Takahashi speech at U of Chicago: “Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”


Hi Blog. Great speech (available as a podcast from the link below) from the University of Chicago’s International and Area Studies Multimedia Outreach Service (CHIASMOS) (Thanks to Fiona for notifying me):

“Postwar Japan on the Brink: Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”
by Professor Tetsuya Takahashi, University of Tokyo
March 6, 2007

Professor Takahashi’s writings, including his 2005 bestseller, The Yasukuni Issue, make unmistakably clear that the role of the Shrine is antithetical to democratic values in Japan and to reconciliation with Asia, which requires acknowledgment of the harms inflicted through colonialism and war. The subject of his lecture is Japan at a crossroads today, its hard-won postwar democratic values at stake as never before.

Professor Takahashi teaches philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo.

Available as a podcast and/or video at:

Delivered in Japanese, with excellent translation by Dr. Norma Field (author, “In the Realm of a Dying Emperor”), there are no excuses for not listening on either side of the linguistic fence!

EXCERPT (minute 120):
“At the outset of my talk, I referred to the Tomita Memorandum as having been used by those who wanted to criticize the Prime Minister’s official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. However, I think that in the medium future, it is possible that that memorandum could be used in the opposite way–i.e. to clear the way for official visits by the Emperor himself. This past summer, in 2006, Foreign Minister Aso, an extremely influential politician, proposed that in order to revive the path for Imperial worship, the [Yasukuni] Shrine should be nationalized again. Such a proposal by such an influential politician is one we can not afford to overlook.

“It is the case that between 1969 and 1974, the LDP proposed legislation that would remove Yasukuni Shrine from its non-special status and make it again subject to State support. However, in that period, from 1969 to 1974, there was too strong a worry that this would lead to the revivial of militarism, and this legislation was not enacted. However, now, thirty years later, influential politicians in the LDP are stating that the State should remove, according to its own judgment, the Class-A War Criminals from Yasukuni Shrine, secure the understanding of China and Korea, and then make it possible to nationalize Yasukuni Shrine, make it possible for Yasukuni Shrine to have regular visits from the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I think that what I laid out earlier is that Triadic System stands a very good chance of being revived now. Namely, with the revision of Article 9, and the establishment of a force that is openly recognized to be an army, with the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education already effected in December of 2006 building in patriotic education. And then, the possibility of nationalizing Yasukuni Shrine–so that if there are deaths on the battlefield that occur, given the newly-established army, then these people will be enshrined in the national shrine and honored by the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I hope that you can understand now why I cannot accept that the problem of Article 9 is merely a problem with the Class-A War Criminals. I should have added that all these things could be happening according to this scenario with no objections coming from China and Korea–because the Class-A War Criminals have been disposed of.”
(Transcript by Arudou Debito)

2 comments on “Takahashi speech at U of Chicago: “Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”

  • Wow, Mr Takahashi has totally changed my outlook on Yasuguni.

    We had a fairly extensive argument about Yasuguni here on The Community list a while back:

    The issue of that debate, as it is in most circles, was over the “Class A War Criminals”.

    After hearing Mr Takahashi’s take on the matter, I see now that focusing on that one aspect of the issue is a diversion from the fact that Yasuguni Shrine is entirely a bad thing. It’s a homage to the colonization that existed almost a hundred years before 1945, it glorifies the deaths of people who were forced to die for things they didn’t believe in, it was still a vehicle for celebrating the atrocities done in the name of the emperor after the war… The list goes on.

    And talking about the Class A War Criminals as if that’s the only problem is actually a potential gateway for a resolution that emboldens the history revisionists, and future imperialists..

    I feel like my views have been corrected, and I no longer stand by what I said in the earlier discussion.

    Great to have my views changed.

    Thank you for directing us to that link.

  • I have mixed feelings about Yasukuni. I’ve been there, several times (I’m a sucker for vinetage aircraft). At times, Yasukuni reminds me of our “Warrior Cemeteries”. No, that’s not an error. Cemeteries dedicated to the fallen soliders of both World Wars (or better said, areas in normal cemeteries that are dedicated to the war dead) are sometimes referred to as “Kriegerfriedhof” (warrior cemetery) and statues used for rememberance are called “Kriegerdenkmal” (again we have the “warrior” in it, not the “soldier”). Many of those, even in Austria, display the German “Iron Cross”. Personally, I’m not too fond of those in general. If I take WW2, well, my great-grandfather was locked up in Buchenwald and Dachau for being a communist. My grandfathers both served in Russia and went through hell there. And one of my great-granduncles actually volunteered for the SS. So, there you have the reason why I have mixed feelings, my family was on both sides of the fence, as victim and as criminal.

    However I know that the “collective soul” of the people (I’m lacking a better term there) needs this. They need a way to remember their dead. They also need a justification. And they need lies. Years ago an exhbition in Germany and Austria caused a huge outcry, since it showed the warcrimes of the Wehrmacht and, pretty much, dispelled the myth of the “clean war” fought by the Wehrmacht. Veterans screamed murder, right winged groups joined them. The myth, although damaged, is still around and many people believe it.

    The difference to Japan is, that here, it would be completely impossible to go down the same road as Yasukuni. Not because we’re better in the moral aspect. Not because we know that the truth is different. Not because we are all so good (despite the fact that our politicians try to tell everyone that those are the reasons). No. The reason is extremely simple. Something like Yasukuni would be forbidden by law in Germany and Austria. For example, outright Holocaust denial will get you locked up in prison for a while.

    Worse yet, the EU wants a law that outlaws Holocaust denial all across EU member countries. As a result, if I would stand on a street in Paris, with a sign denying the Holocaust, 50 policemen would jump me, arrest me, drag me in front of a court, put me on trial and lock me up for one to three years. Perverse if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m against Nazis and I believe we have to fight them. But making such a law is stupid. Germany and Austria have laws like that and we have nazi groups. They are illegal, but they exist anyway. The biggest problem, though, is that now there is only one, governmental approved, opinion. If you don’t share this opinion, the government can lock you up. If this law passes, the EU won’t be free anymore, it won’t be liberal anymore. And we, the EU citizens, won’t be free anymore, either. Now I wonder, what will they ban next?

    Don’t get me wrong. As I said, Nazis need to be fought, but I rather fight them with facts than with a law that clearly violates freedom of speech and everything “democracy” stands for.

    And that is the point. Japan doesn’t have anything like that. Yes, it pisses me off when people say that the war against America was a necessity. But, with that, it seems that Japan is more democratic, more free, more liberal than Europe. Europe, the continent where “liberté, fraternité, equalité” were a slogan, where the human rights came to be, ends up being less free than Japan, which had real democracy for only 60 years (no offense, but the government during the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa was hardly democratic, the power just shifted from the Tokugawa and their followers to the Imperial Family and their minions, movements for civil rights were suppressed by force, etc).

    Yes, I agree that many of the things told in Yasukuni are outright stupid for anyone who knows his “history 101”. Yes, I agree that, for example, their view of the “comfort women” is extremely redundant. Yes, I agree that they are outright lying about the Special Attack Force pilots. No arguing there. But I also believe that, if someone wants to be stupid, he has the right to be stupid. And I also believe that Japan needs something like Yasukuni. Germany and Austria has their “warrior cemeteries”. The French have their “sacred ground” in Verdun. The Americans have Arlington (one of the most depressing places I’ve ever seen, row and row of gravestones, sad). Japan has Yasukuni.

    That said, a nationalization of Yasukuni wouldn’t really be that bad. Why? Well, a nationalized Yasukuni would have to follow the government’s politics. With that, they’d have to correct their entries about “comfort women”, for example.

    As for the emperor. I seriously doubt that emperor Akihito will ever visit the shrine. I’m 100% sure that Naruhito won’t visit it, ever (and if, then only if certain issues are solved). Same for Hisahito (should he ever be emperor). People should keep in mind that Hisahito will grow up as the child of two very well educated parents, with an uncle and an aunt who are just as brilliant. He won’t fall for that nationalist crap.

    I concur, the warcriminals shouldn’t be there. Yes, that’s true. Tojo shouldn’t be there. He’s not even a victim of the war. He’s just a coward who was captured and even botched his own suicide (yes, we all know that he tried to commit suicide, however, the circumstances are extremely shady; tries to shoot himself into the heart instead of the head and fails? yeah, right…) Yes, people like that shouldn’t be there. But there are thousands enshrined who don’t have the blood of innocents on their hands. They shouldn’t be forgotten. The Himeyuri, the Shiraume, the soldiers on Iwo Jima, the Special Attack Force pilots, the army nurses, the soldiers from all the other battlefields who did not kill innocents and rape women. They shouldn’t be forgotten.

    But that’s how it is. How many warcriminals rest in Arlington yet people still go there…

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