Due to the controversy surrounding the enshrinement of 14 Class-A war criminals, Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine is rarely out of the news. And as such, the commonly named ‘war shrine’ is a constant source of tension between Japan and its neighbours, particularly when the Prime Minister opts to visit in an official capacity — fully aware of the anger it will cause.
Similarly, Yasukuni is also a focal point for Japan’s various nationalist organisations, especially so on politically sensitive, or culturally significant dates. Like yesterday, which was National Foundation Day.
A day that in many ways perfectly sums up the problems and contradictions of Yasukuni. In the morning, there was the regular flow of locals, tourists and veterans — all there to pay their respects or simply to take photographs and look around. Then shortly after lunch, a large number of uniform wearing nationalists were noisily bussed in. A group that once organised, marched in line up to the main shrine area.
Where they stood to attention.
Quietly observed the planned and carefully orchestrated ceremony.
Then did an about-face.
Moved flag bearers back up to the front.
And then made a fairly speedy march back to the entrance.
Their exit once again leaving Yasukuni Shrine to the families and much less antagonistic visitors that it’s generally more accustomed to.