chapter  6
Remembering and forgetting the war: elite mythmaking, mass reaction, and Sino-Japanese relations
Pages 23

On August 13th, 2001, Japan’s new prime minister, Koizumi Junichiro, paid homage at the Shintoist Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to the spirits of those who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, and a longtime symbol of Japanese imperialist aggression in the eyes of China. While he claimed that his visit to the shrine was intended to “convey to all victims of the war my heartfelt repentance and condolences” and “pledge for peace,” it was immediately denounced by the Chinese government as an “erroneous act that has damaged the political foundation of Sino-Japanese relations as well as the feelings of the Chinese people and other Asian victims.”2 Nonetheless, Koizumi continued his annual visits to the shrine until shortly before stepping down in September 2006. With much anger, the Chinese leaders refused to hold summit meetings with Koizumi, and Chinese mass protests against Japan repeatedly erupted, first through Internet petitions and later culminating in large-scale anti-Japanese demonstrations in 2005. During the Koizumi years, bilateral relations reached their “lowest point since diplomatic normalization in 1972.”3