Friday, July 16, 2010

7月16日Day 113: Shin-Okubo and Yasukuni Jinja

Omg, only 2 more weeks here.

Today I went to Shin-Okubo, the Koreatown of Tokyo, with my family friends. Literally... every shop was Korean boy-band oriented. Every corner was covered in shops upon shops of both real and fake boy-band merchandise ranging from coffee cups, pencils, frames, posters, umbrellas, DVDs, shirts, underwear... you name it.

I felt bad that I had no idea who any of these people were, but it was interesting to see that they had such a huge Japanese following considering Koreans hate Japan and vice versa. Although I suppose getting middle-aged Japanese women to buy all their andro K-pop merchandise is a nice way of saying "F-you!" and taking all their money... way to go, Korea!

Which brings me to what I did next...

I went to Minato Matsuri at Yasukuni Jinja. For those of you who don't know what Yasukuni Jinja is, you're lucky I just did a report on it and went on a mandatory field trip. Yasukuni Jinja is a temple that houses the souls of all those who died in service of the emperor. This includes waaaaaay back to the 17th century up until WWII. It's a super controversial place because Class A War Criminals (those directly responsible for starting WWII) are enshrined here alongside the war dead.

Yasukuni also boasts a museum with all the war artifacts and fun little history about what the Japanese think happened during WWII. The exhibit (which I went to a few weeks ago) fails to mention the atrocities the Japanese committed in both Korea and China-- referring to the Rape of Nanking as "The Nanking Incident," and neglecting to mention the use of Koreans as comfort women for the Japanese army. *Fun little note: the descriptions of what happened during WWII never exceeded more than 2 paragraphs.

Btw, if I hadn't gone to this exhibit with someone who spoke Japanese, I wouldn't have known that the Japanese translations and the English translations are verrrrrry different when it comes to the WWII section.

Probably the most unbelievable aspect of Yasukuni Jinja is that government officials (i.e.: prime ministers) pay homage to the place; sending flowers, droppin' off some money, clapping twice and ringin' the bell-- the whole shebang. These visits rightfully piss off China and Korea because it makes it seem as though Japan condones the depiction of history and the enshrining of Class A War Criminals... and they never say sorry!! X_X

So you're probably thinking, "Kate, if you knew that this is what this place represented, why the hell did you go to their matsuri? You're just as bad as the prime ministers!" Let me just say-- you're right. I feel awful and I'm a horrible person for buying food and essentially supporting that matsuri and vicariously supporting the Japanese interpretation of what happened during WWII... but I wanted to go to an actual Japanese matsuri and see just how nationalistic Japan could be... boy. They're nationalistic alright.

If you didn't know the history behind the place, the matsuri would have been 10 times more enjoyable. It had all the flavors of obon season back home in LA: lots of fried Japanese food, games, inflatable prizes, haunted houses, taiko, odori-- the works. I had a pretty good time, I was sorta drunk-- so I joined in the bon dancing ^^. But the 209672087603+ lanterns with the names of the war dead around were a constant reminder of exactly what the place was supporting so at the end of the day, I felt kinda guilty.

It was a genuinely Japanese experience though...

...and another thing to add on my list of "Why You're Going to Hell."

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