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Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine was designed and built in 1869 to commemorate the individuals who have sacrificed their lives for the good of the Empire of Japan, and nearly 2.5 million people are currently enshrined there. Among those whose names are listed on the shrine are soldiers, students, relief workers and wartime medics. Unlike a Western cemetery, souls enshrined are honored by temple visitors in what can only be called worship.

This particular shrine has been surrounded by controversy over the years, mainly because of the 14 convicted war criminals who have been interred there. Notably, Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo, the man directly responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, was enshrined at Yasukuni after his execution in 1948. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the shrine every year, some as an act of patriotism and others as a political statement geared at Japan’s neighbors in Asia.

In spite of the controversy, the Yasukuni Shrine remains one of Japan’s few tributes to World War II, and a visit is often a touching experience. For an interesting look at a Japanese take on the war, stop by the Yushukan museum on the grounds of the shrine.

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