Top (North) American celebrity Justin Bieber has caused massive controversy by posting a photo of himself honouring Japan’s top war criminals in an “accidental” visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.
At the first whiff of controversy Bieber withdrew the photograph and issued an apology in his usual eloquent style:
While in Japan I asked my driver to pull over for which I saw a beautiful shrine. I was mislead to think the Shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry. I love you China and I love you Japan
The apology soon drew over 20,000 largely supportive comments, although the finer points of the situation seem possibly even more lost on his fans than on Bieber himself.
Yasukuni was established as the shrine for all Japan’s war dead in the era of state Shinto, including various vanquished soldiers later judged war criminals, but when the post-war government divested itself of all religious control the shrine passed into the private control of those who for whatever reasons refuse to see the more controversial spirits rehomed.
With the nation’s main war memorial now stuck housing the spirits of all Japanese who perished in war along with several decidedly controversial executed war criminals – for what are undoubtedly spiritual reasons which have nothing to do with the shrine’s owners wanting to spite the victors- there have been endless problems as Japanese leaders are stuck with an all-or-nothing choice of kowtowing either to China or their own crazed nationalists.
That Bieber was entirely unaware of the single most controversial place in Japan he could possibly visit short of the Senkaku islands themselves is perhaps plausible, although whether anyone else had a hand in guiding him to the shrine is of course open to some speculation.
Japanese are more bemused than most at his choice of attraction:
“OK, now I’m a fan.”
“What are China and Korea going to say about this!”
“Justin really does know nothing at all, doesn’t he?”
“I expect he thought it was just a normal shrine.”
“I’ve never even been there either…”
“Something to do with Obama’s visit perhaps? Odd timing.”
“I can only imagine Kennedy’s reaction to this.”
“The bad thing is that all the crazy fuss is just going to reinforce people’s belief that there is nothing at Yasukuni but a shrine to war criminals.”
“Looking at this pic I would think it would drive tourists there even so.”
“Next he’ll find himself accidentally tucking into some whale meat.”