Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine is a divisive place of worship at the best of times, but on August 15th, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, it’s an element that is even more pronounced. The vast majority of people are there for the right reason — to simply remember the past. The very noticeable contingent from the far right, however, are there to revere it. And some, quite possibly, are somewhere in-between.
Exactly what the title says, along with a colourful, but rather carelessly placed parasol. A sight that needless to say is not something one sees everyday. Or indeed the vast majority of days. Making the slightly surreal scene all the more special.
The traditional sight of a Buddhist temple, conventionally attired priest, and a suitably ostentatious time-piece.
Every year on National Foundation Day, a large number of Japanese nationalists gather for a Shinto ceremony at Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine. An event documented on this site in a series of photos last year, and also several years earlier in the snow.
Perhaps surprisingly it’s an unusually sombre affair, which is a huge contrast to how one usually sees Japan’s far-right factions — either strutting about peacock-like, or blasting the populace with ear splitting, hateful propaganda from their speaker-equipped trucks. A ceremony that in total lasts no more than 15 minutes or so, and is conducted in almost complete, reverential silence, along with a hard-edged, but at the same time undeniable solemnity. Elements that, despite the repugnant, archaic views of those participating, and the way they will inevitably behave once leaving the shrine, make the whole spectacle really quite impressive — oddly moving even. Causing this onlooker to briefly, and begrudgingly, respect those paying their respects.
Tokyo is a city of almost constant contrasts, whether they be the old and new, rich and poor, or gentle and perhaps not so gentle. Juxtapositions that never fail to fascinate. And the sight of a Buddhist pilgrim walking through Ginza, the capital’s homage to high-end consumerism, was definitely no different.
Times change, but the obsession with things other than those around us, most certainly doesn’t.