Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine is a divisive place of worship at the best of times, but on August 15th, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, it’s an element that is even more pronounced. The vast majority of people are there for the right reason — to simply remember the past. The very noticeable contingent from the far right, however, are there to revere it. And some, quite possibly, are somewhere in-between.
Wow, Lee, I must admit that I wouldn’t have dared to go to Yasukuni Shrine on that day. How did people (especially the very far right-wingers) react to your presence — and your taking photos — there?
No problems at all. To be completely fair, I’ve always found that so long as you don’t purposely piss them off, they don’t care in the slightest. Their issues aren’t really with people like me. In fact I’d even go as far as to say I’m an irrelevance.
Obviously that’s the way I want to keep it too, so in situations like that I’m a lot more careful of when, and who I shoot.
An Ex Expat says
That old, delusional fart wasn’t even out of his diapers during the war…. and he has the effrontery to put on a uniform?
There were many others, most of them many years younger than him doing the same thing. In a whole host of uniforms too. But exactly, none of them are old enough to have worn one for real…
Great photo – beautifully framed!
Thank you very much!
Dan Waldhoff says
Makes me think of my countrymen who put on grey uniforms, wave the flag of Dixie and pretend the “South Will Rise Again.” We all need hobbies. I always hoped to catch a black bass â€¦
That’s an interesting comparison. A good few similarities there too.
We certainly do. Passions are always important. Just that some are far more productive than others…
I’m sure him and the many others who were in military garb would balk at being called cosplayers, but it does seem a fair description.
Great photo. I thought they were WWII vets first. Are they really cosplayers??
Difficult to say for sure. The man in the right of the frame was young, so definitely not a vet. The old fella on the other hand could, at a push, be old enough, but only if he has aged very well. My guess is he’s also too young. But like I said, I can’t say for sure.
Great photo, always nice to see these guys looking glum and broken (although it may just be be the weather and marching around, I like to indulge my imagination a bit).
Whenever Yasukuni comes up I always like to point out that even the Showa emperor stopped going there in the early 80’s and the current Emperor has maintained this. What’s really crazy though is the Showa emperor stopped going over the ‘class a war criminals’ which is a category for people that started the war and he himself only avoided this classification by Macarthur’s protection. The whole thing has ended up putting the facist nationalists completely at odds with the emperor they revere so much and kept the him from traditional role as head of the Shinto faith.
A few have remarked on the gentleman’s age. I myself have a hard time placing it. I’d guess early 70’s and the guess above about him being in diapers at the time of the surrender would be accurate if so. However, living in Hawaii, I’ve also seen plenty of Japanese and Japanese American veterans (including a number this year due to the round number anniversary) and some of those 89 year olds don’t look a day over 72. Of course the uniform here looks to be a general’s and they’re all confirmed dead so I think we’re safer in saying this is just cosplay as the above comment suggests.
Thank you very much.
Yeah, that contradiction has always fascinated me. Obviously the Emperor is very limited in what he can say and do, but his actions and speeches suggest a man who wouldn’t want anything at all to do with these men and women who’d like to take Japan back in his name. It’d be wonderful to hear what exactly his views are, but sadly that’s never going to happen…
I really wished I’d asked his age as, like you say, it’s often very difficult to gauge exactly how old some people are. But he was kind enough to let me take his photo. Even saluted me afterwards. So I didn’t want to be rude.
Lee, I was there too!
I thought this was one great occasion to face my fears. And it worked wonder. I acted the same as you. I was not a bit sneaky, was showing my presence honestly and waited for an occasion when I felt the guys didn’t mind. I had some strange story too, but not to be told on the web.
Anyways, I know how people think about these uniforms, and the war, but, there are two things I keep in mind in these types of situations:
– a photograph is a photograph, and a photographer shouldn’t think of his own politic views (I mean for a street or a documentary photographer)
– War is an awful thing, on whoever side. France suffered, Great-Britain suffered, America, China suffered, but Germany too, Japan too… But, let’s just have a quick thought about the Unit 731 and a certain pact that saved General ShirÃ´ Ishii.
Between, this is a beautiful picture, on a photographic point of view, of course.
Ah, pity we didn’t get to meet. There again there were so many people there it would have been tricky even if we had tried.
Yasukuni is such an odd place, isn’t it? The vast majority are there to simply pay their respects. Just as they should. But the far right still hog the headlines. And make up most of the photos. I’ve proved that. But yeah, all the people there were perfectly pleasant in regards photos. Nobody seemed to mind at all. Still very keen to hear your strange story though!
I just saw this guy in a photo for an article on Reuters – he seems to be the poster child for Japan’s crazy right-wingers. You got there first though LOL Kudos.
These guys… if I had a time machine, I’d take a few of them to Saipan, or Peleliu in 1944, and pretty much leave them there – see how they like it.
Funny. A mate in New Zealand just mailed me after seeing him too. He’s definitely getting his fifteen minutes worth this year.
But yeah, it’s hard to grasp what horrors they seem to wish for. Or perhaps more accurately, very selectively wish for.