Meeting Again at Yasukuni by Ayako Sono (3)

On June 7, 2007, I visited the Shrine, accompanying the Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui and his wife. Although the Lee Family and my family are Christian families, they suggested visiting the Shrine together. It was confirmed that Mr. Lee’s older brother, who under the Japanese name Takenori Iwasato sacrificed his life as a sailor in the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Japanese occupation, was worshiped in the Shrine. It was reported that Mr. Lee’s older brother participated in the Southern Operations and was killed in the Philippines, but the specific place of death was unknown and, of course, his ashes were not returned.
Mr. Lee’s father didn’t believe his death in battle. There was no action report of his battle. His ashes were not returned. If you were a parent, you of course would hope your son might be living somewhere. Wounded, helped by local people, perhaps he decided to live together with the helpers’ family, so he may surely come back home sometime. A parent would hope so. Mr. Lee’s father didn’t hold his funeral nor raise his tomb, hoping that he was alive.
I didn’t see Mr. Lee’s father when he was alive. If I had met him, I would have been at a loss for words of apology and thanks. I firmly believed that the reason why the Lee Family wasn’t hostile to Japan is because they were testifying Christian love and forgiveness. Although Mr. and Mrs. Lee didn’t visit the Shrine for many years, I believe that’s because they would face a lot of criticism if they had done so.
Yasukuni welcomed Mr. and Mrs. Lee with warmth and dignity. I at that time wrote, “When they returned to the parlor (after visiting the Main Shrine), something like a certificate is prepared, in which the name, military rank, and unit of the deceased are written. They expressed their gratitude, saying “Thank you for enshrining my older brother for a long time”.
After visiting the Shrine, Mr. Lee said, “Ever since I knew that my older brother is enshrined in Yasukuni, I have wanted to visit the Shrine at any cost. We were close brothers”. Although Mr. Lee usually shows a gentle face, only at that time he looked much like he had endured for a long time. Perhaps because Yasukuni has enshrined his older brother, the first son of the Lee Family finally wasn’t missing nor abandoned, and he died with dignity.
I once visited a cemetery that honors American troops who died during the Invasion of Normandy. Hundreds and thousands of tombstones were lined up as far as the eye could see. I was moved to see no spots, such as bird droppings, on every tombstone. Right before 5 p.m., the time when I just began to read some memorial inscription on the grave, I heard America’s national anthem played in the style of the handbell. Maybe the music was the signal of the closing time.
We went out of the cemetery with some regrets. Right near the exit, a car with a number plate of a US consulate was parked and soldiers in uniform were giving a salute at the cemetery. An ideal country would keep paying homage to those who died for the country. If it weren’t for Yasukuni Shrine, we would have no main place for honoring those who sacrificed their lives for our country.

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