During my most recent visit to Japan in early September of 2016, I had the honor of visiting the most controversial Shinto shrine in the Asia-Pacific region. Located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo, the Yasukuni Shrine was founded by Emperor Meiji in 1869 and commemorates those who lost their lives fighting for their country. Whenever a Japanese leader visits the shrine, it provokes protests across the region as well as public controversy in global media.
In the Shinto religion, the souls of the deceased become kami (deities) and there are over 2 million kami listed in the Yasukuni Symbolic Registry of Divinities. Most of the names on the list are those of soldiers. However, the list also includes the names of women and students who worked in factories for the war effort and were involved in relief operations in the battlefield. Further, the list is not exclusive to people of Japanese descent. Yasukuni Shrine also honors the souls of 27,863 Taiwanese and 21,181 Koreans. What creates controversy is the fact that the list also includes the names of 1,068 war criminals, 14 of whom are considered A-Class.
The shrine sits on 6.25 hectares and includes several structures. Among these is the Haiden (the main prayer hall where worshipers come to pray) and the Honden (the main shrine where Yasukuni’s enshrined deities reside). The Honden is also the building where Shinto rituals are performed and it is generally closed to the public. The building located on the right side of the Haiden is the Sanshuden (Assembly Hall). Located directly behind the Sanshuden is the Tochakuden (Reception Hall). The Symbolic Registry of Divinities is stored in the Reijibo Hoanden, which is located directly behind the Honden.
There are several different gates (torii) located on both the causeway and shrine grounds. When moving through the grounds from east to west, the first torii visitors encounter is the Daiichi Torii. This large steel structure was the largest torii in Japan when it was first erected in 1921. It marks the main entrance to the shrine and measures approximately 25 meters tall and 34 meters wide.
The second gate is The Daini Torii. It was erected in 1887 and is the largest bronze torii in Japan. Immediately following the Daini Torii is the Shinmon. This 6-meter tall hinoki cypress gate was first built in 1934 and restored in 1994. Each of its two doors bears a Chrysanthemum Crest measuring 1.5 meters in diameter.
Lastly there is the The Yushukan Museum. It contains various artifacts and documents relating to Japanese war casualties and military activity. The museum was established in 1882, and is considered to be the first and oldest war and military museum in Japan.
Controversial or not, the shrine is a wonderful, tranquil place to visit despite its association with wars.
Web Page: http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/english/
Address: 3-1-1 Kudan-kita,Tokyo,Japan