Gokoku Shrines

← Back to Local Sites of Memory

Whenever I go on fieldwork around Japan, I try to visit the regional Gokoku (Nation Protecting) Shrine. These shrines are regional equivalents of Yasukuni Shrine (see Remembering the Dead), which commemorates those who gave their lives in war for the imperial cause.

What is interesting about Gokoku Shrines is how the regional variations in war memories and commemorative practices become apparent within this network of shrines. Some commemorate members of the Japan Self-Defense Force who have died on active service (SDF fatalities are not commemorated at Yasukuni Shrine). Some apotheosize local heroes other than soldiers, for example police officers and firefighters who have died in the line of duty. Some commemorate people with only the loosest of connections to the military, such as poet Masaoka Shiki, who is apotheosized at Ehime Gokoku Shrine. And in some places, such as Kagoshima, the biggest local heroes (i.e. Saigo Takamori in Kagoshima) actually died fighting against those enshrined at Gokoku Shrines.

Here are photos of the Gokoku Shrines I have visited, with the year that the photo was taken. Click on the photograph to see it at full size. Click on the shrine name to visit its website (if there is one).

This gallery is continually “under construction” and new shrines will be added whenever I get a chance to visit one.

Forward to Peace Museums