Originally published on December 30, 2013
The Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo was established during the Meiji era to commemorate military personnel and certain civilians who were killed while serving Japan during armed conflicts from the Boshin War in 1867 to the end of World War II.
On December 26, 2013, Shinzo Abe became the first Prime Minister since Junichi Koizumi in 2006 to visit the shrine while in office. The visit sparked controversy in South Korea, China, and Russia, as fourteen Class A war criminals are among some 2.5 million people commemorated at the shrine.
The shrine is said to provide a permanent residence for the kami, or the spirits of the dead, and is said to give peace and rest to those enshrined there. This is the only place to which the Emperor of Japan has bowed.
The torii, or shrine gate, marks the entrance to the sacred grounds. One must perform a cleansing ritual at the otemizusha, or main purification fountain, before partaking in worship and prayer before the spirits at the worship hall.
The main sanctuary directly behind the worship hall is where the more than 2,466,000 spirits are enshrined. It is generally closed to the public. A registry of all the names of the spirits at Yasukuni is kept in the Reijibo Hōanden directly behind the main sanctuary.
Statues of a horse, a pigeon, and a German retriever on the shrine grounds honors animals that have played a part in Japanese military operations. Additionally, a statue of a war widow honors the mothers who had raised children whose fathers were killed.
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