A Lesson in Perspective at Yasukuni Shrine
Yasukuni Shrine was built in 1869 to commemorate the Japanese men who have died in war since 1853. To date, there are more than 2.4 million souls enshrined there. The large grounds feature the honden, or main shrine, a perfectly manicured shinchi teien, or sacred pond garden full of koi, and a large museum Yushukan, built in 1882 and full of artifacts including armor, swords, airplanes and canons (I apologize I don't have more photos inside, as cameras weren't permitted throughout.).
It's an understatement to say there's a lot of controversy surrounding this shrine, as some of the men honored here were tried as war criminals by the West. This fact alone is enough to both give you pause and could render tourists into somewhat uncomfortable observers. But the Japanese are proud of those who fought to protect their country, just as Americans and the people of every other nation are of their own. One may not be able to condone or excuse some of the actions of those memorialized here, but also has to remember these lost men could very well be the ancestors of fellow visitors. It's best to show respect, reflect and learn.
I highly suggest visiting Yasukuni Shrine and Yushukan if you come to Japan for the incredible relics on display here. As with all national institutions I've visited in Japan thus far, it's a beautifully cared for place with a deep history that's worth seeing.
This post originally appeared on my blog, www.100tacks.com.