Tag Archives: yasukuni shrine

Silly political games again …

16 Aug

Yesterday (2012 August 15), was the 67th anniversary of the end of World War II.

And, as is done every August 15th in Tokyo, some Japanese politicans went to the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)… which is the shrine in Japan that honors all who died defending Japan in war… to pay tribute.

All who died in Japan’s defense are enshrined there … including those who were found guilty of war crimes by the U.S. war tribunals.

For that reason, many of Japan’s neighboring countries don’t like Yasukuni Shrine … and get upset when Japanese politicans visit it.

But really, the shrine doesn’t exclude war dead based on another country’s war court verdict … in the same way that all of America’s soldiers who die in battle can be buried at Arlington Cemetary, all of Japan’s soldiers are honored at Yasukuni Shrine.

But that isn’t the only political debate neighboring countries have with Japan.
China, Russia and South Korea have border disputes with Japan.

After their victory over the Japanese team at the Olympics,  a player on South Korea’s Olympic soccer team held up a sign declaring that the disputed Takeshima Island is Korean territory.  The Korean team almost lost their medal because of that.
Then, the South Korean president visited the island – – unannounced visits to disputed land by a political leader isn’t probably a wise move.
And then, yesterday … the anniversary of the end of World War II, some Korean men attempted to swim to the island. They didn’t make it there, so Japan didn’t need to take any action … but their attempt made the news.

And then yesterday, a Chinese boat was intercepted by the Japanese Coast Guard as it tried to head to the Senkaku Islands … which is disputed land between Japan and China.
The Chinese people onboard are currently in a Japanese jail. China is demanding that they be freed.

This seems to happen every year at this time.

VJ Day

15 Aug

Today is 「終戦記念日」 (lit. “Anniversary of the end of the war”), or, as it’s referred to in the West, VJ Day.

So today is the 65th anniversary of the end of World War 2. Unfortunately it’s not the anniversary of war completely.

I’m not going to write a lot of this today because last year I wrote a post about the 64th anniversary that included an English translation of part of the Japanese Emperor’s speech to the people of Japan (click here to read it).

And the year before, I wrote a post about the 63rd anniversary that explained a bit about 「靖国神社」 (Yasukuni Shrine) and it’s relevance to this day. (click here to read that post).

This year 「終戦記念日」 (VJ Day) is on a Sunday (today), so I’m sure 「靖国神社」 (Yasukuni Shrine) was crowded today.

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Also today was the last day of this year’s 「深川八幡祭り」 (Fukagawa Hachiman Festival)…also called the 「水かけ祭り」 (“Water Tossing Festival“) because people watching the festival throw water on the people carrying the 神輿 (Miskoshi portable shrines). Even firefighters hose them down.

Two years ago I participated in this festival by helping to carry a 神輿 (portable shrine).

It was fun…but carrying that heavy thing all day and also tossing it up and catching it many times…my arms and legs were aching the next day!

This festival occurs every August in the 門前仲町 (Monzen-Nakachou) area of Tokyo…but the big main festival only occurs every three years.

When I participated two years ago it was a “big, main festival”…and next year when the big festival is scheduled again, I am invited to join again.

Click here to see photos and videos of this festival from two years ago when I was a member of one of the 神輿 (Miskoshi portable shrines) teams.

Mitama-祭り

17 Jul

Every year from July 13 – 16 the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) has their annual O-bon festival called 「ミタマ祭り」 (“Mitama Festival“).

We go to this festival nearly every year.

(Click here to see my post about last year’s festival with a number of photos I took.

And click here to see my post from 2008 about that year’s festival…with some videos I took and a slide-show of my photos.)

We went to this festival yesterday (Friday, July 16). It was the weekend and the last day of the festival so it was especially crowded. So I wasn’t able to take many nice photos.

Here are some of the photos I took there yesterday:

金魚すくい ("Goldfish Scooping")

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

14 Oct

The day before yesterday (Monday, 12 October) was a Japanese holiday…「体育の日」 (“Sports Day“).
Click here to read my short FAQ about it.

Every year on this day, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) has an archery ceremony called 「草鹿式」 (“Kusa-jishi-shiki“).

靖国神社の「草鹿式」

靖国神社の「草鹿式」

My wife and I watched this ceremony last year and I wrote a post about it.

This year, a French couple who visited and commented on my blog many times are in Tokyo until next week.
This is their first visit to Japan, so I met up with them and took them to watch the 「草鹿式」 (archery ceremony) at 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

I didn’t take many photos of it this year, but please read my post about last year’s ceremony. On that post, there are photos and videos that I took (click here to read it).

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As I wrote in an earlier post (click here), Tokyo was a candidate city to host the 2016 Olympic Games but lost out to Rio De Janeiro.

Well, it has been announced that Tokyo plans to submit a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games!

But Tokyo isn’t the only Japanese city that wants to host the 2020 games.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki have announced their plan to submit a bid to co-host the 2020 Summer Olympics!

Other cities that have expressed interest in hosting the 2020 games are South Africa, Busan (Korea), Delhi (India), Rome (Italy), St. Petersburg (Russia), Warsaw (Poland), Toronto (Canada), Boston (America), and a number of others.

The candidate cities for the 2020 Olympics will be decided next year and the host city will be chosen in 2013.

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Speaking of 「広島」 (Hiroshima, Japan) and 「長崎」 (Nagasaki, Japan), the city council of Rome, Italy announced their plan to rename a street in their city “Hiroshima Nagasaki Street“!

Their reason is because a 78-year old Japanese man named Hiroshi Nishioka gave a speech in Rome recently that left much of the audience in tears.

Mr. Nishioka is a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki. He was only fourteen at the time of the bombing and in his recent speech in Italy he recalled how he refused to share the water in his canteen with any of the dying people in the streets of Nagasaki for fear that he wouldn’t have enough left for himself.

Even now, the memory of that, he said in his speech, is “like a splinter in my heart.”

2009年夏の「みたままつり」

14 Jul

Yesterday (2009 July 13), we went to the first day of the 2009 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival).

This year this festival is from Monday, July 13 until Thursday, July 16. So, if you’re currently in the Tokyo area you can go to this festival. It’s at the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is where Japan enshrines all who have died in battle defending Japan. I wrote a bit about it in another post…click here.

We have been to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) many times, and we go to the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) nearly every year.
I wrote a post about this festival last year…click here to see it. That post has videos and a slideshow of photos.

In the summertime in Japan, there are many Obon festivals…which are festivals to honor the deceased. And, as I wrote above, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is Japan’s shrine for the war-dead. So the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) is a festival to honor the war-dead.

They were heading to the festival.

They were heading to the festival.

They say: "Mitama Festival, July 13-16. Yasukuni Shrine"

They say: "Mitama Festival, July 13-16. Yasukuni Shrine"

At the festival many people wear ゆかた and じんべい (Japanese traditional summer outfits).

At the festival many people wear ゆかた and じんべい (Japanese traditional summer outfits).

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At many summer festivals in Japan, there are haunted house attractions. These have been popular at summer festivals since long ago in Japan because it’s said that the chills from the fright help cool you off in the summer heat. (Horror movies are also popular in the summertime in Japan for the same reason).

Here’s the outside of the Haunted House attraction at 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival):

「ろくろ首」 ("Long neck Geisha Ghost") is a old traditional ghost story.

「ろくろ首」 ("Long neck Geisha Ghost") is a old traditional ghost story.

As usual, we had a good time at the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) even though it was a hot day. We had 焼きそば (Grilled Noodles) and beer, watched the ねぶた (Nebuta) float parade, and our kids played festival stall games.

靖国神社の桜祭り

8 Apr

Today my wife and I went to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is a beautiful shrine in Tokyo that is dedicated to all who have died defending Japan in battle.

Some of the WW2 veterans enshrined at 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) have been classified as war criminals by Allied courts. So, for that reason, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is a controversial place, especially with neighboring Asian countries.

To me, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is Japan’s equivalent to America’s Arlington Veterans Cemetery in Washington D.C..
Nothing wrong with honoring those who sacrificed their lives for their country. (I’ve written a few other posts about 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)…click here to read one.)

Anyways, the reason we went to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) was to see the 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) there.

The (Cherry Blossoms) in Tokyo are close to the end of their short life. They are beginning to fall to the ground. Soon they’ll be gone until next year…so, as we do every year, we’re appreciating them before they’re gone.

Whenever the wind gently blew today, the 桜の花びら (petals of the Cherry Blossom flowers) would fall to the ground. It was like a beautiful pink snowfall!

Here are some of the photos we took today (in many of them, you can see the falling 桜の花びら (petals of the Cherry Blossom flowers)):

Entrance to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)

Entrance to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)

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Can you see the falling petals in this photo?

Can you see the falling petals in this photo?

You can see the falling petals in this picture too!

You can see the falling petals in this picture too!

Sakura petals are floating in the lake.

Sakura petals are floating in the lake.

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屋台 (Festival food booths)

屋台 (Festival food booth

Entrance to the world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon-Budokan)

Entrance to the world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon-Budokan)

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Statue of a 19th century Japanese politician 品川弥二郎 (Shinagawa Yajirou)

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草鹿式

14 Oct

As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), we just finished a three-day weekend because yesterday was a holiday. (It was 体育の日 (Sports Day)…(see my short FAQ about it here)).

We went to two festivals. One was on Sunday (at this post) and the other one was yesterday.

The event that we went to yesterday wasn’t really a festival but more of a ceremony.
It was the 草鹿式 (Archery Ceremony) at 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

The literal translation of 草鹿式 would be “Grass deer ceremony“. This is because the archers, wearing traditional outfits and speaking in traditional 日本語 (Japanese), shoot arrows at a stuffed deer. Not a real deer…a fake one.
The arrows don’t have arrowheads so that they can use the target deer every year.

Like 相撲 (Sumo), this event has alot of ritual and tradition that is done before each shooting.

It was fun to watch…not as exciting as 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery), but still fun. (Click here and here to read my posts about 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery)).

Here are a few photos I took:

Here are some videos:

Because 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is where all who have died fighting for Japan are enshrined, it attracts Japan’s right-wing extremists.

But they are a minority. Most visitors to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) are just like visitors to war memorials in other countries…only there to honor the sacrifice and the memories of soldiers who died in battle. (See an earlier post I wrote about 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) here).

After we left there, we went to the nearby 昭和館 (Showa-kan).

The 昭和時代 (Showa Period) in Japan was when the current Emperor’s father was alive and was Emperor. The 昭和館 (Showa-kan) is a museum that focuses on how life in Japan was during and just after World War 2.

I couldn’t take any pictures inside but it was very interesting. Japan has changed alot since then and there were many hardships back then. But some things, like the food that Japanese people eat, is still quite the same.

The museum’s website is here (日本語 (Japanese) only).

Over the years I have seen many American celebrites do television commercials in Japan. (Kinda like in that overrated movie “Lost In Translation“. (I thought that was a painfully boring movie…but some people, it seems, liked it alot. C’est La Vie. Did you like it?)).

Tommy Lee Jones has been making humorous commercials for Boss Coffee for awhile now.

Most of the American celebrities just say a few lines in English or they may say a couple words of Japanese…but they usually slaughter the language if they do. Tommy Lee Jones speaks Japanese pretty good in his commercials though.

From there, we walked past the 日本武道館 (Nippon Budokan Arena). Along the walk, I took these pictures:

On the way home, we stopped for a break at the Lotteria Fast Food Restaurant. We ate dinner at home, but just took a “coffee break”. They sell Japanese style snacks…Green Tea Shake, and An-bean and mochi pastries. So we had one each.

Statue Of Liberty

31 Aug

Everyone knows the symbol of America, the Statue Of Liberty (or the full name: the Statue Of Liberty Enlightening The World, or in Japanese 自由の女神像 (which would translate to Statue of the Liberty Goddess).

But many visitors to Japan are surprised to see the 自由の女神像 (Statue of Liberty) in Tokyo. Like the one in NYC, it was a gift from France.

I’ve seen the one in New York and, of course, the one in Tokyo (pictured above)…but I was surprised to learn (from this Wikipedia site: in English or 日本語) that there replicas of the 自由の女神像 (Statue of Liberty) all over the world.

How many of them have you seen?

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Wanna see some more various photos that I’ve taken at different times / places around Tokyo?

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine):

ミルクスタンド (Milk stand) at a train station. (If you buy a drink at one of these, it comes in a glass bottle. You stand there and finish the drink, then return the bottle. You’re not supposed to walk off with the drink):

In a supermarket:

The 大船観音 (Oofuna-Kannon) statue near 鎌倉 (Kamakura):

The first Hard Rock Cafe, Tokyo in 六本木 (Roppongi). When I came to Japan, it was the only HRC in Japan. Now there’s eight or nine around Japan, including two more in Tokyo (well, one of those isn’t actually in Tokyo…the Hard Rock Cafe, Narita Tokyo is in 千葉県成田市 (Narita, Chiba) near Tokyo.

Actually, I don’t eat at HRC.

At 三渓園 (Sankeien Gardens) in 横浜 (Yokohama):

63年前

4 Aug

This Wednesday, August 6, will be the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of 広島 (Hiroshima) and on Friday, August 9th, will be the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of 長崎 (Nagasaki).

Both cities will have ceremonies this week to mark the solemn occasions, as they do every year.

Of course as an American, I know that next December 7 ( 2008 ) will be the 67th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

I guess it should come as no surprise that both Japan and America observe the anniversary of the date that they were attacked, not the date that they did the attacking.

War is terrible and I don’t want to get into politics or which country (if either) was justified or not.

I just wanted to put something on this site to commemorate the anniversary of the somber dates.

I consider adding quotes from the online journals of the atomic bomb survivors, but as heart-wrenching as they are to read…I decided to post about someone who is often demonized in the West (especially America) but seen as a tragic hero in this country (Japan).

The 神風 (Kamikaze pilot).

The word 神風 (Kamikaze) literally means divine wind, and it’s actually the name of a 台風 (typhoon) that is said to have saved Japan from attack by Mongolia in the 13th century.

The official Japanese name for the 第二次世界大戦 (WW2) fleet of pilots that intentionally crashed their aircraft into Allied ships when Japan was low on ammunition is 特別攻撃隊 (Special Attack Units).
Common people began to refer to them as 神風 (Kamikaze). (By the way, the correct pronunciation is kah-mee-kah-zeh (not a “long E”)).

Unlike their image overseas (which is often one of faceless lunatics with a death-wish crashing their planes rather than fighting the conventional way), in Japan 神風 (Kamikaze) are viewed as having given the ultimate sacrifice. Japan was low on ammunition and many pilots were called on to join the “Special Attack Units“…and for the honor of themselves, their families, and their country, they agreed.

As I mentioned above, I don’t want to get into the politics of it. But the 神風 (Kamikaze) were allowed to write last letters home to loved-ones.
These letters are kept in the same places that the “souls” of the 神風 (Kamikaze) and all warriors who died for Japan are enshrined: 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

Here’s a translation of one letter from a 神風 (Kamikaze pilot) to his infant daughter:

Motoko,

You often looked and smiled at my face. You also slept in my arms, and I gave you your baths. When you grow up and want to know about me, ask your mother and Aunt Kayo.

My photo album has been left for you at home. I gave you the name Motoko, hoping you would be a gentle, tender-hearted, and caring person.

I want to make sure you are happy when you grow up and become a splendid bride, and even though I die without you knowing me, you must never feel sad.

When you grow up and want to meet me, please come to Yasukuni Shrine. And if you pray deeply, surely your father’s face will show itself within your heart. I believe you are happy. Since your birth you started to show a close resemblance to me, and other people would often say that when they saw little Motoko they felt like they were meeting me. Your uncle and aunt will take good care of you with you being their only hope, and your mother will only survive by keeping in mind your happiness throughout your entire lifetime. Even though something happens to me, you must certainly not think of yourself as a child without a father. I am always protecting you. Please be a person who takes loving care of others.

When you grow up and begin to think about me, please read this letter.

Father

P.S. In my airplane, I keep as a charm a doll you had as a toy when you were born. So it means Motoko was together with Father. I tell you this because my being here without your knowing makes my heart ache.

[Lieutenant Sanehisa Uemura
Kamikaze Special Attack Corps, Yamato Unit
Died on October 26, 1944
25 years old]

ミタマ祭

17 Jul

The day before yesterday, I had to go up to Saitama for a few hours.

Do you know what station this lion statue is near?

Here’s a short video I took of a Game Center (video game arcade) in Saitama:

And here’s a video I took while walking into the train station:

And this is on the platform, waiting for the train:

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Then, that evening, I met my family at the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) for the annual みたま祭 (Mitama Festival).

This festival takes place during お盆 (O-bon) (click here to read my FAQ about O-bon). Most of Japan has Obon in August…but it’s often celebrated in July in Tokyo.

Here’s a video of the outside of the Haunted House attraction at the Mitama Festival:

And all around Japan during the summer there are many festivals big and small that have 盆踊り (Bon Dancing) to remember the deceased. Here’s a video of the Bon Dance at the Mitama Festival:

青森県 (Aomori Prefecture) in Northern Japan has a cool festival called ねぶた祭り (Nebuta Festival).

At the Mitama Festival in Tokyo, a group of Nebuta Festival dancers come and do a show.
Here are two videos that I took of them:

Finally, here’s a slideshow that I made of some photos I took at the festival:

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