Yasukuni, The Soft Power of Clashing Identities


Yasukuni Jinja, or Shrine for a Peaceful Nation, in Tōkyō was established by Emperor Meiji to commemorate those who gave their lives for the nation. In our contemporary times Yasukuni has however become shrouded by an ideological aura of the pre-war system where it became the “citadel of military ideology” which it is perceived to glorify to this day. Consequently, when one visits Yasukini the question arises “What does one commemorate?” and although one’s answer may be very clear to oneself, the action itself carries such great ambiguity that other’s preconceptions equally so define its interpretation. China in particular strongly protests against any visits by Japanese officials to Yasukuni and even views it as a threat to the long treacherous path of reconciliation in East Asia as each nation holds a distinct interpretation of its wartime past. Visits and offerings by current PM Shinzo Abe, who has often been labelled as a hawkish nationalist conservative, have come under particular scrutiny as his image is perceived to enforce Yasukuni’s militaristic past. This research therefore sets out to clarify the role of Yasukuni within Chinese-Japanese relations under the prime-ministership of Shinzo Abe by introducing the concept of assertive soft power which seeks to avert another nations’ identity by endorsing its opposite.

Author Information
Bjorn Koolen, Ritsumeikan University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: APSec2015
Stream: International Relations Theory

This paper is part of the APSec2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon