Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A POW responds to Abe's Yasukuni visit

One Za of the Chinreisha
On December 26th, Christmas Day in the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine. At the Shrine, Abe also visited the Chinreisha, which is to pacify and acknowledge Imperial Japan's enemy combatants both domestic and foreign. This small shrine gated to the south of the main Yasukuni sanctuary is intended to keep the souls of these former adversaries, who are enshrined collectively, from causing mischief to the living.

I paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine and expressed my sincere condolences, paid my respects and prayed for the souls of all those who had fought for the country and made ultimate sacrifices. I also visited Chinreisha, a remembrance memorial to pray for the souls of all the people regardless of nationalities who lost their lives in the war, but not enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine.
While praying for the souls of the war dead, the preciousness of peace Japan enjoys today really came home to me. 
The peace and prosperity Japan enjoys today is not created only by those who are living today. The peace and prosperity we enjoy today is built on the precious sacrifices of numerous people who perished on the field wishing for the happiness of their loving wives and children, and thinking about their fathers and mothers who had raised them.
An American former POW sees this visit differently. He was not convinced that Abe's visit to the Chinreisha included contrition for the American soldiers. To be "pacified" is not enough.

Never should it be forgotten that Japan's victims were not all Asian. Westerners put in Imperial Japan's care, refugees, internees, laborers, POWs, all became victims of the barbarity of Japan's Armed Forces.

Lester Tenney, Survivor of the Bataan Death March, a Hellship, and a Mitsui coal mine; and Past National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor wrote his feelings to his local newspaper, the San Diego Times Union. Although the newspaper published the letter, it did not post it (text below) online.

“Leader’s war shrine visit raises questions.”

Letter to the Editor, December 27, 2013

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his visit to the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo was to pay respect to fallen soldiers. After reading about his recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, I felt that it is important that I share with you my thoughts and the thoughts of many survivors like me.

I assume he was are referring only to the Japanese soldiers, because if he had intended to include all soldiers then I ask what the respect would have included. Would you have included the Americans who died as a POWs on the Bataan Death March, or those proud American soldiers who perished while being transported to Japan on unmarked Japanese freighters, and those who died while forced to work for Japanese companies? If he thought of these soldiers, then we survivors thank him for understanding these sad events. On the other hand, if these Americans were not remembered then I ask, how dare he to say he paid respect to all fallen soldiers?

The Yasukuni war shrine you visited is known as The Tokyo War Shrine, a most unusual place to visit while preaching the need for Peace. I, like many others reading about the recent visit to the shrine, are confused. What is he trying to convey?

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