War Museum at the Yasukuni Shrine Dedicated to World War II in Japan
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War Museum at the Yasukuni Shrine Dedicated to World War II in Japan

Japanese honor their dead during the Second World War at the Yasukuni Shrine which also houses a museum. The shrine also has the ashes of some war criminals and any visit by a Japanese political leader is resented by the countries that suffered at the hands of Japan. The Museum is well maintained though at places it gives a false account of the war and how it started.
The Second World War (1939-45) was a watershed in Japanese political and social thought. The end of the war marked the end of Japanese military and cultural domination over its neighbors notably China, Korea and the Philippines. For half a century before the Second World War the Japanese imperial government dominated its neighbors militarily and economically. Not only this, but they also committed untold atrocities in the areas of their domination.  For these countries the defeat of Japan was a godsend and they would not like that the period of the Second World War be glorified by any manner in Japan.

 After the war the Japanese adopted a pacifist constitution that down sized the military.  Anything connected with the war was downplayed and thus Japan did not have an official war museum. The Japanese have a strong military tradition of 2000 years and it was inconceivable that Japan would not remember and honor its soldiers who fought and died during the Second World War. The Japanese got around the technicality of a war museum by naming it has a peace museum. Thus in Japan we have peace museums, though in effect they are war museums.

The most famous of the war museums is located at the Yasukuni Shrine in Chayote, Tokyo. The significance of this museum is that it also houses the ashes of some of the Japanese political and military leaders who were executed as war criminals. Thus a visit to this shrine by any Japanese leader hurts the sentiments of the states that had borne the brunt of the atrocities of the Japanese rule. However in Japanese psyche this shrine cum museum has great significance. It assuages the hurt of Japanese defeat in the war and on its walls a different view of Japanese history and the war is depicted.

The Yashukan war museum was established in 1882 and contains accounts and exhibits up to the end of the Second World War. The museum is of great interest to students of military history. It has 2 floors and entrance to the first floor is free. The visit is important to understand the Japanese psyche, as one can see how the Japanese really view the war, its start and end. Most of the write-ups are falsified accounts of the war but the exhibits are a treat and are beautifully maintained.

The Japanese greatly believe in an after life and this theme pervades the museum. The museum is dedicated to the 2.5 Japanese soldiers and sailors who died in the war.  The Yasukuni shrine is a very holy shrine in Japanese philosophy and it was not uncommon for soldiers going into battle to tell their colleagues that they in case they died they would meet at the Yasukuni shrine.

The shrine museum has the A6MZero fighter and the Yakosuka D4Y bomber on display. To a connoisseur of military aviation these are an absolute delight. It also houses the rail engine used in the Siam railway also known as the death railway immortalized in the film ‘Bridge on the river Kwai’.

There are many other exhibits, but the museum has political overtones as any official Japanese visit to this shrine is resented by the nations who suffered under Japanese occupation as they feel it legitimizes Japanese actions during the war. However Japanese political leaders have been visiting the shrine and paying homage to the dead souls as well as the war criminals whose ashes are enshrined in the temple.

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Comments (2)
Ranked #124 in History

ww11 was a changing time as you have written.

Ranked #13 in History

Another great historical article Ma'am, thank you.