Creatures, Inc., a frequent developer or co-developer of many Pokémon games, has ignited a storm of a controversy after posting pictures of a visit to Yasukuni Shrine on their official Twitter account. The Shinto shrine is a very sensitive issue in Asian politics because of its association to Japanese nationalism and the enshrinement it offered to some of World War II’s worst Japanese criminals, which are often compared to Nazi figures of the West.
Among the 2.4 million souls enshrined and revered in the Yasukuni Shrine are about 1,000 war criminals from World War II. These were men who were convicted and executed by Allied war tribunals, or who died in jail. This is one of the main problems for Japan’s neighbors; that reverence is being paid to those who committed some of history’s most egregious crimes. The shrine wasn’t an issue before they were inducted en masse in a secret ceremony in 1978, after a special new category of eligibility was created for the ‘victims’ of the international war crimes tribunals. – Public Radio International
Although the post has been deleted (the text of which contained no controversial sentiment), Creatures has not made an official statement regarding it. Many tweets can be found in Japanese asking for a formal apology or vowing to stop purchasing any games developed by them. Korean and Chinese fans, countries who fell victim to Japan during its conquests, have expressed particularly strong reactions on social media.
The choice of shrine was likely not political, as Creatures’ headquarters is located nearby. It is common for Japanese people to visit Shinto shrines during January to pray for good luck during the new year. That being said, there is now a Pokémon decorated ema (or wooden prayer plaque) from an officially affiliated company hanging at a shrine which unapologetically honors war criminals.
Let us know what you think in the comments below. I actually visited the Yasukuni Shrine last year or the year before on a sightseeing trip, but it is certainly not a location I’d choose to snap a smiling selfie at.