For our final trip to Tokyo, the Mr and I went to Yasukuni Shrine – a Shinto shrine founded in 1869 and dedicated to individuals who have lost their lives while serving the country. And that’s precisely where Yasukuni Shrine differs from all the others I’ve visited. There are over 2.5 million souls housed in Yasukuni Shrine; worshiped and revered as divinities. Slightly over a thousand from this number were convicted of war crimes by the post World War II court. Fourteen of those are convicted Class A war criminals. Scandal, much?
Despite the controversy surrounding Yasukuni Shrine, it is beautiful and managed to retain a sense of tranquility although there were worshipers and tourists milling about. We walked through the grounds, straight to the Yushukan Museum – a war museum of the history of Japan. Naturally, even the museum hasn’t escaped criticism for presenting a skewed version of events.
So anyway, when I entered the ground floor where the tickets are sold, my eyes swept over some large exhibits – the most striking of which is the hulking steam locomotive that was used on the Thai-Burma railway, also known as the Death Railway. Of course, the latter was not mentioned on the plaque’s description.
I folded my arms, turning to the Mr who was taking photos of an unidentifiable twisted metal object next to a Zero Sen fighter plane. “Men’s toys. And war is the game.” My insides were coiled with distaste.
He looked up. “Oh, yeah? Let’s see how you ladies handle it.” (Referring to the women leaders of UK, Germany and possibly, the US).
The next three hours wandering through one gallery after another only reinforced one thing to me: the world has always and will always be at war. You have to be living in a cave without WiFi not to notice the posts about corruption, suicide bombings, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, starvation, genocides and a plethora of other atrocities on your Facebook news feed.
But what can I do about it except to feel outraged, pity… and sometimes, nothing at all. It’s impossible to empathize with everything that’s happening to everyone in the world. Aren’t I just one person, powerless to make a difference? Not according to one legendary children’s book author.
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. – Dr. Seuss.
I don’t have influence in the great big world out there but I certainly have it in my world. They say life is made up of the little things, don’t they? Like spending time with my parents, registering as an organ/blood donor, restraining a harsh comment from exploding out in a moment of anger at my girls/the Mr, buying a packet of food for the beggar on the sidewalk or simply just making an effort to show up – no smartphone in my hand, no to-do list running through my mind – just me with my whole attention on the person I’m with. I dare say that last one is as challenging as eradicating racism.
None of those little things will bring peace to the middle east and maybe I have a simplistic view of life… but hey, didn’t you know already? I’m a simple girl 🙂