Yasukuni, The Soft Power of Clashing Identities


Author: Bjorn Koolen, Ritsumeikan University, Japan
Published: May 2016

Citation: Koolen, B. (2016). Yasukuni, The Soft Power of Clashing Identities. IAFOR Journal of Politics, Economics & Law, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijpel.3.1.04


Yasukuni Jinja, or "Shrine for a Peaceful Nation", was established in Tōkyō by Emperor Meiji to commemorate those who gave their lives for the nation. In our contemporary times Yasukuni has however become shrouded by an ideological aura of the pre-war system, where it became the “citadel of military ideology”, which it is perceived to glorify to this day. Consequently, when you visit Yasukini the question arises “What do you actually commemorate?” And although the answer may be very clear to yourself, the action itself carries such great ambiguity that other’s preconceptions equally so define its interpretation. China in particular strongly protests against any visits by Japanese officials to Yasukuni, and even views it as a threat to the long treacherous path of reconciliation in East Asia, as each nation holds a distinct interpretation of its wartime past. Visits and offerings by current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has often been labelled as a hawkish nationalist conservative, have come under particular scrutiny as his image is perceived to enforce Yasukuni’s militaristic past. This research therefore sets out to clarify the role of Yasukuni within Chinese-Japanese relations under the prime-ministership of Shinzo Abe, by introducing the concept of assertive soft power, which seeks to avert another nations’ identity by endorsing its opposite.


national identities, soft power, Sino-Japanese relations, Yasukuni Jinja