Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Shrine obsession more than one man's stance
The Osaka District Court in western Japan delivered a bewildering ruling on Friday. Affirming that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in an official capacity on August 13, 2001, the court refused to rule on the visit's constitutionality.
The Osaka District Court in western Japan delivered a bewildering ruling on Friday.
Affirming that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in an official capacity on August 13, 2001, the court refused to rule on the visit's constitutionality.
Accusing Koizumi of violating the constitutional separation of church and state, more than 600 Osaka residents filed the lawsuit in the hope of preventing their prime minister from further visits to shrine, where 2.5 million Japanese war dead - including 14 Class-A World War II war criminals - are enshrined. They also claimed compensation for "mental anguish" the visits had inflicted.
Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits the state and its organs from conducting religious education and any form of religious activities. There is no doubt about Yasukuni's nature as a religious symbol.
The plaintiffs pointed out that Koizumi paid his 2001 visit to the shrine in a government vehicle and dedicated a wreath carrying his official title as Japan's prime minister.
Confirming the official nature of Koizumi's visit, the court corroborated something obvious to all. But it argued there was no need to rule on the visit's constitutionality, because the plaintiffs suffered no "damages."
Whether the Japanese Prime Minister's homage to a religious symbol was constitutional or not should be judged from whether or not the visit violated the country's Constitution, not whether or not his visit inflicted damages.
The court's awkward mismatch is a disappointing compromise of professional integrity.
The verdict offers Koizumi a judicial guarantee, saying he need not worry about legal liabilities during future Yasukuni visits.
Reiterating his determination to visit the shrine further, Koizumi demonstrated added audacity by ridiculing the plaintiffs in the wake of the court ruling.
"I could not understand why I was sued from the very start," he told the press on Friday evening. "Up till now, I am still wondering why they felt 'mental anguish' when I paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine."
Surely Koizumi was not honest - he is well aware of the political sensitivity surrounding his Yasukuni visits.
Each of his four visits to the shrine since he assumed Japanese leadership in 2001 have attracted broad indignation and criticism. But he does not care.
Koizumi was paying condolences for the war dead in all sincerity, he said. Not long ago, addressing questions about his Yasukuni visits, Koizumi expressed in unequivocal terms that he was paying homage to all enshrined there, no matter if they were convicted war criminals or otherwise.
This time after the court ruling he said he does not care whether his visits are construed as private or official.
This should not come as a surprise. On January 16, Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party wrote in its 2004 guidelines of action that it would continue to promote visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.
When Koizumi bows to the spiritual tablets of Tojo Hideki, the infamous Class-A war criminal, and others, he has his party behind him.
Commenting on Chinese and Korean indignation at his Yasukuni visits, Koizumi once said: "They must be made to understand. Because this is Japan's culture and tradition."
If such is Japan's culture and tradition, we have to look out for more than Koizumi.