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Statement of Opinion Regarding Comments on Visiting Yasukuni Shrine

Mitsuhiro Fukata
Chairman of Shinshuren
Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan

July 9, 2001

The Honorable Junichiro Koizumi
Prime Minister of Japan

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

We send our most respectful regards and wishes for your good health and happiness in this midsummer season. We would also like to express our heartfelt respect for the bold approach you have taken since becoming Prime Minister with the support of an exceedingly large number of citizens, advocating the carrying out of reform with sanctuary for none in regard to the huge accumulation of political issues, for the benefit of all the Japanese people.

Since its establishment in 1951, Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) has had as its primary aim the goal of contributing to the welfare of all humankind and to world peace through interreligious cooperation. The concept that underlies Shinshuren's activities is the spirit of basic human rights and the peace principle as outlined in the Constitution of Japan, in particular the principle of the separation of religion and the state as a way of guaranteeing religious freedom.

As we are sure you as Prime Minister are well aware, the peace principle and the doctrine of religious freedom /separation of religion and state are based on our nation's renunciation of war, which reflects the people's wish never to have to experience such conflict again stemming from our deep sorrow and self-reflection regarding World War II. They are also based on our subsequent severe self-reflection regarding issues of religious pressure and limitations on religious freedom. These principles guaranteed by the Constitution have been highly valued by successive cabinets with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been the nation's governing party throughout most of the long period since the end of the war, and this has led Japan from the beginning of its recovery to the prosperity of today. We believe, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you as Prime Minister will do nothing to alter this in any way.

Since assuming the office of Prime Minister, however, you have made repeated statements of your intention to visit Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. We have submitted statements of our opinion on this matter to each successive prime minister, pointing out that an official visit to the shrine runs counter to the principle outlined in Article 20 of the Constitution regarding the separation of religion and the state. In addition, such a visit puts pressure on the principle of religious freedom. This then is our request to you as Prime Minister to carefully reconsider your proposed visit.

Furthermore, with regard to the way we as a nation should honor all those who died in past wars, we believe that a national consensus should be developed, beginning with the question of establishing a national memorial cemetery. We venture to offer that we would be most willing to cooperate in pursuing this possibility.

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