Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine was built in 1869 to commemorate Japan’s war dead, and nearly 2.5 million people are currently enshrined there. Among those whose names are listed on the shrine are soldiers, students, relief workers, wartime medics, and, controversially, 14 class-A war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, army general and Japanese prime minister during World War II.
In spite of the controversy, hundreds of thousands of people visit the shrine every year, some as an act of patriotism and others as a political statement. The Yushukan Museum, on the grounds, presents a perspective on the war that has been described as revisionist and glorifying—visitors may be taken aback by the information presented. Tours focused on modern Japanese history typically include visits to the shrine and museum, as well as the Imperial Palace.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visitors may not enter the Yasukuni Shrine, but may look around it.
- There is an admission fee to enter the Yushukan Museum.
- The shrine is a religious site, so dress appropriately when visiting.
- An introduction pamphlet to the shrine is available in English.
How to Get There
Accessible by the JR, the shrine is a 10-minute walk from Ichigaya station (Sobu line) and Iidabashi station (Chuo line). Via Tokyo Metro, it's a 5-minute walk from Kudanshita station (Tozai line) or Kudanshita station (Hanzomon line). By the Toei Shinjuku line, it’s a 5-minute walk from Kudanshita station. By city bus, it’s a 1-minute walk from the Kudanue stop served by the Kudanshita-Takadanobaba and Shibuya-Ochanomizu lines.
When to Get There
You can visit the shrine any time, any day of the week. The Yushukan Museum is open daily from 9am to 4:30pm. The anniversary of Japan’s WWII defeat (August 15) brings politicians and right-wing, megaphone-wielding protesters to the shrine, but you are unlikely to have any trouble.
Just south of Yasukuni, the much smaller and lesser-known Chinreisha (“spirit-pacifying”) Shrine honors all of the WWII dead, regardless of nationality, even those who fought against the Japanese Imperial Army.