Every now and then, while skimming the paper I find news like this.

While I understand that the LDP must ensure the support of the conservatives at home; to my view that is already covered: schoolbooks portraying World War II in a softer way, the drifting away from pacifism, etc.

Why infuriate your neighbours constantly by visiting the Yasukuni shrine? It seems to me that is simply an easy and effective way to anger their Pacific enemies and alienate potential allies (e.g. South Korea).

I'm well aware that visiting the shrine is consistent with the overall attitude of the current Japanese government. However, seems unnecessary and harmful to Japan's ties with allies, including the U.S.

Am I missing anything? Is there a reason behind this traditional flashy provocation or they just never passed Geopolitics 101?

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    This just sounds like politicians playing to their party's base, with less consideration for what it sounds like to others. So, they're acting like politicians the world over, especially those that aren't what you'd call moderate or centrist.
    – Geobits
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:12
  • I would understand this rationale if it was other governing party, in other country. But the LDP has governed Japan almost uninterruptedly since the mid 50s until today. Why perpetuate bad foreign policy practices being one of the most politically homogeneous countries in the developed world? Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:21
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    The LDP as a whole has been in power, but there are several major factions within the party. Some of them seem more like what could be called separate parties IMO.
    – Geobits
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:26
  • @Tachibanaian - in many cases in politics, it's about being elected for a given politician and not about what's good/needed for the party as a whole (never mind country as a whole)
    – user4012
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 20:32
  • @DVK But being elected is a something it happens every few years. Why bother to cater to the far-right throughout the time in office when it only has a noticeable impact when an election is close? The damaged foreign relations last much longer than that. It's just mere short sightedness? Would there actually be some kind of domestic active criticism if visits to Yasukuni by officials would be halted? Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


Politicians demonstrating militaristic patriotism like this has two positive effects.

  1. It improves their internal standing and popularity with the population.
  2. It demonstrates strength which can be useful for leverage in international negotiations

By demonstrating that they are not ashamed of the most violent episode in their recent history the day before an international visit by the US president, they demonstrate that they expect to be taken serious by him and will not give in to bullying. The same signal goes to China: "Remember that there once was a time where you feared us. We won't give in to you today". As you know, the relations between Japan and China are currently quite stressed because both countries want to increase their influence in the region (example: the dispute regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands). Showing weakness would weaken the Japanese position in this matter.

Also, by intentionally putting their own warcrimes on the public agenda, they remove any leverage the US could use against them. Had the Japanese government not done this, the US government could threaten to officially condone Japanese warcrimes in WWII to pressure the Japanese government into giving in to their demands. But with their visit to the Yasukuni shrine, the Japanese government took that gun out of the US hands and turned it around: Japan can now make their own demands in exchange for toning down their militarism.

  • I don't really understand the calculus behind this. Angering your enemies is, arguably, not negative, but it's clearly negative if it bothers your allies. By keeping alive the memory of the Showa era ideology and, even worse, celebrating it, Japan undermines its own ties with the rest of the world, the U.S. included. What am I missing? Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 14:01
  • @Tachibanaian What you are "missing" is that "good relations" in foreign politics is nothing but a symptom of "our goal align". International politics is a lot more pragmatic than that. A government will not act against their own interest just because they feel insulted. It's more like they express being insulted as a pretext to do what they actually want to do.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 14:09
  • Cooperation between South Korea and Japan seems a worthy objective for two countries near N.Korea and China. However the Japanese stance on WWII crimes, comfort women, etc hinders their relationship. My question addresses this topic. What's the justification behind self-sabotaging foreign policy. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 14:37
  • Obviously S.Korea doesn't think that all of their goals allign that well with those of Japan (they are competing on many economical sectors). Otherwise they wouldn't keep pondering those WW2 issues. Look at Europe where everyone stopped the WW2 blame games decades ago in favor of international cooperation... until recently where Greece started it again because Germany became too involved in their internal economy policies.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 14:44
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    The comparison doesn't make sense. Germany atoned for their WWII central role and moved on; the same cannot be said about Japan. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 16:48

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