“If we value so highly the dignity of life, how can we not also value the dignity of death? No death may be called futile.”
~ Yukio Mishima
Yasukuni Shrine (Tokyo) – Mitama Matsuri:
Founded in 1868 by Arisugawa Taruhito and first called “Shokonsha”, this Shinto shrine was renamed “Yasukuni” in 1879 by the Emperor Meiji and was adopted as one of the symbols of the nation’s emergence in modernity. The character for “Yasu” has the same meaning as “peaceful”. The 2,466,000 Kami (deities, souls, spirits) enshrined in Yasukuni Jinja are considered as noble gods who offered their lives for the sake of Imperial Japan. The shrine is dedicated to give peace and rest to all those enshrined there.
The Yasukuni Shrine was the only place to which the Emperor of Japan bowed !
The Mitama Matsuri (Soul Festival), held from July 13-16, started in 1947 following the end of the war to comfort the souls of the soldiers and others who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan. Attracting as many as 300,000 people every summer, the festival is known for its beautiful illumination in the evening, created with 400 “kakebonbori” lanterns displayed on the sides of the shrine’s front path and also with 30,000 dedicated lanterns in various sizes.
There is also a dark/controversial side to this festival, because since 1978, fourteen class A war criminals are among the enshrined, and regular visits by Prime Ministers, such as Koizumi, angered both S. Korea and China because supposedly, all of Japan’s war dead (including those men classified as WWI war criminals) are deified as Shinto Kami (gods).