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Browsing by Subject "Yasukuni-pyhättö"

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  • Matikainen, Johanna Andrea (2017)
    This thesis examines the proposal to build a new national memorial for the commemoration of the war dead in Japan. The immediate background to the suggestion for a new memorial was the diplomatic crisis caused by Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichirō’s official visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on 13th August, 2001. The previous time a Japanese prime minister had officially visited the shrine was in 1985, when Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro’s visit caused a similar domestic and international media uproar. On the date of his visit to the shrine, PM Koizumi held a speech in which he said there is a need to discuss “how one should, regardless of nationality, commemorate the war dead without hesitation while respecting the feelings of the people regarding the Yasukuni Shrine and the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery”. The commemoration of the war dead in Japan is examined in the theoretical framework of politics of memory and national identity. Japanese history culture is analysed from the perspective contested memory and the ability of Japan to come to terms with its past. This discussion centres around the concepts of Japanese war guilt (sensō sekinin) and historical consciousness (rekishi ninshiki). The Yasukuni Problem is also analysed from the point of view of contested memory and identity, as it constitutes a major part of the political and cultural context in which the proposal to build a new national memorial for the commemoration of the war dead emerged. The analysis of historical narratives and the politics of memory focuses heavily on the analysis of concepts. The method used in analysing materials in this thesis is Quentin Skinner’s theory on how changing concepts reflect our political and social reality. The emphasis in on understanding the wider context where the concepts are used in order to avoid misunderstandings. The primary sources studied in this thesis consist primarily of the material produced by the Discussion Group (kondankai) to “consider a memorial or other facility for the commemoration of the war dead and prayers for peace”, set up in December, 2001, by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo based on PM Koizumi’s speech earlier that year. Despite the various relatively lengthy debates during the meetings of the Discussion Group, the proposal for a new national memorial, released in late 2002 as a concluding report, is neutral in terms of the interpretation of history and war memory, leaving questions of Japanese war guilt open-ended. This discrepancy reflects the highly divided nature of Japanese history consciousness and collective memory. The national historical narrative formulated in the report is that of Japan as a democratic, peace-loving country (heiwa kokka). The proposed new memorial has potential of solving some of the problems associated with the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, especially on the international level. However, due to intense criticism from various angles, the new memorial remains yet to be build. Its success as a solution to the problem of the commemoration of the war dead in Japan relies on the political will the Japanese government to build it and to make it socially meaningful enough to compete with the Yasukuni Shrine as the central memorial for the war dead in Japan.