Yasukuni generates lots of controversy among mainland Chinese, especially when Japanese heads of state visit to pay respects. The shrine has a number of convicted war criminals interred there. Should the Chinese just keep their peace, and let Japanese leaders pay respects to soldiers who died in a war in which no one had clean hands? One could make the case that Japanese imperial ambitions were fuelled by the colonial activities of Western nations in Asia and the Pacific. Now, that doesn't excuse the Rape of Nanking, but it does give a context.
The Yasukuni shrine, though, also contains a museum. They have an English webpage, linked below.
It seems to have different entries monthly, so I'm going to quote some of this month's entry. I've broken it up into paragraphs for clarity; the original article didn't. I believe the author is Kenji Ueda, President of Kokugakuin University.
A CORRECT VIEW OF HISTORY
The text books used in history instruction at intermediate schools from the 1997 school year will contain material on the subject of comfort women. The textbooks depict as a historical fact the story of Asian women who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese Army.
Imparting this story to students who are still young and immature has become a great problem since last year. This matter is drawn upon the judgment professed by the Military Tribunal for the Far East that Japan fought a war of aggression. Can we say that this view is correct? We must pass judgment on this matter in the same manner of a tribunal that passes judgment after gathering credible proof.
We cannot help but feel that the possibility of ulterior motives have not been discounted. Isn't it a fact that the West with its military power invaded and ruled over much of Asia and Africa and that this was the start of East-West relations? There is no uncertainty in history. Japan's dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia.
We cannot overlook the intent of those who wish to tarnish the good name of the noble souls of Yasukuni. When I was a student at the preparatory school for the military academy, our chief of corps often lamented the fact that the good soldiers died early while speaking about his experience on the China front. The professor of the university I enrolled in after the war, who was later to become the president of the university, would refer to those who died in the war saying, "The good fellows did not return." The Noble Souls of Yasukuni--Eternally The noble souls who are worshiped at Yasukuni offered up their lives with deep love for their families, their race and their nation. With heartfelt thoughts for the increasing prosperity of generations and generations to come of their families, relatives and their fellow countrymen, these noble souls endured hardships and offered even their lives for the sake of their nation and race. They returned to this land and are enshrined in Yasukuni Jinja.
Norinaga Motoori taught that after death all human beings will surely travel to _Yomi_, the dark land of defilement. (This is a mistaken theory.) Yet, even Motoori requested that upon his death he would be laid to rest in the eternal cemetery on Yama-muro-yama. In this way, the people of Japan do not venture to some unknown world after death but are here in this world--in this land of Japan--built by their ancestors and in which their descendants and fellow countrymen continue to live. In life and in death, they desired to be together with their fellow countrymen and their descendants to share in both their happiness and grief. The traditional faith of the Japanese people is the continual presence of the departed through religious celebration. Whether the departed souls actually die or not is dependent upon our celebration. It is the same with the Kami--their presence depends on our celebration for them. This is the reason why in Japan celebrations are held constantly for the Kami and for ancestral souls. This faith is deeply related to our way of life. We cannot disregard this faith for it defines the meaning of our life itself.
When His Majesty the Emperor as well as the Prime Minister pay an official visit to other countries they will always visit the national cemeteries of those countries, where those who have given their lives for that country are laid to rest, or a memorial or shrine and pay their respects by offering a wreath. This is truly a national ceremony held in the country of their visit. A similar ceremony is not held in our country for visiting heads of state. It is regrettable that our country does not fulfill its duties as a nation. To bring an end to war is the earnest wish of mankind. Regardless of whether we can realize this or not, the act of despising the souls of those who offered their lives for the national community by those who were left behind is no more than extreme ingratitude of a people without a country. I dread to even consider the thoughts of the noble souls of Yasukuni about the conduct of their countrymen today."
Well, the Japanese should certainly celebrate for their dead. That's part of what makes them Japanese. But if Japanese leaders continue to make visits to Yasukuni, they will be saying to the world that lying, minimizing the crimes their predecessors committed, and not caring about others are also part of being Japanese.
First, actual comfort women have testified as to the abuse they suffered. The majority of non-Japanese scholars believe that Japan was culpable in enslaving women. Indeed, Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a Japanese historian, discovered documents incriminating the Japanese Defence Agency. The then-Prime minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, presented formal apologies for the suffering of the victims during a trip to South Korea.
Second, it is true that Western nations used force to rule Asia and Africa. But two wrongs do not make a right.
"They made us do it" is not a morally sustainable argument.
The persistence of such duplicitous historical statements at Yasukuni means that every time a Japanese government official steps into the shrine, they are saying that what Japan did was justifiable. Perhaps Japan should force Western nations to live up to their own imperial pasts by removing all historical material at the shrine. It would also probably make a lot of Chinese much more sympathetic to the Japanese soldiers who died in a war that should never have been fought.