Our dead and Yasukuni shrine



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This thesis reviews Yasukuni’s symbolic power and transformation from its foundation in 1869 to contemporary times in order to analyze the potent and variant meanings of the Yasukuni symbol. The paramount importance of the site is to ritualize the war dead, whether for national, personal, or religious purposes. While examining the shrine’s many functions, this paper does not try to defend or obscure the serious causal effects of the shrine’s symbolic power but to situate the intentions and controversies in a historical context to see how Yasukuni became what it is, and how it remains important to the Japanese. Beyond looking at Yasukuni through its many controversies (mondai), this thesis explains how the shrine has been important and continues to be a highly active ritual site with deep cultural and religious meaning. In order to understand current Japanese opinions of the significance of Yasukuni shrine, fieldwork was undertaken from June 2011 to October 2012. Research was conducted primarily in the Kanagawa prefecture of Japan. The Kanagawa prefecture, close to the Tokyo area, facilitated repeat visits to the shrine.