Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed on Tuesday making the Yasukuni Shrine for Japanese war dead a secular, state-run memorial. This could clear the way to remove the 14 Class-A war criminals from the lists of those honored there.
(See: Japan’s Aso wants state to run Yasukuni war shrine
– Reuters 2006/8/08
In my humble opinion Aso’s proposal is totally useless. First of all, I’m not sure that a state-run Yasukuni state-run would be a good idea as it will remember some of the wartime policies when Yasukuni was used by the government as a political tool to indoctrinate the population.
But more importantly, even if the 14 Class-A war criminals are removed the controversy around Yasukuni will not end for reasons Ian Buruma
explained very well in an opinion article
several months ago:
"To focus only on the Class-A war criminals is to ignore the essence of the shrine. Koizumi's claim that Japan is now a peaceful nation with no military designs on its neighbors may be true, but it is beside the point. And he is either ignorant or dishonest when he claims that visiting the shrine is simply 'a matter of the heart.'
For Yasukuni Shrine is in fact a deeply political institution, established in 1869 to remember the men who died for the emperor. Japan did have an ideology that glorified militarism, racial superiority, and emperor worship. Going to war to bring Asia under the roof of the divine emperor was promoted as a sacred mission. Dying for the emperor was propagated as the highest virtue. That is why soldiers believed that they would meet after death at Yasukuni Shrine.
The glorification of militarism was not unusual at that time. Most European countries did the same, at least until the end of World War I. The association of monarchs with military glory was not unusual either. What made Japan unique was that this association became both a state religion and a political ideology, of which Yasukuni Shrine is the prime symbol.
The Japanese should care more about this, not because of Chinese or Korean protests, but because it did such harm to Japan itself.
For the blend of religion and ideology represented by State Shinto and emperor worship not only justified military aggression in Asia but also destroyed every attempt by the Japanese to establish a liberal democracy at home.
It deprived the Japanese population of the right to free speech. It demanded blind obedience of the Japanese armed forces to the emperor, and not to elected civilian governments. It led Japan into a brutal war, and it wrecked any chance for Japanese civilians to stop it.
Walking around Yasukuni Shrine today, you get the impression that none of this ever happened. Instead, a visitor to the museum is subjected to the same old excuses used by the military leaders of wartime Japan: Japan was forced into a war by foreign powers; Japanese soldiers fought bravely for freedom in Asia and peace in the world; their sacrifice should be a shining example to future generations, who owe their prosperity to these selfless martyrs of the imperial cause.
This is what makes the shrine such a disturbing place. Not the Class-A war criminals, but this destructive ideology, which has survived intact, despite war crime trials, democratic government, and more than half a century to analyze, debate, and reflect on the catastrophes of the past.
Japan is a free country, of course, and if people want to continue believing in emperor worship and wartime propaganda, they should be allowed to do so.
But if the prime minister himself insists on paying his respects at a place that represents these views, then it is not only other Asians that should worry about whether the Japanese have learned the lessons of the past. The Japanese should worry about it too, not to appease foreign critics, but in defense of their own freedoms."
Ian Buruma: The Yasukuni Problem (Kyodo News- 2006/1/30)
I think that the only solution will be to create of a new secular state war memorial totally separated form Yasukuni symbolism.