Having now wandered around the grounds of the solemn Yasukuni Shrine complex in Chiyoda, Tokyo, we turned our attention to the actual reason we had headed out this way in the first place – my hunt to see a Mitsubishi A6M Zero WWII fighter plane.
Situated inside the Yasukuni Shrine complex is the 1882-established Yushukan War Memorial Museum which is self-declared as Japan’s oldest and first military and war museum.
As a museum maintained by a shrine which is dedicated to the souls of soldiers who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, it contains various artifacts and documents concerning Japanese war casualties and military activity from the start of the Meiji Restoration to the end of the Pacific War.
Accused of containing revisionism in its accounts of Japan’s actions in World War II, as well as glorifying Japan’s aggressive militaristic past, the museum obviously courts a lot of controversy, but nevertheless remains an extremely interesting place to visit for war buffs.
Outside of the museum is a number of statues dedicated to among others, horses, dogs, carrier pigeons killed in war service, war widows with children, and even kamikaze pilots!
I was of course there for one thing and one thing only – to see a full scale Mitsubishi A6M Zero, one of my most favourite warbirds as a child – and as a luck would have it, the museum has one standing right there slap bang in the middle of the free to enter entrance hall!
Needless to say, I took a lot (and I mean a lot) of photos of it. Absolute 7th heaven for me I tell you!
As I mentioned, the first floor entrance hall is free of admission, and contains the Zero fighter plane, a Class C56 steam locomotive, a Type 89 15 cm Cannon, and a Type 96 15 cm Howitzer (with shells) as well.
Floors one and two is then obviously where all the real exhibits are to be found, but having seen the Zero, and to be honest, running a little out of time, Ryan and I decided that we didn’t really need to pay in order see any more war relics (or try to decipher any more Japanese information boards), meaning that we bid the war museum farewell and headed off in the direction of Kitanomaru Park, with our sights now firmly set on the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds as our next Tokyo point of interest!
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(Extra Note 1: Even the police aren’t immune to using cute mascot characters – as indicated by this lost and found sign outside a police station).
(Extra Note 2: In South Africa we’ve gotten accustomed to the decline in terms of smoking in public thanks to all the anti-smoking laws that have been passed over the years. Japan used to be a heavy smoking nation themselves, but these days more effort has been made to calm things down a little – like forcing smokers to congregate in very small, marked public smoking areas!)