Monday, October 13, 2008

Tokyo - Marunouchi

After Ueno I was off to the Marunouchi district of Tokyo. There were only three things I wanted to see here.

Tokyo Station
Built in 1914 using Renaissance style architecture (I'm just copying that information from a booklet; I don't know anything about architecture). It was under going construction so the picture sucks.

Imperial Palace

If you want to tour the inside of the Imperial Palace you can do so for free but you need to book in advanced online at:

Yasakuni Jinja

Ah... Yasakuni Jinja... this is what I most desired to see in the area. Actually it's one of the things I wanted to see the most in Japan. This is a shrine dedicated to what other countries consider war criminals but what the japanese consider World War 2 heroes. It is a site of major controversy in Asia, especially with China and Korea. Every year the japanese prime minister will visit the site to honor these war criminals/war heroes, but do so not as a "representative of the state", but as an individual. As China's power continues to grow the Japanese have been somewhat more delicate about their approach to this shrine. It's interesting to see.

Why is there still so much controversy for a war that happened quite a long time ago now?

Edited... someone I respect very much and who happens to be wiser than me said that the original post was rather inappropriate because what the world needs now is healing and peace, not reopening old wounds. Reopening old wounds was certainly not my intent, but rather to help educate people on a terrible event often forgotten. In any case I believe she is correct and as such I have removed the original content of this section which contained some very graphic photographs of The Rape of Nanking. If you wish to learn more about it google it or read the book by the late Iris Chang The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. I've read the book and recommend it.

You could also visit the link below:

This sort of animalistic behavior was endorsed by Japanese leaders, those that committed these acts went unpunished. Rape and senseless death actually happened wherever the Japanese went, but it was the worst in Nanking.

Some estimate the death toll to be 300,000 civilians though Japan says it's much lower. Nobody really knows as there were too many dead bodies to count and people more worried about their lives than counting the dead.

Ok, so war is terrible (let's not also forget hiroshima and nagasaki). Innocent civilians are always casualties, and in this particular case the way they were killed, mutilated, the humiliation of women was horrendous.

Now then the controversy steams from Japan having done their best to try and wipe this episode out of history. Japanese children in school do not learn about about acts such as this. (However, in Kyoto there is a museum of world peace which I hear is quite candid about Japanese militarism, however I don't know how much they get into it. I was unable to go because it closed by the time I got there. ) Because the Japanese have never formally apologized for their actions in World War 2, and because they deny events being as bad as they were much of Asia is still quite upset. This wouldn't be the first time Japan has tried to cover up something they view as embarrassing, for example samurai were homosexuals ( Similar but not quite to the extend as the Greek Spartans. During the Meiji restoration, when Japan was opened to the world, the west was quite horrified at how homosexual they were. As Japan westernized themselves they quietly brushed samurai homosexuality aside as just something before they were as "civilized". Hey, if you're gay you're gay. Let's not forget also that Geishas were originally men. I really don't see the shame in this, history is as it is, and there's nothing wrong with people being homosexual.

Anyway so I think that about sums up why this place is so controversial. Let's get back to Yasakuni Jinja.
The shrine at Yasakuni Jinja. When I tried to take a picture closer up a security guard stopped me.

Pilot... stone tablet only in Japanese. Maybe Honoring Kamikazi pilots? I dunno.

Maybe someone can translate for me.

Restored Zero... one of the best carrier planes in the beginning of World War 2.

The plaque reads:
"When Time shall have softened passion and prejudice,
When reason shall have stripped the mask of misrepresentation,
then Justice, holding evenly her scales, will require
much of the past censure and praise to change places." -- Radha binod Pal

This strikes me as a bit ironic. Sigh... interesting world eh? It's so difficult for all these proud people to appologize and forgive and move on.

Well anyway, so you can see the controversy surrounding this shrine, and that's why I was so excited to see it in person. The restored Zero was pretty cool too.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Hey, there! I took a shot at translating that tablet for you, but I can only make out some of the individual kanji. The right half seems to be a list of names or maybe battalions or something? I see a lot of numbers, and then it ends in the same kanji, which is the first kanji in "name" in Japanese. Sorry I can't be of more help. :(