The Tokyo Shrine That Will Never Find Peace

What’s Left to Salvage in a Monument That Refuses to Accept the Sins of the Past?

The Yasukuni Shrine is an island of calm in an otherwise bustling city. Mature pines and cypress trees surround it, screening it from Tokyo’s relentless traffic noise. Shady walkways, sacred ponds and dozens of cherry trees make it a public haven for the many Japanese people who come here to honor their ancestors.

But if you look more closely, you’ll find clues to the regional rage and global controversies that plague this place. The shrine is dedicated to all those Japanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield since …