Shinto Shrine in Kōrakuen & Akihabara

Image by Wibowo Rusli Getty Images

Literally ‘For the Peace of the Country Shrine’, Yasukuni is the memorial shrine to Japan’s war dead, around 2.5 million souls. First built in 1869, it is a peaceful and green place but also incredibly controversial: in 1979, 14 class-A war criminals, including WWII general Hideki Tōjō, were enshrined here.

The main approach is fronted by a 25m-tall torii (entrance gate) made of steel and bronze; behind the main shrine, seek out the serene grove of mossy trees and the ornamental pond.

For politicians, a visit to Yasukuni, particularly on 15 August, the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII, is considered a political statement. It's a move that pleases hawkish constituents but also one that draws a strong rebuke from Japan's Asian neighbours, who suffered greatly in Japan's wars of expansion during the 20th century.