expression of remorse by Japanese political class; on the other hand, historical propaganda campaigns with their emphasis on anti-colonialism and Japanese occupation – promoted by PRC’s elites from the 1990s – have attracted criticism for fostering anti-Japan feelings in China.
Were Japanese political authorities to visit Yasukuni Shrine on 15 August – the End of War’s Memorial Day in Japan – , they would probably sparkle tension once again in the delicate equilibrium of China-Japan relations.