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HOME  > Past issues  > 2024 January 17 - 23  > GSDF top officers’ visit to Yasukuni Shrine may violate 1974 official notice
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2024 January 17 - 23 [POLITICS]

GSDF top officers’ visit to Yasukuni Shrine may violate 1974 official notice

January 17, 2024

The 1974 official notice regarding religious activities by Vice-Minister of Defense rules that he should abide by “freedom of faith” and “separation of state from religion” as stipulated in Article 20 and Article 89 of the Japanese Constitution.

Professor Emeritus of Yamaguchi University Koketsu Atsushi in an Akahata interview on January 17 said that the visit to Yasukuni Shrine on January 9 by Ground Self-Defense Force’s vice chief of staff and several other high-ranking officers was in violation of the 1963 and 1974 official notices. The following is his interview responses:

A group visit by SDF officers to Yasukuni Shrine is a matter concerning Article 20 of the Constitution which stipulates, “The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.”

To guarantee the effectiveness of this constitutional provision, the GSDF in the “Chief of Staff, GSDF, official notice” issued in 1963 bans GSDF units from visiting houses of worship. Given that the 1974 “Vice-Minister of Defense official notice” has a similar stipulation, the January 9 visit by GSDF officers was a clear violation of these notices.

Japan’s past war of aggression was deeply committed to religion. The religious community played a part in that war. Out of this regret, the state and civil-service employees are strictly prohibited from visiting religious facilities as public employees while freedom of thought and faith are guaranteed as private citizens so that the country will never again opt for an act of war.

Specifically, Japan is determined to oblige SDF personnel to serve for a civilian control in order not to allow the SDF as a military organization to intervene in politics like the prewar/wartime Japanese Army directed the country into a war of aggression. The visit to Yasukuni Shrine this time sheds light on the fact that such a civilian control is not functioning at all. This should be harshly criticized.

A major cause behind the incident is the recent huge arms buildup and the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. military alliance in addition to frequent armed conflicts in the world. It looks as if SDF top officers no longer hesitate to be out in front at the cost of breaking civilian control.

Past related article:
> GSDF vice chief of staff visits Yasukuni shrine [January 10, 2024]
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