A political controversy surrounds Yasukuni Shrine because since 1978, fourteen class A war criminals are among the 2.5 million people enshrined at Yasukuni. Furthermore, the visits by several Japanese prime ministers and cabinet members to the shrine since 1975 have been causing concerns regarding a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Next to the shrine buildings stands the Yushukan, a museum that commemorates and documents Japan's wars from the perspective of the conservative right wing.
The Yushukan War Museum is part of the divisive Yakusuni Shrine in central Tokyo. The shrine itself honours more than 2 million Japanese who lost their lives in the service of Japan. A war memorial should not aim to be controversial but the inclusion on the honour roll of people many consider to be war criminals has long been a point of contention and is raised again every time a politician visits the shrine. Those who maintain the list of the dead argue that it is not for them to judge the actions of individuals but merely to record the fact they died while fighting for Japan.
The history of the shrine, dating to 1869, and the more contemporary political controversy are also free for interpretation, as some foreign visitors are inclined to do. Even Japanese are at odds whether elected leaders should pay homage to the war shrine or if certain criminals should be removed, but as Professor John Breen writes in the book “Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past,” Yasukuni priests insist that once a spirit is enshrined it can never be dislodged.