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Keywords:

  • commemoration of war dead;
  • Junichiro Koizumi;
  • public opinion;
  • war criminals;
  • Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is arguably one of the most controversial lieux de mémoire (sites of memory) in Asia. While the literature on the Yasukuni controversy has been growing, not much has been explored on the nature of Japanese public reactions to it. This study delves into Japanese public opinion during the Koizumi premiership (2001–2006) and reveals relatively coherent and structural, yet changing, public opinion on (1) the official Yasukuni visits by Prime Minister Koizumi, (2) the idea of building an alternative nonreligious national memorial, and (3) the anti-Japanese riots in China (and their ramifications on the understanding about the Yasukuni issue). Overall, the study highlights the observable gaps between Prime Minister Koizumi's Yasukuni policies and the underlying public perceptions of them, which also calls into question the conventional elite-led model of public opinion formation.