International Institute for Religious Freedom

The Japanese Yasukuni Cult Soldiers as Martyrs?

This is an English translation of a German article published in 2012 in the IIRF Bulletin: “Der japanische Yasukunikult – Soldaten als Märtyrer?”.



Please note that this article is not to be understood as a culturally insensitive scolding of Japan. From the ashes of the defeated nation of Japan, as in Germany, a functioning democracy has arisen. If something contained within the aforementioned is astonishing, then it is not that the Japanese honor their war dead – as almost every people does – and use traditional ways to do so. Instead, it is the fact that a suggested return to a pre-war cult has never truly happened and that the broad population desires religious freedom as it is found in the Constitution of Japan and seeks to protect that and deny support for a return to a national or state religion.

There is no ‘kamikaze’ mentality on the part of the Japanese, just as there are also other cultural stereotypes about Japanese circulating among us. They unfortunately were ‘parroted’ immediately after the flood disaster and the nuclear accident on a daily basis and have nothing to do with the real Japan. Ethnologist and Japanologist Till Philip Koltermann has made this clear in an excellent essay.