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Imperial Envoy to Yasukuni

Yasukuni Jinja, in Tokyo, enshrines the spirits of everyone who died fighting for the Tennō between, roughly, 1854 and 1945. (The main reason that there are no later enshrinements is that no-one has died fighting for the Tennō since then.) It is, as you are almost certainly aware, extremely controversial, because of its association with Japanese imperialism.

The previous Tennō never visited the jinja as Tennō, and I am not sure whether the current Tennō has ever visited it at all. At any rate, he has not visited since becoming Tennō. Nevertheless, both the previous and current Tennō sent an Imperial envoy to the jinja twice a year, to the spring and autumn matsuri. I don’t think that had ever been missed.

Until now.

This year, on the day before the spring matsuri, a member of staff at Yasukuni Jinja tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the whole jinja was shut down, and the matsuri was carried out by a skeleton staff of priests, with no-one present from outside the jinja. That included the Imperial envoy. There was still an offering from the Tennō, but it was presented by priests at the jinja.

Symbolically, this is really important, and thus shows that Yasukuni Jinja is taking the pandemic extremely seriously.

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