This paper asks whether public commemorations in contemporary Japan are post-secular or not. More precisely, it investigates the postwar history of the relationship between such commemorations and the principle of keeping religion and government separate, as embodied in the constitution. Referring to several contemporary cases, I provide an overview of the discourses and actual conditions of the separation of religion and state at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery (Chidorigafuchi Kokuritsu Senbotsusha Boen 千鳥ヶ淵国立戦没者墓苑) and Yasukuni Shrine (Yasukuni Jinja 靖国神社). In conclusion, I point out on one hand that the non-denominational expressions seen in Chidorigafuchi and other facilities show a distinctive kind of religious expression. On the other hand, I underscore that the excessive avoidance of religious participation by government officials derives from the Yasukuni issue and related legal trials. I explain the relationship of those phenomena in terms of two types of secularization: natural secularization and artificial secularization.
This article begins by providing an overview of research trends in the study of the commemoration of the war dead in modern Japan. Studies of the attitudes of the living towards the dead in Japan have mainly focused on ancestor worship performed by family members. The issue of the war dead and their treatment has been the subject of debate within Japanese society since the end of the Second World War. Those who were killed in action, unlike other war casualties in Japan, have been accorded privileged treatment and been enshrined in Yasukuni. Studies of the commemoration of war dead in Japan began with the Yasukuni shrine issue, but research has recently appeared that deals with various types of commemoration. The latter part of this article discusses the commemorative pilgrimages in the former battlefields in Southeast Asia by Buddhist priests during the 1950s and 1960s. By doing so it provides an alternative perspective to the overly Yasukuni-centered discussion of the commemoration of war dead and highlights the missing link between the religious sectors’ engagement with the governmental project to recover the remains of the fallen and the later pilgrimages organized by each religious group that began in earnest after the lifting of restrictions on overseas travel in 1964.