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Battle of Okinawa survivors challenging Yasukuni Shrine

Date Posted: 2007-09-01

Four survivors of the Battle of Okinawa are taking Yasukuni Shrine to court in a move to have their relatives’ names removed from the institution.
“Yasukuni Shrine is sacred, and our relatives were enshrined without anyone asking survivors for permission,” they say, arguing the enshrinement “encroaches on our right to privacy. We want to have our relatives removed from there, so they can be enshrined here (in Okinawa).”
This isn’t the first time Yasukuni Shrine has been asked to remove names from its lists. Survivors in Osaka and Tokyo have done so before, but the Okinawa decision to seek legal assistance is a first. “We lost my mother and elder brother in the last war,” says 71-year-old Mitsuyoshi Kawabata. “They were just farmers, they were not Japanese soldiers. Why should they be enshrined with soldiers,” she asks.
Kawabata contends “Yasukuni Shrine is used as a place which is making Japan do war, and we don’t want my mother and brother used for war, or be enshrined with other former soldiers.” Minoru Kinjo, another survivor, says she agrees with Kawabata. “My father was a former Japanese soldier, and he can be enshrined at this shrine,” Kinjo says, “but not farmers or normal residents. They should not be there.”
Survivors from nine Taiwanese families launched a suit last year, seeking much the same removal action. “Yasukuni Shrine didn’t ask permission from us to enshrine our deceased relatives,” that suit notes. “It’s a violation of human rights, and we have rights to do our own memorial services, and to enshrine them wherever we want,” the Taiwanese say, adding “We want to enshrine our ancestors in our own way, and in our own places. We don’t want our ancestors to sleep together here at Yasukuni Shrine together with Japanese soldiers.”
Yasukuni Shrine officials reject the criticism by Okinawans. “To put a name on a list is just one of our customs for our religious action”, one says. “To put a name on the list we don’t need to get acceptance from survivors, as it is not a matter of religious education.”
Okinawan survivors want only one thing from Yasukuni Shrine, “to please take away the names of our relatives from the dead people’s name lists.”

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