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Modern History of the Gokoku Jinja Open Access

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The Gokoku Jinja 護国神社 or “Defense of Country Shrines” are an often misunderstood variety of shrines and memorials that has remained woefully underrepresented within English language scholarship on a variety of subjects. Most texts elect only to mention Gokoku Jinja in passing or simply as a category of shrine in relation to Yasukuni Jinja or other examinations of State Shinto or the “Kokutai Cult.” This is problematic for a variety of reasons. While on the surface the relationship between Yasukuni and the Gokoku Jinja may seem obvious as they ostensibly serve a similar purpose we will find over the course of the study that the relationship between Yasukuni Jinja and the Gokoku Jinja is anything but certain and stable. Likewise, there are many questions that remain regarding the history of the Gokoku Jinja. How did the public respond to their establishment and what was the nature of their operation from 1939-1945? What was the relationship between the Gokoku Jinja system and the Yasukuni Jinja, what insight does the origin and history of both provide? Moving forward to the end of the war, how did the Occupation view the Gokoku Jinja, and how did this view change over the course of the Occupation? What were the eventual policy decisions that were made in regard to the Gokoku Jinja and what factors influenced them? How did the shrines mobilize to assure or promote their continued existence? How did the public respond to the policy decisions made during the Occupation? This study will attempt to start answering these questions by providing a modern history of the Gokoku Jinja based on a variety of sources representative of several viewpoints on the subject. The first is a history of the Gokoku Jinja starting from the beginning of the Meiji Period and the Shōkon-sha to which they are most directly related. Second, the study will describe the character of the newly formed Gokoku Jinja, the regulations and relationships within which they existed and how it changed their operation in light of the past. The third section will be devoted to the study of SCAP/CIE policy toward Kokka Shinto or State Shinto and how the Gokoku Jinja and related shrines fit into this policy. The fourth section will discuss the various reactions to Gokoku Jinja in the post-war period and the SCAP/CIE policy directed toward them. The fifth section will bring the focus of section to the local level and focus upon a singular Gokoku Jinja in light of the proceeding sections.Over the course of these five sections the study will attempt to provide a variety of views on the Gokoku Jinja by discussing the history, nature, and relationships of the shrines as well as relevant policy and various parties’ reactions and concerns regarding that policy and the shrines’ future. Through this the study will attempt to develop a well rounded picture of an often under-discussed topic as both a compilation of the Gokoku Jinja’s modern history as well as the basis for further study.

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