Gokoku-jinja Shrine (護国神社)
Located in each prefecture in Japan, Gokoku-jinja Shrine is a shrine honoring the spirits of the fallen heroes who sacrificed themselves for Japan, including the war dead and victims to the Japan Self-Defense Forces from each prefecture.
Shokonsha, which were built around the country during the Meiji period, had a name change to Gokoku-jinja Shrine simultaneously by an ordinance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Japan) in 1939. Generally one Gokoku-jinja Shrine in each prefecture was categorized as a Home Minister-designated Gokoku-jinja Shrine, which corresponds to Fukensha (prefectural shrines), and other Gokoku-jinja Shrines were categorized as non-designated Gokoku-jinja Shrines, which correspond to sonsha (a village shrine). After the war, Gokoku-jinja Shrines were deemed to be militaristic institutions and thus were forced to change names based on, e.g., the name of the place, deleting 'Gokoku-jinja,' to survive. After the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and Japan's recovery of its independency, the shrines changed their names back to the original.
Only the Gokoku-jinja Shrine in Aomori Prefecture did not change its name and remained 'Gokoku-jinja Shrine.'
After the war, some of the designated Gokoku-jinja Shrines became the Association of Shinto Shrines' Beppyo-jinja Shrines listed on the exceptional list.
Shokon' (招魂) of 'Shokonsha' (招魂社) means a provisional or temporary religious service, while 'sha' (社) means a permanent institution. Due to the inconsistency, it was renamed.
More than one designated Gokoku-jinja Shrines exist in some prefectures: three in Hokkaido and two in Hyogo, Hiroshima, Shimane, Gifu Prefectures, individually.
(Hida Gokoku-jinja Shrine in Gifu Prefecture is one of the major Gokoku-jinja Shrines, but it is categorized as a non-designated Gokoku-jinja Shrine.)
Some regions enduring the old consciousness of province and region did not accept the war dead from other 'provinces' or regions even if he was from the same prefecture, which supposedly remains as the reason for this (for example, Hiroshima Prefecture has two Gokoku-jinja Shrines: one in the former Bingo Province and the other in the former Aki Province). Some prefectures do not have a Gokoku-jinja Shrine; Kanagawa Prefecture's being destroyed by fire during the war while being constructed (Yokoyama City War Memorial Tower was built after the war) and Tokyo (Tokyo Memorial Hall was built before the war, where the religious service is held according to Buddhist rites).
(Tokyo has Yasukuni-jinja Shrine specially.)
It is not that the enshrined deity of Gokoku-jinja Shrine was separated; it is officially said 'Gokoku-jinja Shrine is not a branch shrine of the Yasukuni-jinja Shrine' since it honors spirits and holds religious services on its own accord. However, both Yasukuni-jinja Shrine and Gokoku-jinja Shrine honor the spirits of the fallen heroes and have a strong connection and exchanges. The National Association of Gokoku-jinja Shrines (the former Urayasukai) comprising of 52 major Gokoku-jinja Shrines cooperates with Yasukuni-jinja Shrine to do various activities such as honoring the spirits of the fallen heroes.
In 1960, 52 Gokoku-jinja Shrines in the country were awarded heihaku (paper or silk cuttings or red and white cloth are presented to the gods) from the Emperor and Empress, thereafter this custom has continued for ten years annually since the end of the war.
Like Gokoku-jinja Shrines, Yasukuni-jinja Shrine is a shrine honoring the spirits of the war dead and originated from Shokonsha. However, it differs from Gokoku-jinja Shrines in that it enshrines individuals from any region in Japan, including Koreans and Taiwanese who were identified as Japanese before the Pacific War.
So far, Gokoku-jinja Shrines in the country have been supported mainly by the war-bereaved association and veterans association, but the members of the associations are decreasing due to aging. It is thus assumed that an increasing number of shrines will face financial crisis.
After the war, Gokoku-jinja Shrine came to also enshrine self-defense officials who died on duty, replacing military men, and the application for collective enshrinement came to be handled by the Provincial Liaison Office of the Self Defense Forces and Taiyukai. However, since the collective enshrinement and its application proceeded without an agreement with the bereaved family like in the prewar period, a situation once developed where the Christian wife of a self-defense official who died on duty (other family members all agreed with the collective enshrinement) asked for compensation or the like for religious human rights violations.
(Self-defense official Gokoku-jinja Shrine collective enshrinement case; Case No. Max. Showa 57(O)902/Decided June 1, 1988/Digest, Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 277.)
Currently, Gokoku-jinja Shrines are shrines standing rather quietly and locally, in which people are less interested in than Yasukuni-jinja Shrine and which are not often involved in political contention. Some people complain that the public has an intense interest in Yasukuni-jinja Shrine regarding honoring the spirits of the fallen heroes, while others positively think that Gokoku-jinja Shrines can therefore retain a peaceful and quiet environment for the enshrined deity.
List of Gokoku-jinja Shrines in Japan
Designated' indicates the Home Minister-designated Gokoku-jinja Shrines and 'Exceptional list' indicates the Association of Shinto Shrines' Beppyo-jinja Shrines listed on the exceptional list.