history problem, China–Japan relations, signaling, Japan’s security policy, power transition in East Asia
Under what conditions would Japanese leaders visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and why? Previous studies have focused primarily on the domestic benefits and effects of such visits, claiming that leaders employ visits to follow their own conservative ideology and gain domestic political support. Given the harsh international criticism that tends to ensue, however, political leaders should also consider the cost and international effects of such visits. This study proposes three necessary conditions for such visits: a conservative ruling party, a government enjoying high popularity, and Japan's perception of a Chinese threat. With regard to the latter, a security threat from China has allowed Japan to use these visits as a credible signal of its resolve against China. Comparative analyses of Japanese cabinets after the mid-1980s support this argument.
Taisuke Fujita corresponding author: (fujita.t.f@gmail) is associate professor at the Faculty of Economics of Nagasaki University, Japan. He was visiting professor at Institut de sciences politiques Louvain-Europe (ISPOLE), Université catholique de Louvain (UCL). His research interests include international political economy, public opinion, and comparative methods.
Hiroki Kusano is associate professor at the Faculty of Liberal Arts of Saitama University, Japan. He was Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. His research interests include international security, regional order in East Asia, and humanitarian interventions.