"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory." - Albert Schweitzer


Japan trip
Day 2 - 7th June - Nihon Budokan (日本武道館), Yasukuni Shrine ((靖国神社), Tokyo
(Part 2)

Next was the infamous Yasukuni Shrine. At first I was contemplating wearing my Kamikaze headband there, but that would get me sliced up after they realised I was a gaijin.

At first I saw "Y700" and was thinking that this must be the most expensive Iced Coffee in the world, even considering this was Japan. When I got closer, I realised the role McDonalds plays in combating inflation and keeping the cost of living down, with their Y100 menu (the picture is outdated: the hamburger and the McPork are the burgers you get, not cheeseburgers and McChickens; in research I found that the McChicken isn't sold in Japan anymore. Aww)

More annoyances in the name of security: the G8 Hokkaido Summit still isn't here yet, but down in Tokyo they were stepping up security a month before the event. I will note that even before the 'Period of Increased Security', the dustbins were already removed. Gah.

I decided to pay 360Y to increase my fruit intake in the form of a strawberry shake. Not only was it mostly ice, the cup was this small:

Kitanomaru National Garden (it looks much better when the Sakuras are in bloom, according to Google images)

I tried visiting the Nihon Budokan which was very nearby before the Shrine.

Nihon Budokan. According to Lonely Planet you could watch martial arts demonstrations here, but apparently these are irregular, so it was a wasted trip.

The place was reminding me of Taekwondo grading, so I ran away.


Statue near the overhead bridge. If you want to transcribe the (partially-hidden) name into Romaji, feel free.

Tower near the overhead bridge

One of the many toriis at Yasukuni shrine

Avenue in

The large number of Japanese schoolgirls at the shrine led me to ask 2 questions:
1) Where are all the Japanese schoolboys
2) Was this some plot to indoctrinate their vulnerable (lower secondary) youth?
As I got closer to the shrine, I saw what seemed to be a school around the corner

Statue of Omura Masujiro, Vice-Minister of War during the Meiji Restoration. You can read the plaque if you want.

Avenue further in


There was some joker walking around with what looked like the wartime Japanese flag (the sun with streaks of blood) but he disappeared before I got closer.

Inner and inner-inner torii

Praying to Class A War Criminals

The commercialism of Japanese temples and shrines is amazing, and all of them sell the same few charms. The large lantern appears to cost 200,000Y, which is extremely expensive - maybe the proceeds will fund the next Greater East Asian War. The traffic safety charm is available in two sizes. I theorise the smaller one protects you against morotcycles and cars, and the bigger one lorries and trucks.

I got a fortune telling slip. MR told me that in response to my question of whether Japan would ever face up to its wartime past, the answer was "eventually, yes" (or words to that effect).

The Japs love to collect stamps of the places they visit. The dove on the chop of the Yaukuni Shrine (sans olive branch) must be a masterstroke of irony.

Pseudo-doves on the grounds. Maybe someone will reveal that these birds actually represent war.


I was looking out for PRCs but didn't notice any.

Front of shrine

Instructions on shrine prayers. "Bow once, clap twice and bow a second time". I contemplated clapping 600,000 times for the victims of the Nanking Massacre (two claps per victim) but that would've gotten me hauled off, so.

Wooden prayer plaques

A peek at what lies behind the curtains (using my 6x zoom). The security guard who was looking out for PRC terrorists who'd blow themselves up to the cry of "毛泽东万岁" ('Long Live Mao Zedong!') didn't let me do this in the shrine proper.

Next, I went to the Yushukan (Yasukuni Shrine museum). I find the Shrine itself to be overtly uncontroversial, but the museum's revisionism rivaled the best academic relativistic accounts of World War II. Unfortunately, they didn't let me take pictures because like the SAF (and increasing numbers of private establishments) they knew the power of photographs and knew they would lead to an international incident ('incident', hurr hurr) if they were leaked (transcriptions by intrepid reporters have not had that effect), so I didn't take any, for fear of being forced to commit seppuku. Nonetheless, I spent about 3 hours in there, transcribing the outrageous things they said (apparently their website has more fun stuff, so you can go there and see them justify their war crimes). Luckily I didn't visit before the 2002 renovation, since there was much less English then; the text is outragoeus, laughable and ridiculous enough in English. I wonder how it reads in Japanese.

[Addendum: Someone who visited and took some pictures inside.

This confirms my suspicions that the Japanese don't bother enforcing no photography policies.]

Apparently Yushukan used to be even more fun and exciting as you could "don gas masks, fire air rifles, sit in the cockpit of a bomber, or drop simulated bombs on imagined foes"; yet all is not lost, as I can do similar things at the Singapore Discovery Centre. From the link above and from my visit there, it was much less popular than the Hiroshima Peace Museum, so its symbolic value is less than its influence on the Japanese psyche.

In the video theatrette they were showing a video. Although I didn't understand what they were saying I will describe how the video went. They showed figures of 10,000 Japanese troops and 250,000 Chinese troops (ie 25 times the number), showed the Manchurian Incident (I figured out from the damaged railroad), showed people waving Japanese flags happily, as well as one I didn't recognise (probably the one of Manchukuo - the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria). The peaceful city of Nanking (there was Kanji, IIRC) was shown and then it cut to the US helping China.

semi shek thru burn (I can't remember what this meant, but in my defence I was scribbling in the dark)

The video then cut to Southeast Asia, and showed a native chopping a tree. I kept hearing the word 'Amerika' repeated by a woman in an indignant voice. They had an ABCD encircling thing (IIRC this showed Japan encircled by hostile and/or colonial powers). Then they showed General Tojo and glorious music was played. The camera focused on an American document (in English) talking about non-discrimination in the commodities trade). There was a romantic shot of a Japanese flat. fighter sand dune (?) The narration had something about dying for the country.

Then we saw Pearl Harbour and a Kamikaze video with heroic music. We saw Japanese soldiers doing things like shaving and pouring water (and not beheading civilians). Then we saw the Tokyo war crimes trial, and some Indian-looking guy and black law books. At this point I left the theatrette.

A statue of what I thought was Europa and the Bull was captioned: "平和の女神", which is something about a Goddess of Peace (hah)

Entrance hall: "Throughout the ages, warriors have expressed their patriotism, their distaste for war, and their concerns for Japan's future in their poems"
Unfortunately the distaste for war was hardly obvious in this museum.

They claimed that Japan had been an independent nation for more than 2600 years. Right. There's a reason why all non-prehistoric dating in this country leaves out BC or AD.

In the Edo period, modifying firearms was banned - firearms technology was frozen. Nonetheless, the decorations could be enhanced.

Strange object: "土俵空穂" (I went through a lot of fun and games trying to get the last word to display, since I didn't know the pinyin and wasn't familiar with the IME pad). It was an oblong balloon covered with fur and in a quiver. There was lots of rope tied around the opening of the quiver and there was a hole in the bottom of the quiver, which could be plugged by a stopper which was hanging from it.

They had bows so powerful, they required 3-5 people to draw. Wth. Siege equipment ah?

After the small bit on Samurai Japan, the fun and games started. They talked about how 'Western powers encroach upon Asia' in the 19th century. A drawing of Commodore Perry made him look like Pinocchio, with a long nose and crow's teeth, and wrinkles between his eyebrows. A helpful photo of him above led me to conclude that the only resemblance was the large eyes (compared to the Japanese - does this say something about large eyes in Manga?) Japanese drawing: 3.5 stars for artistic value, 0 stars for realism.

Then they talked about the unequal treaties forced upon them as Japan opened up to the world, and incidents like the Phaeton incident and Russians attacking the northern islands.

Emperor Meiji's 5 article charter oath sounded strange, and I'm not sure if it was just translation issues. Articles 4 and 5 read:
4. Evil customs of the past shall be discontinued, and new customs should be based upon the just laws of Nature.
5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world in order to promote the welfare of the empire

During the Civil War they had around the Meiji Restoration, there were two parties: the Emperor's forces and the supporters of the Tokugawa shogunate. Interestingly enough, the latter (including such chaps as the victims of the Ansei Purge) were called martyrs because although they fought against the Emperor's forces, they did it in the Emperor's name.

"Greater East Asian War" was how they referred to the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

There was a room with "Imperial Family Exhibits". It was described thus: "The sun's rays, modulated by the stained-glass skylight in the ceiling, fill the gallery with a brilliant radiance". The sun was damn weak, and the glow of the electric lights overpowered that of the sun.

There was a standard from the 321st Infantry Regiment. The Lieutenant Colonel was supposed to return or burn the standard ceremonially, but he wasn't happy and burned just the pole and storage case. He kept the standard until the US left Japan, then put it back on the pole and dedicated the standard to the Yasukuni Shrine.

The Japanese Armed Forces redirected its efforts from "home defence" to "overseas operations" because of "confrontation with Qing China after the Korean military revolt in 1882". What actually happened was that Japan was forcing itself upon Korea just as foreign powers had forced themselves upon it (with the "unequal treaties") and Korean soldiers, pissed off at soldiers getting Japanese training being treated better, attacked the Japanese presence in Korea.

Cute bit: "Chinese Ironclad Battleship, Dingyuan
The Dingyuan and the Zhengyuan were the world's most advanced warships, and the Japanese navy considered them as their formidable adversaries. The last well-known words of the mortally wounded soldier Miura Torajiro were: 'Has the Dingyuan not sunken yet?"
I didn't know China was at the forefront of naval technology in the late 19th century

"With the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Korea became an independent state, which Japan had long hoped for"
Funny, given that in the same year (1895), Japanese agents assassinated Empress Myeongseong and desecrated her body, and that they annexed Korea 15 years later in 1910.

"The Japanese people were enraged at Russia's meddling and Japan's subsequent acquiescence to the Triple Intervention. They swore to avenge the insult to their nation, no matter what deprivations they had to suffer. 'Enduring hardships!' became their slogan"
No wonder they decided to engage in plenty of intervention themselves.

"The Boxer Rebellion
The Western powers (Russia, Germany, France, and Great Britain) competed with each other, making naked imperialistic demands on the Chinese... The Japanese troops advanced and carried out the rescue operations as the main contingent of the international force. Their military prowess and strict discipline excelled. They were respected and applauded by the residents of Beijing in contrast to the Western powers' soldiers, who looted wherever they went."

Quite a lot of Kanji words had hiragana on top (telling people how to pronounce them). Perhaps this speaks to declining educational standards.

Shokonsha has the only remaining triumphal arch in Japan (there appears to be something wrong, as shokonsha is not a place name, but I'm sure I transcribed it properly).

On the Russo-Japanese War: "Journalists... who traveled with the Japanese witnessed their bravery and tactical brilliance, and praised them in detailed reports. The effect of these victories on Asian youth changed the world in the 20th century"

"Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War and subsequent annexation of Korea resolved concerns about national security, which had been festering for years. The world situation, however, never ceased to evolved". They then said the US did not join the League of Nations and "hosted the Washington Conference and planned to establish a new international order in Asia and the Pacific".
Right. "You made us invade Asia!" It's also interesting how their conception of national security, just like that of Russia, involved annexing foreign countries to serve as buffer states.

"An anti-Japanese movement in Manchuria and a sense of crisis of the Japanese residents prompted the action by the Kwantung Army, and the establishment of Manchukuo". They also cited "anti-Japanese harassment and terrorism", so "under such circumstances the Kwantung Army resorted to force".
So basically we can blame the paranoid delusions of megalomaniacal army officers for the 'Manchurian Incident'.

At the Paris Conference, Japan requested a clause in the League of Nations' charter abolishing racial discrimination, but this was rejected because the US and the Commonwealth were not happy.

More Japanese grievances: the murder of Captain Nakamura Shintaro in 1931 in Taonan (they said Zhang Xueliang had a bad response to this) and the Wanbaoshan incident.

There was no mention of Manchukuo being a puppet nation. Instead, links were drawn with Kogryo (Koguryo), Bohai (Balhae), Jin, Houjin (?) and the Qing era.

There was something on the ohaguruma (sacred palanquin) and how after the ceremony to enshrine souls in the palanquin, its bearers said it was heavier than before. I'm sure fatigue has nothing to do with it.

They then talked about the "China incident". They blamed not just Japanese troops for stirring up the Northern China autonomy movement but "terrorism" by the CCP under Comintern orders. They blamed the "Second Shanghai Incident" (to their credit, at least they are quite consistent in calling things 'incidents') on China (which was fair enough but neglected the numerous Japanese-instigated incidents of the past 6 years) as well as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. They claimed that Japanese government policy was to prevent escalation, then talked about the Langfang, Guanganmen and Tongzhou incidents (there was no explication of these in English those). They also mentioned the Oyama Incident.

"The Nanking Incident
After the Japanese government surrounded Nanking in December 1937, General Matsui Iwane distributed maps to his men with foreign settlements and the safety zones marked in red ink. Matsui told them that they were to maintain strict military disciplines (sic) and that anyone committing unlawful acts would be severely punished. The defeated Chinese rushed to Xinguan, and they were completely destroyed. The Chinese soldiers disguised in civilian clothing were severely prosecuted." (This has slight differences from a more controversial 2005 version; I also didn't see mention of the 'Martyrs of Showa')

In January 1938, PM Konoe said "we are hoping for the establishment and growth of a new Chinese government with which we can establish a meaningful partnership". In other words, they wanted a new puppet government in the vein of Manchukuo.

They said when they attacked Wuhan "a perfect care (sic) was taken to secure the safety of residents and historical and cultural monuments".

They said they occupied Hainan "to block all supplies to Chongqing, capture Chinese bases for blockade". They said this led the West to suspect they planned for a southern advance (wow, I suppose those troops that invaded Malaya appeared in Thailand out of nowhere).

They then talked about Konoe's second and third declarations in November and December 1938, aking them sound good. And then below they mentioned how in 1940 Wang Jingwei, who opposed Chiang and favoured peace with Japan, headed a new government in Nanking (in reality it was a Japanese puppet government - I guess this was Konoe's "new Chinese government with which we can establish a meaningful partnership").

They said after the Second Shanghai Incident, Chiang joined the Communists to attack Japan, so "The Japanese government abandoned its efforts to prevent incidents from escalating". Given how hard they tried previously, I'm not sure that this was a big loss.

They had the story and bugle of G. Birvan. While fighting the Japanese, he noticed a group of them were surrounded but took their lives and saluted the East (the direction of Japan). He wanted to dedicate a funeral tune to them, but he was not allowed to. In 2003, he went to Yasukuni and played the funeral tune. In 2006, his bugle was deposited in the museum in accordance with his will.

They blamed Soviet skirmishes on the border between Manchukuo and Soviet Mongolia on the border between the two not being well defined.

On the Zhanggufeng Incident, they said the "the Japanese fought a strictly defensive battle".

They blamed the US oil embargo for triggering the war with Japan. Somehow I don't think this is what Japan has in mind when they describe their close ties with the USA.

There was a video on the China Incident. It was like a propaganda video. It featured happy music to scenes of children in school. I saw troops moving about, and warships to cheery martial music. There were very few scenes of fighting - what scenes there were showed Japanese soldiers waving flags from their rifles, and firing offscreen, but the enemy and gore were never seen. In fact, it reminded me of a SAF video.

They said they required Asian resources, and faced Great Britain and the Netherlands as obstacles, and that they were "politically aligned with the US"

"Japan's Quest for avoiding a war" blamed the US's helping Chiang Kai Shek and said the Tripartite Pact (ie the one with the Axis powers) was aimed at improving their negotiating position with the US. They then said the oil embargo "threatens Japan's very survival".

At the Atlantic Conference Churchill and FDR secretly agreed on measures to deal with Japan, but only announced the Atlantic Charter.

They said the Emperor Showa (Hirohito) requested the government try to get peace, and recited a poem of Emperor Meiji:
"Across the four seas,
All are brothers
In such a world
Why do the waves rage,
The winds roar?"

"Roosevelt rejects Konoe's proposal
The Japanese side loses hope in continuing negotiations because it was rather a restatement of the prior American position and a criticism of the Japanese position in principle."

They said on November 25, the President and the Secretaries of State, War and Navy met and "explore means to 'maneuver them (Japan) into a position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves'". They said FDR ordered preparations for a Japanese attack, probably on December 1.

They said the Hull note had the toughest proposals yet, so half a year of negotiations were "meaningless".

On the Pearl Harbor strikeforce, they said they had strict instructions to abort if negotiations succeeded, and said the US ordered its own troops to prepare for war.

The December 8 1941 Imperial Rescript declaring war on the US claimed they just wanted friendship and prosperity, that Chiang Kai Shek was not the legitimate government of China, and yet the US and UK were protecting him, said China had failed to understand their true intentions and recklessly courted trouble.

There were 3 PRCs in the museum (I recognised them from their language and accent), 2 girls and a guy. I asked (in Chinese) where they were from, and the guy said Beijing. I then asked him what his opinion of the museum was, and he asked if I was Japanese. I said I was from Singapore and repeated my question, but he and the 2 girls just laughed, didn't reply and walked off.

After Iwo Jima and Okinawa, "Its homeland had been reduced to ashes by air raids and atomic bombs, and for the first time in history, the nation experienced the agony of defeat".

Their explanation for losing the war: "When victories in initial offensives were far more spectacular than anticipated, Japanese strategists altered the original, more prudent operational plans"

On the Papua New Guinea campaign: "The new 18th Army led by Lieutenant-General Adachi Hatazo fought desperately and bravely until they learned the end of the war in Aitge (?). Their courageous acts have been passed down to us through anecdotes about tragic defeats at Buna and Dampier, and the arduous scaling of the Sarawak Mountain Range.

Okinawa was described as: "The battle of homeland defence by the unity of the soldiers and civilians"

They said in 1942 Togo Shigenori said ending the war was a top priority, and they tried to get Sweden to mediate "but the US had no interest in negotiating for peace".

They said FDR's offering the USSR the Sakhelin and Kuril islands caused the Northern Territory problems today.

They said after the Potsdam Declaration to Japan, they were asking the USSR to mediate, but PM Suzuki's response was reported by the press as saying they would "ignore" the declaration, "providing the Allies with an excuse to continue their offensive against Japan". I have photographs of a Japanese and an American newspaper article of this rejection, taken in Hiroshima; the American one seemed quite clear, but I don't know about the Japanese one.

They said the USSR killed a military envoy who had come to negotiate peace. Ouch.

In China not one unit defied the Imperial order to disarm. Presumably this means units in other areas did.

They said the US was impressed by the discipline, solidarity, spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotism of the armed forces, and so in the early occupation they focused on "eradicating those qualities to ensure that Japan would never again pose a threat to the US". To do this, they "outlawed State support for Shinto, reformed the education system, instituted censorship, established a new constitution and enacted the fundamental law of education". Presumably, gender equality, being told that the Emperor is not a god and learning that Japan does not have a duty to invade liberate the rest of Asia makes Japan pro-US.

They pointed out the UN charter was drawn up when the world was at war, so "enemy state clauses" versus Japan and Germany are still there today.

On the 1 million Japanese civilians in Manchuria: "Their fate was so cruel and their suffering so great as to defy all description".

As we all know, Emperor Hirohito repudiated his divinity at the end of the war. The Yushukan museum would have us believe that the "real intention" of the Showa emperor was to return to the principles of Emperor Meiji's 1968 charter oath.

"Saddened by the loss
Of the precious lives
Of so many of my people,
I ended the war.
It mattered not what became of me"
- The Showa Emperor

In contrast, Herbert Bix writes (and is not quoted in the museum) of Hirohito's unwillingness to give up being Emperor after the first A-bomb was dropped: "In his
single-minded dedication to preserving his position, no matter what the cost to others, he was one of the most disingenuous persons ever to occupy the modern throne".

The museum credited the Russo-Japanese War and Japan's actions in World War II for inspiring independence movements in Asia: "The desire for independence had been kindled under Japanese occupation". They did not mention that the latter was because the Asians did not want to be occupied by Japan again due to Japanese brutality.

They had rooms with "mementoes of war heroes" and walls with photos. I considered looking for the Class A War Criminals, but I'd spent enough time in the museum already so I didn't.

There was a Flemish-style still life featuring a suit of Samurai armour. I was impressed.

The Shrine also had some military items, including a human (suicide) torpedo ("回天" - "Kaiten"). I was amused that it was given to them by a US museum (the Naval Academy or something Navy-related IIRC).

"I was very moved by how loyal the young warriors were. In a time where the US is in war, I am ashamed of not knowing how horrible war is. Eternal Peace on earth.
- E.T 2008.06.06"
I found it very appropriate that this person signed off as ET, since like an Extra-Terrestial, he appears to have entered this museum without any historical context or knowledge. Luckily there are no Nazi museums bemoaning the suffering of the Germans during WWII's firebombings and the sacrifices made by the German people, or he might write something similar.

A more informed guestbook entry:

"The only museums I have ever seen as distorted and flagrantly dishonest as this one are in China.

Japan suffered a lot during World War II (or should I say, the 'Japanese Incident') but this was largely due to its aggressive Imperialism and expansionism.

I hope the Japanese visitors to this museum don't take it at face value. If you want to whitewash the Nanking Massacre (Rape of Nanking) to the 'Nanking Incident' maybe we can call Commodore Perry's forced opening of Japan the 'Perry Incident' and the A-bombs the 'Hiroshima Incident' and the 'Nagasaki Incident'

''Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori''

- Agagooga
7th June 2008"

The only picture of the exhibits I took in the museum (since I'd noted down the good stuff and it didn't matter if they threw me out). It seems to be inspired by the Last Samurai.

The museum shop sold headbands, but none saying "Kamikaze". They had old Japanese army style caps for 5250Y (more than a stripclub!), which was crazy. I'd been told that they also had old Japanese army style caps with the flaps, but I didn't see any (it's okay, I can raid the Mediacorp Channel 8 storerooms). Even if they had any, I wouldn't buy any for fear of funding the next Greater East Asian War.

More pictures of the Yasukuni Shrine

Place to wash your hands and mouth

This is hands down my favourite photo in the post.
This guy was wearing different clothing from the one I'd glimpsed from afar earlier. Besides having a radio beside him on the bench (at one point it was playing a song with the tune of Auld Lang SYne) he had a bugle as well.
After staring at this photo for a long time, I conclude that it is the Naval flag, which is currently still in use, and not the Army one, which isn't.
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