Yasukuni shrine the historical head shrine of the Gokoku shrines
Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine, the most famous Gokoku shrine in its own right

A Gokoku Shrine (Japanese: 護国神社, romanizedGokokujinja, lit.'national defense shrines') is a shrine dedicated to the spirit of those who died for the nation. They were renamed from Shōkonsha (招魂社) in 1939 (Showa 14).[1] Before World War II, they were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, but after World War II they are administered by an independent religious corporation [2]. Designated Gokoku Shrines were built in prefectures except Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture.[a] The main deities are war dead from the prefecture or those who are related to them, as well as self-defense officers, police officers, firefighters, and others killed in the line of duty.

Such shrines were made to serve to enshrine the war dead, and they were all considered "branches" of Yasukuni Shrine. They were originally called Shokonsha but renamed to Gokoku shrines in 1939.[1]

They are considered the Japanese equivalent of the Martyrs' shrines of other Asian cultures.


Horse racing at Tokyo Shokonsha in 1871

The Chōshū Domain and Satsuma Domain in the Bakumatsu era established a place for the spirits of the martyrs and war dead of national affairs, and held a ceremony to honor them. The Royal court also held a Satsuma Domain ceremony to honor the spirits of the martyrs and war dead in 1868 June 29 (May 10, Keio 4), in accordance with the Dajokanbunsho, Article 385[3] refers to 1853 (Kaei 6).[4] The Hokora (Reizan Kansai Shokonsha, later Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine). On July 21 of the same year (June 2, Keiō 4/the first year of Meiji), Chikahito Arisugawa, the Grand Governor of the Eastern Expedition, held a ceremony in the hall of Edo Castle to honor the war dead of the government forces. Similarly, domains and other local feudal lords held ceremonies for the war dead of their clansmen or at places where they were related to them. The following year, 1869 (the 2nd year of Meiji), "Tokyo Shokonsha" (later Yasukuni Shrine) was built on Kudanzaka in Tokyo to enshrine the war dead since the Boshin Senso.

With the abolition of the han system of 1871 (Meiji 4), private temples built by former feudal lords or the people were placed under the jurisdiction of the new Meiji government, and in 1874 (Meiji 7), it was decided to exempt temples from land tax and to pay for ritual fees and repairs at government expense.[5] In 1875 (Meiji 8), it was decided to enshrine the spirits of the dead since 1853 (Kaei 6) at the Tokyo Shokonsha.[6][7] The shrine names were unified to Shokonsha while the various places of worship remained in place as before.[8] On June 4, 1879, Tokyo Shokonsha was renamed Yasukuni Jinja. The name Yasukuni, quoted from the phrase「吾以靖國也 in the classical-era Chinese text Zuo Zhuan (Scroll 6, 23rd Year of Duke Xi), literally means "Pacifying the Nation" and was chosen by the Meiji Emperor.[9] It was listed as a Bekkaku Kanpeisha in the Modern system of ranked Shinto shrines.[10]


Gokoku shrines (shokonsha) originated in the Meiji Restoration when it was observed that the concept of honoring war dead was present in the Western world but not in Japan.[11] This was particularly noteworthy with the 1874 Japanese invasion of Taiwan in which only 12 people were enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine.[11]

Yasukuni Shrine was formerly called Tokyo Shokonsha and was a part of a general system across Imperial Japan.[12][13]

The fundamental principle behind the Shokonsha system is that it is designed to enshrine people as heroes regardless of their status before their deaths.[14]

The Shokonsha system became much more seriously implemented with the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877 from which 6,959 people were enshrined.[11]

From First Sino-Japanese War to Second Sino-Japanese War

The enshrinement of war dead at Yasukuni was transferred to military control in 1887. As the Empire of Japan expanded, Okinawans, Ainu, and Koreans were enshrined at Yasukuni alongside ethnic Japanese. Emperor Meiji refused to allow the enshrinement of Taiwanese due to the organized resistance that followed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, but Taiwanese were later admitted due to the need to conscript them during World War II.[15]

In 1901 (34th year of the Meiji era), it was stipulated that the "kansai" (government festival) be attached to the shōkonsha that were eligible for government funding, and shōkonsha that were not eligible for funding were distinguished by the term "privately funded shōkonsha". After the First Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War, the number of applications for the creation of privately funded shōkonsha (private rite shōkonsha) increased, and the Shrine Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior issued a new regulation in 1907 (Meiji 40), which read The "Shokonsha Establishment" (February 23, 1907, Secret Letter No. 16, by order of the Director-General of the Home Ministry's Bureau of Shinto Shrines) established the criteria for establishing a shokonsha and restricted its establishment to those who were enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine, thereby discouraging its establishment. However, in 1931 (Showa 6), the Mukden Incident occurred, and in 1937 (Showa 12), the Sino-Japanese War), there was a growing demand in many areas to enshrine the spirits of the war dead in their hometowns.

In the 1930s the Gokoku Shrine system was developed with rising militarism to impose more control over the memorialization of war dead.[11]

In 1939 (Showa 14), the "Notice Concerning the Establishment of Shokonsha" (February 3, Showa 14, 1939, No. 30, letter from the Director-General of the Bureau of Shrines) authorized the establishment of only one shrine in each prefecture, with a few exceptions.


Gokoku Shrines were established by the Promulgation of March 15, 1939 and the Coming into force of April 1 in Showa 14.[16] The name "Shokonsha" was changed to Gokoku Shrine because there was a contradiction in the name, since "Shokonsha" refers to a temporary or temporary ritual and "Sha" refers to a permanent facility.[17] The name "Gokoku" was coined from the phrase "I wish to establish a foundation for the protection of the nation"[b] in the draft order rescript of December 28, 1872 (November 28, 1872) and in the January 4, 1882 Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, "If you devote yourself to the protection of the nation," etc., was adopted because it was the most appropriate way to praise the deeds of the deities and because it was familiar to people who had already used terms such as "heroic spirit of national defense" and the like.[18] The total number of Gokoku Shrines is estimated to be 131 as of April 1939 (Showa 14).[18]

The status of the shrine was determined in accordance with Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the "Shinto Shrines under Prefectural Shrines" (No. 22 of the Edict of 1894), which was revised at the same time as the introduction of the Gokoku Shrine System.[19] They are divided into designated Gokoku Shrines, which correspond to prefectural shrines designated by the Minister of Home Affairs, and undesignated Gokoku Shrines, which correspond to other village shrines.

After WWII

After the end of World War II the system was privatized, but the Gokoku Shrines and Yasukuni Shrine still exist today and can be seen as continuations of the Shokonsha system.

With the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration in August 1945, Japan became the first country to receive the occupation, Gokoku Shrine was considered a militarist institution and had to be renamed, for example, by removing the word "Gokoku" from its name, in order to ensure its continued existence.[c] When the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect in 1952 and Japan regained its sovereignty, the majority of the renamed shrines returned to their former names. After World War II, some of the designated shrines of the Jinja Honcho became Beppyo Shrines.

Although some of the deities of each shrine overlap with those of Yasukuni Shrine,[d] the deities of each shrine are not separated from Yasukuni Shrine, and they perform their own rituals by inviting the souls of their own deities.[e] Therefore, officially, Gokoku Shrine is "not in a headquarter branch relationship with Yasukuni Shrine. However, Yasukuni Shrine and Gokoku Shrine, which both enshrine the spirits of the dead, are deeply involved and have various exchanges. Zenkoku Gokoku Jinja-kai (formerly Urayasu-kai), organized by 52 major Gokoku Shrines, works in cooperation with Yasukuni Shrine and conducts various activities to honor the spirits of the dead. The Okinawa Gokoku-jinja Shrine also enshrines the dead of the Battle of Okinawa, including ordinary residents, schoolchildren in distress, and civilian war dead.[20][21] In addition, about 10,000 mobilized students and female volunteer corps members who were victims of the Atomic bomb are also enshrined as deities at Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine.[22][23]

After the issuance of the Shinto Directive by GHQ after World War II, the state no longer had the authority to direct and supervise shrines, and the decree stipulating that the deities of Gokoku Shrine were the deities of Yasukuni Shrine expired.

Perhaps due to the lapse of the law and the suggestion of Hideo Kishimoto Tokyo Imperial University, then assistant professor of the Faculty of Letters, some Gokoku Shrines began to dedicate other deities than Yasukuni Shrine to be enshrined in the Gokoku Shrines. In total, there are 23 Gokoku Shrines enshrining local greats and Self Defense Force officers who died in the line of duty in Sapporo, Akita, Niigata, Fukushima, Tochigi, Yamanashi, Nagano, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Matsue, Ehime, Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi, Yamaguchi, Saga, Oita, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa.[24]

According to "A Consideration of the Enshrinement of Martyred Self-Defense Forces at Gokoku Shrine" by Daishi Shimaya, "In most Gokoku Shrines, when deities other than Yasukuni Shrine are enshrined, they are enshrined in a separate deity body from the main shrine, and are clearly distinguished. This is a clear distinction.[24]

In 1960, Emperor Showa and Empress Kōjun bestowed the sacred objects to 52 shrines of the Gokoku Shrines throughout Japan, and since then the gifts have continued every 10 years since 1945.

Gokoku Shrines have traditionally been supported by the Bereaved Families Association and the War Alumni Association of war dead individuals, who provided operational and financial support. However, as the number of bereaved families and war veterans with direct knowledge of the deceased has declined, there has been a decrease in support for Gokoku Shrines, which is expected to lead to financial difficulties. To address this issue, some Gokoku Shrines have established a new association to promote reverence and veneration.[25][26]

One example of a Gokoku Shrine that faced challenges is the Meguro Gokoku Shrine in Tokyo's Meguro Ward. The shrine was previously managed by the Meguro Gokoku Shrine Venerable Society, which was established in 1959. However, the staff responsible for the shrine died and the land was sold. An audit found the building had been destroyed, and it was subsequently demolished in May 2008.[25][26]


See also: Controversies surrounding Yasukuni Shrine

After the establishment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the JSDF also began to enshrine at Gokoku Shrine those JSDF officers who had died in the line of duty. The first time, the number of people who were killed in the war was increased to 1,000. However, as before World War II, both enshrinement and application for enshrinement were made without seeking the consent of the bereaved families, so the wives of fallen SDF officers who are Christians could file claims for cancellation of enshrinement and Damages on the grounds that their religious Personality rights had been violated.[27]

List of Gokoku Shrines

name location Beppyo notes
Yasukuni Shrine Tokyo no Traditional head shrine
Miyagi Gokoku Shrine Sendai Aoba-ku, Sendai yes
Akita Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Akita (city) yes
Yamagata Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Yamagata yes
Fukushima Gokoku Shrine [ja] Fukushima yes
Ibaraki Prefectural Gokoku Shrine [ja] Mito, Ibaraki yes
Gunma Gokoku Shrine [ja] Takasaki yes
Chiba Gokoku Shrine [ja] Chiba (city) Chūō-ku, Chiba yes
Niigata Gokoku Shrine [ja] Niigata (city) Chūō-ku, Niigata yes
Toyama Gokoku Shrine Toyama city yes
Ishikawa Gokoku Shrine [ja] Kanazawa yes
Fukui Gokoku Shrine [ja] Fukui (city) yes
Yamanashi Gokoku Shrine [ja; de; simple] Kōfu yes
Nagano Gokoku Shrine [ja] Matsumoto, Nagano yes
Gifu Gokoku Shrine Gifu yes
Shizuokaken Gokoku Shrine [ja] Aoi Ward, Shizuoka City yes
Aichi Gokoku Shrine Naka-ku, Nagoya yes
Mie Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Tsu, Mie yes
Shiga Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja; sv; simple] Hikone, Shiga yes
Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture yes
Osaka Gokoku Shrine [ja] Suminoe-ku, Osaka yes
Hyogo Himeji Gokoku Shrine [ja] Himeji yes
Hyogo Prefecture Kobe Gokoku Shrine [ja] Nada-ku, Kobe yes
Nara Gokoku Shrine [ja] Nara (city) yes
Matsue Gokoku Shrine [ja] Matsue yes
Hamada Gokoku Shrine Hamada, Shimane yes
Okayama Gokoku Shrine [ja] Naka-ku, Okayama yes
Bingo Gokoku Shrine Fukuyama, Hiroshima yes
Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine Naka-ku, Hiroshima yes
Yamaguchi Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Yamaguchi (city) yes
Tokushima Gokoku Shrine [ja] Tokushima (city) yes
Ehime Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Matsuyama yes
Kochi Gokoku Shrine [ja] Kōchi (city) yes
Fukuoka Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Chūō-ku, Fukuoka yes
Saga Gokoku Shrine [ja] Saga (city) yes
Nagasaki Gokoku Shrine Nagasaki yes
Oita Gokoku Shrine [ja] Ōita (city) yes
Kagoshima Prefecture Gokoku Shrine [ja] Kagoshima yes
Miyazaki Gokoku Shrine [ja] Miyazaki yes Not a proper Gokoku Shrine but listed as equivalent due to having been finished after the war
Kumamoto Gokoku Shrine [ja] Kumamoto yes Not a proper Gokoku Shrine but listed as equivalent due to having been finished after the war
Okinawa Gokoku Shrine [ja] Okinawa no
Hida Gokoku Shrine Takayama, Gifu no
Aomori Gokoku Shrine [ja] Aomori no
Wakayama Gokoku Shrine [ja] Wakayama (city) no
Meguro Gokoku Shrine [ja] Meguro no
Iki Gokoku Shrine [ja] Iki, Nagasaki no
Kagawa Gokoku Shrine [ja] Zentsūji, Kagawa no
Kawanami Gokoku Shrine [ja] Kawaminami, Miyazaki no
Saitama Gokoku Shrine [ja] Saitama (city) no
Sapporo Gokoku Shrine [ja] Sapporo no
Tanao Gokoku Shrine [ja] Hekinan no
Tochigi Gokoku Shrine [ja] Tochigi (city) no
Nōhi Gokoku Shrine Ōgaki, Gifu no
Hakodate Gokoku Shrine [ja] Hakodate no
Matsumae Gokoku Shrine [ja] Matsumae, Hokkaido no
Taiwan Gokoku Shrine [ja] Taiwan no

See also


  1. ^ Miyazaki Gokoku Shrine [ja] and Kumamoto Gokoku Shrine [ja] were completed after World War II, when the war ended and the Ministry of Home Affairs was abolished, so they were not designated by the Minister of Home Affairs and are actually correctly designated as "equivalent to designated Gokoku-jinja Shrine.
  2. ^ Go () means protect and koku () means nation
  3. ^ Among the designated Gokoku Shrines, Aomori Gokoku Shrine [ja], Wakayama Gokoku Shrine [ja], and Tokushima Gokoku Shrine [ja], which was destroyed by fire during the war, did not change their names and kept the name "Gokoku Shrine.
  4. ^ Yasukuni Shrine also enshrines the war dead as Heroic Spirits and was renamed from Tokyo Shokonsha, but includes Empire of the Empire of Japan, subjects, Koreans, Taiwanese, etc. The difference is that people from anywhere are eligible to be enshrined.
  5. ^ There are some exceptions, such as Hida Gokoku Shrine in Gifu Prefecture and Iki Gokoku Shrine [ja] in Nagasaki Prefecture.


  1. ^ a b TAKAYAMA, K. PETER (1990). "Enshrinement and Persistency of Japanese Religion". Journal of Church and State. 32 (3): 527–547. doi:10.1093/jcs/32.3.527. ISSN 0021-969X. JSTOR 23917081.
  2. ^ 日本大百科全書. "護国神社". コトバンク. 株式会社DIGITALIO. 2021年11月22日閲覧。
  3. ^ 「癸丑以来殉難者ノ霊ヲ京都東山ニ祭祀スル件」(慶応4年5月10日太政官布告第385條)。Water Ox [ja]は1853年(嘉永6年)を指す。
  4. ^ 「伏見戦争以後戦死者ノ霊ヲ京都東山ニ祭祀スル件」(明治元年5月10日太政官布告第386條)
  5. ^ 「招魂場敷地ノ免税、祭祀並修繕共支給方ノ件」(明治7年3月17日内務省達乙第22號)。
  6. ^ 「癸丑以来殉難死節者ヲ東京招魂社ヘ合祀ニ付履歴書等取調方ニ關スル件」(明治8年1月25日内務省達乙第6號)
  7. ^ 「癸丑以来殉難死節者ヲ東京招魂社ヘ合祀ニ付姓名取調方ニ關スル件」(明治8年1月12日太政官達)、
  8. ^ 「各管内ニアル招魂社従前種々ノ社號ヲ廃シ自今一般招魂社ト称セシム」(明治8年10月13日内務省達乙第132號)
  9. ^ 基礎からわかる靖国神社問題】Q 戦前、戦後 どんな役割? (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2007-01-30.
  10. ^ 「東京招魂社靖國神社ト改稱別格官幣社ニ列セラルルノ件」(明治12年6月4日太政官達無號)
  11. ^ a b c d "How Japan Honors Its War Dead: The Coexistence of Complementary Systems". nippon.com. 2013-08-21. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  12. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1963). The Vicissitudes of Shinto, pp. 118–134.
  13. ^ Hiyama, Yukio (21 August 2013). "How Japan Honors Its War Dead: The Coexistence of Complementary Systems". Nippon.com. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  14. ^ 山本栄一郎 (2015). 山口「地理・地名・地図」の謎. じっぴコンパクト. 実業之日本社. ISBN 9784408455365.
  15. ^ Hiyama, Yukio (21 August 2013). "How Japan Honors Its War Dead: The Coexistence of Complementary Systems". Nippon.com. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  16. ^ 「招魂社ヲ護國神社ト改稱」(昭和14年3月14日内務省令第12號)『官報』第3656號、1939年(昭和14年)3月15日、510頁(ndljp:2960149/2
  17. ^ 梅田義彦「護国神社制度の創設」『神道史研究』15、1967年11月、134-149頁。
  18. ^ a b 「護国神社制度の確立」『週報』第131號、1939年4月19日號、2-8頁。Establishment of the Gokoku Shrine System," Shuho, No. 131, April 19, 1939, pp. 2-8.
  19. ^ 「明治二十七年勅令第二十二號府縣社以下神社ノ神職ニ關スル件中改正ノ件」(昭和14年3月14日勅令第59號)『官報』第3656號、1939年(昭和14年)3月15日、509頁(ndljp:2960149
  20. ^ 山中 2013、212頁
  21. ^ "沖縄県護国神社について|初詣、ご祈願、地鎮祭は、沖縄県護国神社". 2022-03-08. Archived from the original on 8 March 2022. Retrieved 2022-03-08.
  22. ^ 山中 2013、154頁
  23. ^ "由緒 | 広島護國神社". 2021-01-20. Archived from the original on 2021-01-20. Retrieved 2022-03-08.
  24. ^ a b 島矢大嗣 (2016-10-25). "護國神社における殉職自衛官の相殿奉斎等の詮衡の一考察". 神道宗教 (244). 神道宗教学会: 120–122.
  25. ^ a b 平成17年度 包括外部監査の結果報告書、目黒区、111-112頁
  26. ^ a b 「戦没者ほこらひっそり幕 目黒護国神社、管理者なく」、東京新聞、2008年7月8日夕刊
  27. ^ Yamaguchi Jigyosha Gyosei Lawsuit, maximum judgment June 1, 1988, Minshu Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 277 (Yamaguchi Jigyosha Gyosei Lawsuit, maximum judgment June 1, 1988, Minshu Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 277).自衛隊らによる合祀手続の取消等請求事件、裁判所・裁判例情報