Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

Pastoralkolleg "Ministry Amidst Rightist Trends"

Returning to the Oiso Academy House after three consecutive years in Kyoto, the Kyodan's 11th Joint Pastoral Studies Seminar was held Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, on the theme of the ministry and mission of the church in a time marked by rightist tendencies. This seminar rounds out a decade of experience with an experimental type of joint lay-clergy wrestling with issues confronting the church. Each seminar has featured onthe-spot exposure to the realities of the particular topic and an intensive group effort to digest the experience and learn how to respond to the challenge it presents to the church's pastoral ministry. A basic assumption from the beginning has been the "pastorhood" of all believers.

This year the 30 participants, representing 15 of the Kyodan's 16 districts, took up a number of questions related to the current situation as outlined in Moderator Ushiroku's statement, "Trend of the Times," endorsed by the Executive Committee last July.

In order to make direct personal contact with representative facets of rightism in Japan today, one group of partcipants went to Yokosuka where they visited the US naval base and the Japanese Defense Academy. They were able to board a Japanese destroyer and talk with some of the cadets. A second smaller group was taken through the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and then went to Sukiyabashi near the Ginza to sample the curbside oratory of the noted rightist, AKAO Bin.

Those going to Yokosuka, led by KOBAYASHI Toshio, pastor of the Kyodan church in that navy-dominated community, were impressed by the size of the naval facilities they saw, by the "good life" of the Japanese cadets, and especially by the prominence of the US base chapel and the high military rank of the chaplain who welcomed them.

It was a shock to learn that the whole US military chaplaincy and chapel system is supported by the American government from taxes, and that this fine chapel had been provided by the Japanese government's mutual security funds coming from their own taxes. How does this reality square with the principle of the separation of religion and state? What does it say to the movement opposing the nationalization of Yasukuni Shrine?

The group visiting the shrine was reminded that it had been established by the imperial edict of Emperor Meiji in 1869 to deify the spirits of those who died in battle for the Emperor. Subsequently it became the central shrine of State Shinto in glorifying militarism up to the end of World War II.

Small group at Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine issue has already received extensive KNL coverage (see KNL Nos. 44, 90, 141, 145, 147). Particularly noticed by the seminar contingent, led by NISHIKAWA Shigenori, were evidences of a continuing build-up of influence and popular interest. as part of the rightist movement to re-establish the national standing of the shrine with official visits to "worship the enshrined Deities" by the Emperor, Primp Minister, and visiting heads of state, etc.

Around the outskirts of the shrine are hundreds of trees and shrubs, all bearing placards identifying their donors: individuals, associations, support groups, and promiment business organizations and companies. Donated by the Japan Kiwanis Club in 1967 is a memorial fountain for the final thirst-quenching of the dead warriors as their spirits arrive to be enshrined as gods.

Just added to the war mementos on display is a steam engine used in the Burma campaign in connection with the bridge over the River Kwai. A kamikaze airplane, a human torpedo, and a museum full of war memorabilia are displayed to glorify death in war for the Emperor.

Back at Oiso experiences were shared and explored in relation to the wider Asian context, the special situation in Okinawa, the needs of the physically and mentally handicapped, etc. What is the future for Japan? Is there any getting away from the Emperor system as the structure of continuity in Japanese life and culture? Can a local church congregation accept and minister to a member of the defense forces as an individual in spite of his being identified with the military group to which he belongs?

Not many definitive or satisfying answers were found to such questions, but the participants all returned to their back-home situations better prepared for the Feb. 11 rallies for religious freedom. (A.M.)

(Kyodan News Letter 162, Febr. 20, 1982)


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