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Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社

Yasukuni Shrine (photo by Kakidai - CC BY-SA 3.0)

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The (in)famous Yasukuni Shrine is one of the largest in Tokyo, and is better known for being dedicated to 2.4 million soldiers and civilians who died fighting for the Emperor of Japan since the Meiji Restoration (1869).

It is by far the most controversial shrine in Japan, as in 1979 several class-A war criminals became enshrined there.

That hasn't refrained politicians from visiting the shrine on the anniversary of Japan's WWII surrender on 15th August since then, much to the exasperation of the countries invaded by Japan in the first half of the 20th century.

Yasukuni made the headlines around the world when Juinichiro Koizumi visited it 4 times after he was elected Prime Minister in April 2001. In addition to stirring discontentment in other Asian countries (especially in Korea and China), the visits were unconstitutional due to the separation of state and religion (Koizumi, who came accompanied by other party members signed the log book as "Prime Minsiter Koizumi" and made a donation using the government's credit card).

Mr Koizumi could have visited the shrine secretly and anonymously, but his insistence on mediatising the event was only a campaign to please veterans, relatives of the war deads, and Japanese nationalists. Koizumi ended up being the longest serving Japanese Prime Minister since 1989, and the only one who managed to be re-elected (twice).

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