ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Japan, the United States and Yasukuni Nationalism

This paper considers the Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese war memory and representation in relationship to contemporary nationalism and its implications for the future of the Asia-Pacific. It emphasises three aspects about the "Yasukuni Problem" and contemporary nationalism that are absent in much of the discussion in Japan, the Asia-Pacific and internationally. The first is the need to transcend an exclusively Japanese perspective by locating the issues within the framework of the Japan-US relationship. The second locates war nationalism in general, and Yasukuni in particular, within the broader purview of competing nationalism in the Asia-Pacific. The third recognises deep fissures among the Japanese people with respect to Yasukuni, nationalism and the emperor in whose name Japan fought, and memories of colonialism and war.

The contentious issues that continue to swirl around war, memory, and representation are central to shaping nationalist thought, the future of Japan, the Asia-Pacific region, and the US-Japan relationship. Why do issues such as the role of Yasukuni Shrine repeatedly and explosively resurface six decades after J apan’s defeat even as the generation that experienced the war is passing from the scene? This seems all the more counterintuitive at a time when the economies and even the cultures of China, J apan and Korea are deeply intertwined.

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