Rain fails to dampen turnout at Yasukuni
Despite intermittent rain, thousands of war veterans and relatives
of Japan's war dead visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Friday, the 52nd
anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of World War II, to pay tribute to
those who lost their lives in war.
"Many of my friends were killed. So
I come here every year," said 77-year-old Minoru Nakamura, of Itabashi Ward,
Tokyo. "We fought fierce battles together on the Bataan Peninsula (in the
Touching his left leg, he recalled the bullet that
pierced his knee and the malaria that plagued every member of his
Yasukuni Shrine is the resting place for more than 2.466 million
Japanese soldiers who died for their country in wars that date back to 1869,
including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and other Class-A war
criminals, who were convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the
Far East and hanged. Yasukuni also enshrines Korean and Taiwanese soldiers who
died in battle.
The shrine served as the state's symbol to boost
national morale during the war in the 1930s and 1940s, and in the postwar
decades as a spiritual pillar for relatives of the war dead and conservative
nationalists seeking a stronger state.
"I just hope that war, among
other things, will never be repeated. I came here to spiritually compensate
for the suffering of my friends who died," said Sakae Wada, 80, of Saitama
Prefecture. Wada worked as a military engineer in Manchuria, which was the
Japanese military's puppet state of Manchukuo in northeastern
Fumiko Ito, 70, another Saitama resident, came to pay tribute to
her husband, who was killed when his submarine was sunk off Saipan in July
1945, just one month before Japan's surrender. "More than 50 years have
passed, but my grief has not changed," she said tearfully.
At the same
time, veterans who were interviewed complained about recent education and mass
media reports, which they say describe Japan as the only evil party in the
"Many (newspaper) articles were written by authors worrying about
criticism of other countries. They often one-sidedly focus on the bad aspects
of Japan," said a 76-year-old man living in Tokyo, who declined to be
As well as the elderly survivors of the war, young people were
at the shrine, although their numbers were few.
"I come here every
year. I feel it is my duty. We have a duty to hand down something related to
the war to the next generations," said an 18-year-old from Tokyo's Ota Ward,
who called himself only Suzuki. Commenting on recent heated debate over modern
Japan's wars and the question of education, Suzuki said he believes public
discussions are leaning toward the left and many have a masochistic view of
Japan. He said debate should be cool and objective.
In a rally near JR
Suidobashi Station in Tokyo, about 240 people protested the official visits by
some Cabinet ministers to Yasukuni Shrine, calling for a separation of
religion and politics.
The rally at Zensuido Hall was sponsored by the
National Liaison Council for Peace Associations for the Bereaved Families of
the War Dead.
Participants urged the government to abide by Article 9
of the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from resorting to the threat or use
of force as a means of resolving international conflicts.
Cabinet members are said to have visited Yasukuni today or before today. And
it's worth a protest, isn't it?" asked Shigenori Nishikawa, head of the group,
which includes 15 peace associations representing next of kin of war dead
across the country. "We must keep an eye on any move that may lead us to war,"
said Nishikawa, adding that he, along with his friends, feels great grief for
the more than 20 million people throughout Asia who are believed to have lost
their lives to "the war of aggression" waged by the Imperial Japanese
Citing such recent moves as a revision of the special land
lease law for the U.S. forces in Okinawa, the planned renewal of the
Japan-U.S. bilateral defense guidelines and increasing demands from
conservative lawmakers for the Constitution to be revised, Nishikawa said the
spirit of the war-renouncing document is in greater peril than
Koreans, including members of the Headquarters of the People's
Movement to Clarify and Settle Problems of Past Korea-Japan Relations, also
attended the rally, demanding a sincere apology and compensation from the
government for Japan's wartime behavior.
"Those who stomp on others'
feet will never know how those who have been trodden upon feel," said Shozo
Tominaga, 83, a convicted Class B-C war criminal and president of a 500-strong
liaison society for former war criminals who returned from
Recalling his days in China from 1941 until the end of war as a
company commander in the Imperial army, Tominaga said he chopped off the heads
of POWs and said the war turned him into a beast. Pointing to a recent
resurgence of nationalism, as seen in the emergence of a revisionist view of
Japan's modern history, Tominaga said those who try to cover up such issues as
women who were forced into sexual slavery for Imperial forces and the Nanjing
Massacre will never be able to feel the pain inflicted on the
Inside a makeshift tent set up within the grounds of
Yasukuni Shrine, more than 1,500 people took part in a patriotic event calling
for more praise for the war dead and official visits by the prime minister to
the shrine every Aug. 15.
The last official visit to the shrine by the
nation's leader was in 1985, by then Prime Minister Yasuhiro
The event was sponsored by two groups -- Nippon Kaigi and
Eirei ni Kotaeru Kai -- and started by the singing of the de facto national
anthem "Kimigayo" and listening to a recording of the late Emperor Showa's
announcement declaring Japan's surrender 52 years ago.
Among the guest
speakers was Hiroo Onoda, who continued to fight on alone on a small island in
the Philippines for more than 30 years after the war had ended, without
knowing of Japan's defeat.
"At the time of the war, we were all
dedicating our lives to the state of Japan, believing we would all be
enshrined and honored at Yasukuni Shrine as gods after our deaths.
now Japan has thrown away its pride as a nation, as it has given up on the
official visits by the nation's leader (to the shrine)," Onoda
Meanwhile, at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, where the remains
of unidentified Japanese soldiers are kept, the Social Democratic Party held a
commemorative service for all the victims of the war, not just the
In her speech, SDP leader Takako Doi said Japan should
seriously remember that it invaded its neighboring countries and victimized a
large number of people in Asia.
"We need to make utmost efforts to
settle the problems with those Asian people who suffered because of Japan's
acts," she said.
Doi added that she is terrified by recent moves by
some conservative groups that refuse to own up to Japan's wartime
responsibiliy and that want descriptions in school textbooks on "comfort
Hashimoto expresses remorse on anniversary of war's end
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto reiterated "deep remorse" Friday
for Japan's wartime acts and voiced his condolences to the victims,
particularly those elsewhere in Asia, on the 52nd anniversary of Japan's
surrender to the Allies.
Japan has a responsibility to "create world
peace and to not repeat the tragedy of war," he said.
Speaking at a
government-sponsored annual ceremony at Nippon Budokan Hall in Chiyoda Ward,
Tokyo, to mourn the war dead, Hashimoto said, "The last war caused tremendous
pain and sorrow not only to our country but also to people in many countries,
particularly those in neighboring parts of Asia.
"Accepting this fact
humbly, I would like to express my profound mourning and deep regret," he
The Emperor and Empress, about 6,400 relatives of the war dead
and 1,000 people from the government and Diet attended the ceremony. They
included Cabinet ministers, Lower House Speaker Soichiro Ito, Upper House
President Juro Saito and representatives of political parties and prefectural
Hashimoto said Japan must always remind itself that its
prosperity was built on the sacrifices of many lives. "It is our important
obligation to look back at the past with sincerity now that we have peace and
prosperity, to pass on to the younger generation knowledge of the sacrifices
of the war dead and build a permanent peace, in order to avoid a recurrence of
the disaster of a terrible war," Hashimoto said.
"As a nation that
plays an important role in international society, we pledge here that we will
make utmost efforts to realize world peace and create a better society where
people can live peacefully," he said.
This year, Hashimoto did not
visit Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead. His visit to the shrine
in July 1996 angered China. Instead, before attending the Budokan ceremony, he
visited Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, where the remains of about 340,000
unknown Japanese soldiers are interred. One person there shouted to him, "Why
don't you go to Yasukuni?"
Leaders of the Social Democratic Party go to
the cemetery on Aug. 15 every year to pray for the souls of those who were
killed in the war and for peace.
Hashimoto made his speech at the
Budokan just before noon, when he and nearly 7,000 participants at the
ceremony offered a minute of silent prayer for the 3.1 million Japanese who
died in the war, which also claimed the lives of some 20 million people in
other parts of Asia as well.
After the prayer, the Emperor gave a brief
speech, voicing hopes for world peace and Japan's prosperity. "Hoping that the
ravages of war will never be repeated, I offer my heartfelt condolences to
those who died on the battlefield and fell victim to the war, and pray for
world peace and our country's further development," he said. There was a
record turnout of 531 relatives of the war dead aged 80 or older.
oldest participant was Atsuko Morita, 95, of Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, who lost
her husband in fighting in present-day North Korea. The youngest was Motohiro
Kittsui, 17, of Kahoku, eastern Kochi Prefecture. His grandfather died in
combat in the Philippines.
Seven ministers visit Yasukuni on anniversary
Seven Cabinet ministers went to Yasukuni Shrine on Friday morning
to pay homage to Japan's war dead. One more Cabinet member was expected to
visit the shrine later the same day and four other Cabinet ministers visited
the shrine before Friday.
Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi
was the first minister to visit the shrine Friday when he showed up at 8 a.m.
"Today's peace is based on the precious sacrifice of people who dedicated
their lives to the nation," Koizumi said. "As a state minister and health and
welfare minister, I paid tribute with respect."
Prime Minister Ryutaro
Hashimoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama, Foreign Minister Yukihiko
Ikeda and Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka did not visit the shrine to avoid
criticism from Japan's Asian neighbors.
The other ministers who went to
the shrine are: Kosuke Ito, director general of the National Land Agency,
International Trade and Industry Minister Shinji Sato, Transport Minister
Makoto Koga, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Hisao Horinouchi, Labor
Minister Yutaka Okano and Jitsuo Inagaki, director general of the Hokkaido
Development Agency and Okinawa Development Agency.
Kabun Muto, director
general of the Management and Coordination Agency, was also expected to visit
the shrine Friday.
Hashimoto's visit to the shrine in July 1996 angered
China, which has repeatedly denounced visits by Cabinet members to Yasukuni as
signs of a resurgence of Japanese militarism. Those enshrined at Yasukuni
Shrine as deities include executed war criminals, including wartime Prime
Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.
Suspected rightist kills self at MPD
A middle-aged man fired three bullets at the entrance of the
Metropolitan Police Department's headquarters Friday morning, shouted praise
for the Emperor and then fatally shot himself in the head, MPD officials
"Please work hard for the Emperor," the man was quoted as saying
before firing the fatal shot with a 38-caliber revolver. Such comments are
characteristic of ultra-nationalists.
Officials suspect the man planned
the bizarre attack and suicide Friday to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of
the Japanese surrender in World War II.
The man, described as being
between 40 and 60 years old, fired the shots at 10:40 a.m., fell to the
pavement at the entrance and died at the scene, the officials said.
the shots rang out, a number of investigators rushed out of the
The man had short-cropped hair and wore a cap with a
camouflage pattern. He also wore a red jersey and blue jeans, the officials
said. Glass sections of the entrance area had been damaged by
Court drops territorial waters case
MATSUE -- The Hamada branch of the Matsue District Court in
Shimane Prefecture dismissed an indictment Friday against the captain of a
South Korean fishing boat seized in June on charges of operating in Japan's
The boat was discovered fishing in waters off
Hamada claimed under revisions to the Japanese Territorial Sea
Presiding Judge Yasuhiro Hasegawa ruled that Japanese authorities
cannot act against a South Korean fishing boat if it operates outside the
12-nautical mile exclusive fishing zone provided for under the Japan-South
Korea fishery pact.
The judge ruled that bilateral or international
treaties or agreements come before domestic laws, irrespective of the dates
they took effect. He went on to say that the fishery zones set under the
bilateral fishery pact are not affected even if new sea areas are later
designated as Japanese territorial waters under revisions to domestic
It is quite unusual for a court to dismiss a prosecution action in
a criminal case. The ruling is certain to have a great impact on bilateral
fishery negotiations between Japan and South Korea, which are now experiencing
problems, and make the Japanese government's position in the talks more
The Matsue District Public Prosecutor's Office had demanded
a 1.2 million yen fine on skipper Kim Sung I of the 68-ton South Korean
fishing boat Daedong No. 909.
The office immediately appealed to a
higher court, asserting that it could not condone the district court decision
because it erred in the interpretation of the Japanese-South Korea fishery
pact and Japanese laws governing fishing operations by
But the defense welcomed Friday's district court
decision, saying that the dismissal of the suit is quite
Under the revised Territorial Sea Law, Japan's 12 miles of
waters no longer follow the outline of the coast. The outermost tips of each
arc in the winding coastline have been joined with a single, curved boundary,
thereby expanding the country's territorial waters.
Six boats have been
seized on charges of operating in the expanded Japanese territorial waters but
the authorities have taken legal action against only two of them. The other
case was filed at the Hagi Summary Court in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Friday's
ruling is the first to be made regarding the two cases.
Korean government has strongly protested the Japanese moves and its parliament
adopted a resolution in late July calling for the return of crew members
seized from the boats.
The revised Territorial Sea Law went into force
in January this year after Japan ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of
Government sources did not hesitate to show their bewilderment
at the local court decision and asserted that the government exercised its
right as provided for under the U.N. convention and that the validity of the
convention must be respected.
Municipalities lower land values
About 48 percent of 3,233 municipal governments, including Tokyo
ward offices, lowered land and property value assessments this year, according
to a report released Friday by the Home Affairs Ministry.
are reassessed every three years for the purpose of property taxes levied by
the municipal government. The taxes are calculated by multiplying property
values by a standard tax rate of 1.4 percent.
By prefecture, the
municipalities of Kanagawa and Osaka made the biggest downward assessments.
Chiba Prefecture came next with 96.3 percent of its municipalities lowering
their assessments, followed by 96 percent of Shiga Prefecture municipalities,
91.3 percent in Saitama Prefecture and 89.1 percent in Yamanashi
Until the latest assessment, property values for tax
purposes remained at relatively high levels despite steep falls in property
Although the Home Affairs Ministry said municipal governments
assessed property values based on their own criteria, bigger reductions were
made in large cities where land price falls became conspicuous after the
collapse of the bubble economy.
LDP, Shinshinto to share candidate
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Shinshinto, the largest
opposition party, decided Friday to jointly support an independent Upper House
member as a candidate in October's Miyagi prefectural gubernatorial
The decision over the candidacy of Diet member Ichiro
Ichikawa was reached at a meeting between Shinshinto chief Ichiro Ozawa and
Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, a senior LDP lawmaker.
who was elected to the Diet in 1995, will be competing with incumbent Gov.
Shiro Asano, who has decided to run without support from any of the major
parties, and other candidates.
Mitsuzuka serves as chief of the LDP's
Miyagi chapter. Ozawa has just become Shinshinto's Miyagi chapter leader -- a
post previously occupied by Lower House member Kazuo Aichi, who quit
Shinshinto in July.
At the press conference, Ozawa said he would like
to make the utmost efforts to support Ichikawa in cooperation with the
Mitsuzuka also said he hopes that this case will be a good model
of various parties setting aside differences to jointly support a competent
Opposition rising beneath Olympics hoopla in Osaka
OSAKA -- Osaka may be Japan's choice for the 2008 Olympics, but as
the realization sets in that the region is spending trillions of yen to
compete internationally, doubts about the city's chances and concerns over who
will have to pay are coming to the surface.
While civic and business
leaders say the vast number of Osaka citizens support their city's bid, some
oppose what they see as a waste of money on useless projects that benefit no
one but construction companies.
Now that Osaka is officially the
Japanese Olympic Committee candidate, organized resistance is growing. One
group of nearly 30 local citizens, including members of two local watchdog
groups, students, lawyers and journalists, gathered Wednesday night in south
Osaka to formally announce their opposition.
"I was very sad when I
heard that Osaka had beaten Yokohama for the bid," said Yoko Futaki, a city
councilor from Takatsuki. "Who in the world are the Osaka Olympics for? There
are still too many issues that need to be publicly debated before the people
can be assured that the Olympics will not prove financially disastrous," she
During the two-hour meeting, a variety of opinions on the
feasibility of Osaka's bid were exchanged. But virtually all those in
attendance voiced their opposition to holding the Olympics.
greatest concern among ordinary citizens is who would foot the bill for what
could be a very expensive Olympics. For next year's Winter Games in Nagano,
the prefecture will be responsible for nearly 235 billion yen of the cost,
while the city's share is expected to reach nearly 120 billion yen. Such
figures do not include construction costs for facilities or rail
"How much of a burden would Osaka really have to pay for an
Olympics that would be much larger than Nagano? No one really knows," said
Tatsuya Kimura, a local lawyer who has written several articles questioning an
Much of the money being spent for the Olympics is going to
the redevelopment of Osaka Bay. City officials have long said that development
of the area is not just for the Games but for what Mayor Takafumi Isomura
calls a "sports paradise," a claim few of the attendees believed.
sounds more like a sports nightmare to me," Kimura said.
construction of the 100,000-seat Olympic stadium on Maishima Island drew some
of the heaviest criticism of those present. "Who would use this stadium after
the Olympics? There are no professional sports teams in the area that have
said they would move there, and there are not nearly enough events to fill the
stadium on a regular basis," Kimura said.
Other local activists say
they also plan to step up protest activities over the Olympics. Nobuyo
Fujinaga, director of Citizen's Network in Osaka, an environmental activist
group, said the first meeting of a group of scholars and others opposed to the
Games will take place later this month.
"Osaka city is spending 1
trillion yen to redevelop the bay area for the Olympics," she said. "This
money would be better used for facilities for the elderly and the handicapped.
We don't need sports facilities."
Those opposed to the Olympics say
they have been for some time. Yet, compared with Yokohama, where local
activists organized effectively and quickly gained the support of several
local politicians, Osaka's opposition groups appear to have been less active,
despite their having known for five years that the city has wanted to go after
"It's true that Osaka activists opposed to the Olympics have
dragged their feet. But it has been very difficult to get information, and the
very activist groups have their own causes. I think, however, that you'll see
a more concentrated effort from now on," Kimura said.
"It's a time for
action," said Gensai Yasufuku, a representative from Shimin Ombudsman. "The
time for sitting around and thinking about the problems of the Olympics is
over. We need strong, clear action and a strong, clear voice of opposition."
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