Ten years ago, I had the good fortune of wandering over to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine at just the right time, on just the right day, and just as the rain very briefly turned to snow. The shot below is my favourite from those fortuitous few minutes, and should you want to, several more from the same set can be seen here.
Since then, February 11th, National Foundation Day, has been a noted day in my diary, and I’ve been back to see the same spectacle almost every single year. Of course it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get a series of photos that match those first ones, but there’s no harm in trying, and anyway, despite my utter distaste for what these uniformed nationalists stand for, I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating. I also have a grudging respect for them, as there’s none of the noise and bombast that is all too often an integral part of such gatherings. Instead, they quietly march up to the shrine, very solemnly pay their respects, and then depart en masse in a similarly restrained manner.
This year was no different, but with regard to photography, the low winter sun and resultant shadows made shooting difficult, so this is the best I got. A shot I like, but at the same time, it’s not all that different from others I’ve taken.
With that in mind then, it seemed like a good idea to add another shot from yesterday, as well as a couple of previously unseen images from two years ago. Photographs that document some of the other people who tend to make an appearance on February 11th.
To be fair, their behaviour is equally respectful, but compared to the main group, I really don’t know what to make of them. So here they are without further comment.
Great documentary work I’d be very happy with any of these photos. Those guys in blue could be a still from a comedy movie about nationalists! 🙂
I cannot agree more that they look ridiculous and funny, coming from a comedy… But so did Trump…
Thanks a lot, and yes, couldn’t agree more.
@Ed That’s so very true…
Man that first photo is awesome!
Thank you. One I’m very happy to have taken.
Once an Expat says
A bunch of effin’ losers, all of ’em.
Very much why my respect is grudging, but they do behave at Yasukuni, so I have to give them credit for that. They also don’t give me a hard time for getting in their way and photographing them, when in all honesty, it’d be understandable if they did.
The old fella in the last photo could be different. Couldn’t quite work out if he is ex-JSDF or not. And he did have a possibly unhealthy interest in bayoneting. But him being there to pay his respects could be very different to the others.
These are powerful and thought provoking photographs. The one in sleet is so filmic and belongs in a gallery.
Living in the UK and having experienced the frightening violence of the National Front at Anti Nazi Leage demonstrations in the late seventies, these gatherings seem a passive and respectful statement of belief.
Thanks. Very good to hear.
Yeah, that’s the thing. At Yasukuni at least there is non of the nastiness, just quite solemnity.
That said, they are quite different out in the streets, blasting propaganda from their speaker equipped trucks and generally ranting and raving. Have seen some violence too, as well as lots of threats of violence, but thankfully nothing like what you witnessed.
Something I find fascinating is that they seem to tend to go for fatigues (or something approaching it) rather than shiny dress uniforms. Re the guy in the bottom photo: his uniform really stands out — as either being from the post WWII era or looking like that of “the other/winning side”‘s!
Yeah, no idea what the reasons are. The fella in the last photo I’m really not sure about. He could well be ex-self defence force, and the outfit completely legit. But there again…
The top 3 photos, however, are definitely extreme right wing groups. Interestingly the green fatigues favoured by the big group are unusual. Much more common are the blue outfits like those those in the 3rd photo. Seen lots of groups sporting slight variants of that look. No idea why though, or indeed what the influence/inspiration is.