When Christmas is over, the Japanese start counting down to New Year’s, the country’s most celebrated holiday.In a country where Shinto is the native religion, appropriately greeting a new year is of the utmost importance. Government offices close from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3 and most businesses also shut down for the new year’s first three days. But to ring in the new year properly, much preparation must take place.Before New Year’s Eve, homes must be thoroughly cleaned — inside and out. Shinto places great emphasis on purification, and it’s believed cleanliness is essential for peace of mind and good fortune. All family members are responsible for housecleaning. If someone doesn’t participate, he or she is indebted to the rest of the family for the entire coming year.....
It is believed that each human being has 108 earthly desires, and striking the bell 108 times wipes away all the bad things that happened, wrong deeds, ill desires and bad luck of the past year and purifies one’s spirit.(I guess this is a custom arising from Buddhism but it is mixed up with a traditional Shinto thought --zero)....
New Year’s is a time for reflecting and cleansing the spirit. Whether or not the practice stems from Shinto, it is a good opportunity for everyone to make a fresh start with a clean slate.Stars and Stripes
See, the emphasis is "cleansing the spirit" "purification", and it’s believed cleanliness is essential for peace of mind."
Your spirit resonate with the surroundings. If you purify your spirit, your surroundings, the good things will happen to you. If your spirit or your surrounding is dirty, the dirty things will happen to you.
The spirit of the dead is your surrounding. The soul of the dead is not somewhere up heaven or down the hell far away from you. Just as the spirit of animals, trees, and river and mountains are here and there for Shinto, it is looking at you from somewhere hidden not far away from you.
The spirit of the dead related to you and your land who died in a abnormal way is something "dirty"(kegare), to be feared, it must be cleansed and purified. To "wipe away the all the bad thing that happened" to them, to make a fresh start to gain the peace of mind for us, for the spirit, it must be purified, cleansed. If the spirit is not purified, cleansed, you will be cursed.
It is not that "go to hell, and suffer for ever in the hell!". It is rather that those who died in an unnatural way must return to natural, purified way of being. To do that, the spirit's anger and sadness due to the unnatural death must be consoled, pacified, wiped away and cleaned. Only then it will return to a natural way of being, which resonates with our spirit.
I think that is the Shinto religion. And (I hope) Yasukuni embodies this spirit.
And since Shinto is a native religion, Shinto believer or not, Japanese people do not react strongly to enshrining the soul of A-criminals.
In contrast, in China people still spit on the statue of 秦檜 and his wife , who killed a patriotic hero in 12 century.*
There is a cultural difference and that causes a lot of misunderstandings and troubles between the two countries.