Yasukuni Shrine and Total War
Chapter 4 covers the Asia-Pacific War period during which all of Japan was mobilized for the war effort. I trace one soldier’s fate after battlefield death, including cremation, return of the ashes, local memorial services, and Yasukuni enshrinement, with a particular focus on the bereaved family members. I juxtapose this particular soldier’s journey with other Yasukuni-related episodes compiled from media sources and material produced by the shrine. During this war, grief related to war death was institutionalized into a national event. Furthermore, participants came to perform an “acceptable” kind of emotional response to war death, e.g., pride rather than grief, joy rather than sorrow. I argue that such performances did not result merely from widespread and strong belief in the Yasukuni myth. Instead these performances were shaped by organizations, including elementary schools, neighborhood associations, and women’s groups, that exerted pressure on the bereaved to conform to specific conventions of behavior.
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