Yasukuni Shrine Riots/Protests

by Ed Lau on August 15, 2009

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15

I’m sure all of us foreigners regard the Japanese as a very polite and courteous people but every August 15th, Tokyo is full of protesters, police in full riot gear and fist-fights between the left and right wing political groups. I was right in the middle of it exactly one year ago.

Confused? Let me explain.

Everything takes place near the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo. Yasukuni is where approximately 2.5 million men and women who served Japan, usually those who lost their lives in various wars. Of particular interest, however, is the fact that Yasukuni is home to 14 class-A war criminals including Hideki Tojo, the prime minister of Japan during World War II. This, of course, is a source of political controversy in Japan. The Prime Minister recently said that he is against visiting this shrine while in office.

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15, police

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15, police

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15, police

Each year, the “sayoku”, or left-wing, groups head to the Yasukuni Shrine to protest and the “uyoku” (right-wing) groups try to head them off before they can do so. Sometimes the conflicts don’t escalate beyond some yelling and pushing but when I was there, I saw fist fights erupt on more than one occassion…and one guy even took a swing at me for pointing a camera in his face! Trucks roll up everywhere with speakers on their roofs spewing various propaganda and political chants.

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15, police

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15, police

That’s really the basics of it. If you want to know more, let me know and I can answer some questions but even I don’t understand the whole situation. The police are everywhere on that day and make quite a few arrests although for the most part, even the most radical groups won’t put up much of a fight against the cops.

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15, war criminal, WWII

Many other political movements also make their way to the area on August 15th to promote their causes.

Yasukuni Shrine, protest, riot, August 15

There are also people honor the day as the end of the war. I’m not sure if this guy is a veteran but he looks like he might be old enough to be.

I actually did a little Googling about last year’s events and found this video…and discovered that I’m actually in it! I show up at around the 6:30 mark…yep, that’s me on the right.

Overall, a really interesting time to be in Tokyo but be warned, if you’re a foreigner walking around, be careful. There’s a lot of anti-foreigner sentiment on that particular day so be sure not to step on any toes.

in Current Events,Photography,Travel

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Make money And blogging tips August 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm

yeh…yeh…yeh… i also have this in my country Indonesia , protest everywhere and i wonder when they stop

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Kev August 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Please tell me you knocked that guy (that took a swing at you) on his ass.

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