JPRI Working Paper No. 79: July 2001
Japan's Neo-Nationalism: The Role of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo Legislation
by Mayumi Itoh

Flags and national anthems are potent political symbols that can be used for good or for ill. In Mississippi voters recently retained a state flag that contains a symbol of the Confederacy, deeply offensive to Black Americans. In almost all modern nations the coffins or bodies of soldiers or civilians killed in battle are draped in the national flag. Revolutionaries and political enemies burn the flags of their opponents both as a sign of their hatred and to provoke more violence.

Japan, at the end of World War II, was forbidden by its victorious occupiers both to fly its flag, the Hinomaru (meaning literally "round sun") and to use its national anthem Kimigayo ("his majestic reign"). However, in 1952, after the Occupation ended, the Hinomaru was again displayed on public buildings and at public ceremonies, and Kimigayo was played even when the words were not always sung.

As early as 1958, the Ministry of Education issued a "guidance" in its teachers' manual (gakushu shido yoryo) that it was desirable to raise the national flag (it did not say the Hinomaru, as if it were already established as such) and to sing Kimigayo at public school ceremonies. It should be noted that the term shido, often translated as "guidance," is actually a euphemism for directive, with the connotation of mandatory compliance. In 1961, the government also created subcommittees on the national flag and national anthem; however, they failed to recommend legislation due to the leftist parties' opposition. In 1974, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka expressed his intention to legislate the national flag and anthem but never did so.

Then, in 1989, the Ministry of Education issued a new teachers' manual strengthening its guidance on the use of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo at public school ceremonies. The Japan Teachers' Union, backed by the Japanese Communist Party and the Japan Socialist Party, was opposed and refused to obey. The union argued that there was no legal basis for public schools to treat the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem. As a result, there were many incidents of non-observance and acts of defiance at school ceremonies, and school principals were caught between the Ministry of Education and the Japan Teachers' Union.

In 1994, after the Liberal Democratic Party's dominance dwindled and it briefly lost its majority in the lower house of the Diet, the party co-opted Socialist Tomiichi Murayama as leader of a coalition cabinet that consisted of the LDP, the New Party Sakigake (Pioneers), and the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ, a new name for the Japan Socialist Party). In exchange, Prime Minister Murayama accepted the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as official national emblems. The SDPJ, led by Murayama, followed suit at its 1994 party congress, and the Japan Teachers' Union formally abandoned its opposition to the Hinomaru and Kimigayo in 1995. Finally, in February 1999, Japan Communist Party Chairman Tetsuzo Fuwa came out in favor of the idea of legislating a national flag and anthem, while adhering to his opposition to the Hinomaru and Kimigayo. Keizo Obuchi, who was prime minister at the time, stated that he considered the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as being already established as the national flag and anthem and was not planning any legislation about them.

In March 1999, a high school principal in Hiroshima prefecture became embroiled in a dispute over the singing of Kimigayo at a graduation ceremony and ended up committing suicide. This incident gave new impetus to the issue within the LDP. Immediately after the incident, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka raised the necessity of considering legislation, and Prime Minister Obuchi instructed the cabinet to take the necessary steps. Only three months later, in June 1999, the cabinet submitted the national flag and anthem bill to the Diet. In response to the submission of the bill, the Socialists retracted their earlier acceptance of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo, and the Japan Teachers' Union decided to oppose the bill.

The Origins of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo

According to the cabinet research office, the Hinomaru first appeared in Japan's literature in the late Heian period (12th century). For example, the Tale of Heike cited warriors who carried military fans with a Hinomaru on them. During the Tokugawa Shogunate (17th to 19th centuries) ships flew the Hinomaru to distinguish themselves from foreign ships. Then, in 1870, the Meiji government issued a decree concerning rules for commercial vessels, which stipulated that Japanese vessels should fly the Hinomaru and detailed its specifications.

Regarding Kimigayo, the problem has been its text, which praises the imperial reign and wishes it eternal prosperity. The text reads:

 
Kimi ga yo wa                   His majestic reign
chiyo ni yachiyo ni             for thousands of years
sazare ishi no iwao to narite   a pebble grows into a rock
koke no musu made               until covered with moss 

According to the cabinet research office, the text of Kimigayo dates back to the Kokinwaka-shu (the first anthology of Japanese poems compiled by imperial command in 905). The original poem's author is unknown, and its first phrase reads "waga kimi wa" (my lord), instead of "kimi ga yo wa" (his majestic reign), with the rest being the same as the current text. The first phrase was changed to the current form during the Kamakura period (late 12th to 14th centuries). Since then, Kimigayo was read by the common people on ceremonial occasions, but there was no official musical score until 1880. When the Meiji government adopted Kimigayo as an anthem to hail the emperor in ceremonies, Hiromori Hayashi, a musician in the Imperial Household Agency, created a Western score for Kimigayo with the help of European music teachers. It was played for the first time in November, 1880, on the emperor's birthday. Then, in 1893, the Ministry of Education incorporated the anthem into the public school curriculum and required that it be sung at public school ceremonies.

With Japan's defeat in World War II and the enforcement of a new constitution, the status of the emperor changed from "ruler of Japan" to "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people" (Article 1). When the bill legalizing Kimigayo was submitted in 1999, opposition parties argued that the anthem was unconstitutional. The LDP countered that there were many possible interpretations of Kimigayo's text. Thus, the exact meanings of the words kimi and kimigayo became the focal point of deliberations in the lower house. The word kimi literally means "lord" or "emperor" (broadly meaning "you" in an honorific sense), while kimigayo means "reign of kimi." Given the new status of the emperor, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka stated in June 1999, that the government interpreted the word kimi as "emperor as the symbol of Japan," and thus it was appropriate to interpret Kimigayo's text as wishing long prosperity and peace to "Japan," including the emperor as its symbol. Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi stated at the same time that the word kimigayo meant "Japan" and that it embraced the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people, based on the will of the people.

Opposition parties objected to the government's interpretation. Hidenari Ito of the Democratic Party criticized the LDP's definition of the word kimi because it lacked historical depth and breadth. Kazuo Shii, general-secretary of the Japan Communist Party said that there was no way the phrase kimigayo could be interpreted as "Japan" and that insofar as the text wished for an eternal imperial reign, it was inappropriate for a democratic nation. Another problem with the bill was that, although it designated the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem, it had no provisions to make their actual observance-- raising the Hinomaru and singing Kimigayo-- obligatory. The government did not specify when and how the flag and national anthem were to be used or make their observance mandatory because it feared that it could not then muster a majority vote for the bill.

Public Opinion Polls

According to a poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun in March 1999, shortly after the principal's suicide, 60.7 percent of the 1,954 respondents thought that both the Hinomaru and Kimigayo were already established as the national flag and anthem, and 64.2 percent felt that both raising the Hinomaru and singing Kimigayo were desirable at public school ceremonies. Also, 68.1 percent supported the idea of legislation that declared the Hinomaru and Kimigayo to be the national flag and anthem of Japan (43.0 percent expressed definite support and 25.1 percent moderate support), whereas 25.7 percent were against (11.5 percent definitely opposed and 14.2 percent moderately opposed).

Another poll conducted by the independent Japan Research Council on Public Opinion Polls in July 1999, after submission of the bill, yielded similar results. Out of 1,928 respondents, 68.3 percent thought that both the Hinomaru and Kimigayo were suitable as the national flag and anthem. Also, 71.3 percent said they supported the bill (44.9 percent with definite support and 26.4 percent moderate support), whereas 25.1 percent opposed it (9.8 percent definitely opposed and 15.3 percent moderately opposed) ("Honsha zenkoku seron chosa," Yomiuri Shimbun, April 9, 1999; "Kokki-kokka seron chosa," Chunichi Shimbun, August 3, 1999).

Judging from the results of the two polls, the majority of the Japanese accept the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem. However, it should be noted that the Hinomaru commands about 15 percent more support than Kimigayo, due to the latter's direct association with the emperor. In terms of age brackets, younger generations have more negative opinions about the Hinomaru and Kimigayo than the older generations, who have considerable emotional attachment to both.

The Debate in the Diet

Conservative parties, such as the LDP and the Liberal Party, supported the bill. Yoshiro Mori, then serving as LDP Secretary-General, stated in June 1999, that the Hinomaru and Kimigayo were accepted by the great majority of Japanese and that few would oppose the legislation. Liberal Party President Ichiro Ozawa said that most Japanese already considered the Hinomaru and Kimigayo to be the national flag and anthem and that the Diet could not possibly decide otherwise. Meanwhile, the middle-of-the-road New Komeito (Clean Government Party, CGP) was more cautious. Although the party's president, Takenori Kanzaki, said in June 1999, that he considered the Hinomaru and Kimigayo already established as the national flag and anthem, he considered legislation on the subject merely a possibility. In contrast, the party's Secretary-General, Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, said that imposition of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo violated the constitutional right of freedom of conscience. In the end, however, the CGP decided to support the bill. It should be noted that the CGP held the balance of power in the Diet, where the LDP, even with its coalition with the Liberal Party, lacked a majority in the upper house. Thus, the LDP leadership invited the CGP to enter into a new coalition with it, and the CGP (with only 52 seats in the lower house) accepted the offer and supported the bill.

Although the high school principal's suicide was the catalyst, this quid pro quo with the CGP was a decisive requirement for submission of the bill. Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka of the LDP's old guard engineered it. It should be recalled that as of February 1999, Prime Minister Obuchi was not planning to submit a bill at any time soon. Even after the principal's suicide in March 1999, Obuchi, who was sometimes called the shinku shusho ("the vacuum, or empty space, prime minister") merely stated that he would like to legislate it during the year 2000. In contrast, Nonaka, known for a more straight-forward approach, saw an opportunity when the CGP showed an interest in joining the coalition and in June 1999 arranged for the swift submission of the bill. Nonaka allegedly said that he wanted to have the legislation passed before November 1999, the 10th anniversary of Emperor Akihito's coronation.

Meanwhile, leftist parties such as the Socialists and Communists remained unequivocally opposed. Socialist Secretary-General Sadao Fuchigami stated in June 1999, that the Hinomaru and Kimigayo had been imposed on other Asian nations as symbols of Japan's war of aggression. Communist Party Chairman Fuwa said that it was necessary to create a new national flag and anthem that were suitable to the present (democratic and peace-loving) Japan, while the party's General-Secretary Shii stated that it was wrong to initiate the legislation without having discussions with the general public.

The Democratic Party was the only one that could not come up with a policy on the bill. The party merely decided that it would discuss the issue with an eye toward supporting the bill, and that it would do its best to form a consensus. In the end, it decided to make the vote "free" instead of invoking togi kosoku (party discipline), under which members are obliged to vote according to a party's decisions. It is common practice for political parties to apply togi kosoku for important bills in order to enforce organizational solidarity. In this case, however, Democratic Party members were so divided that it would have been embarrassing if many members "rebelled" and voted against the party line. Tsutomu Hata, the party's secretary-general, justified the voting format by saying that this bill concerned individual beliefs. Although the party might invoke togi kosoku on bills concerning national finance and security, it would not bind the freedom of thought of its members. In addition, given the stronger objections to Kimigayo than to the Hinomaru among the party's members as well as the general public, the party decided to submit an amendment to the government-sponsored bill designating the Hinomaru as the national flag but omitting Kimigayo.

Even so, Naoto Kan, then Democratic Party president, expressed his approval of the original bill, stating that the Democratic Party recognized the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as being already established as the national flag and anthem, and that if there were a consensus among the Japanese on the bill, the party would follow it. In contrast, Yukio Hatoyama, then deputy secretary-general, stated that he personally liked the Hinomaru and Kimigayo but he was opposed to the bill. He was concerned that the legislation would accelerate mobilization efforts against the Hinomaru and Kimigayo and deepen the predicaments of school principals. Nonetheless, when the party's policy research council recommended supporting the bill, Hatoyama leaned toward voting for the bill for the sake of building the party's consensus, and he was even willing to make the vote a togi kosoku issue.

Diet Votes

The lower house of the Diet passed the bill in plenary session in July 1999, with an overwhelming majority of 403 in favor, 86 against, no abstentions, and 10 absent (see Table 1). Of those who voted, 82.4 percent supported the bill. The vote was striking in that there was no "revolt." All the parties, with the exception of the Democratic Party, voted unanimously. All members of the LDP, the CGP, and the Liberal Party who were present for the session voted in favor of the bill, whereas all members of the Socialist and Communist parties who were present voted against it. The only party in which the votes were split among its members was the Democratic Party, with 45 in favor, 46 against, and one absent. The Democratic Party-sponsored amendment bill was rejected.

In addition, the Democratic Party's leadership was split. Notwithstanding his earlier statement in favor of the bill, Naoto Kan, the president, voted against it, whereas Hatoyama, the deputy secretary-general, despite his earlier opposition to the bill, voted for it. Hata, the secretary-general, also voted for it. Thus, the bill exposed the yoriai jotai (hodgepodge household) nature of the Democratic Party, which is comprised of splinter elements from what are diametrically opposed parties, such as the LDP and the Socialists. The bill exhibited the indecisiveness and lack of coherent principles on the part of its leaders.

The vote in the upper house's plenary session in August 1999, displayed the same pattern as in the lower house. Out of 251, 166 voted in favor and 71 were against, with 5 abstaining and 9 absent (See Table 2). Of those who voted, 68.5 percent were in favor. While there was clear cohesion in five of the parties, the Democratic Party was again split with 20 in favor and 31 opposed, with 5 abstaining. Democratic Party President Kan stated that the result (its split vote) correctly reflected the wide range of opinion among the Japanese on this issue and that it would not jeopardize the party's solidarity. The Democratic Party-sponsored amendment bill was again rejected.

The new law went into effect on August 13, 1999, immediately after its passage in the upper house. Only two days later, Kimigayo, now the official national anthem, was sung for the first time at the 54th Memorial Day marking the end of World War II. At past Memorial Day ceremonies, Kimigayo's music was played during the entry and exit of the emperor and empress, but it was never sung. Even this time, the emperor and empress did not sing, while LDP politicians sang most enthusiastically. Tetsuya Takahashi, who teaches philosophy at the University of Tokyo, said after watching the ceremony that the fact that the emperor and empress did not sing reaffirmed that Kimigayo was a song of subjects hailing their rulers. If Kimigayo meant "Japan," as the Obuchi cabinet claimed, the emperor and empress should have sung as well. A Korean resident of Japan who had been conscripted during the war as a Japanese soldier and subsequently convicted as a war criminal of the prison-guard class attended past ceremonies to pay tribute to other Koreans who had served the Japanese and had been executed for similar war crimes. However, he did not attend this memorial because he could not bear the thought that Kimigayo would be sung at the ceremony. This former "Japanese" Imperial Army soldier is also suing the Japanese government because he and other Korean soldiers and their families have been denied war compensation by the government.

Reactions by Asian Neighbors

Some Asian nations have cautioned that the legislation was evidence of Japan's turn toward the right ideologically, while others received it calmly. Along with the enactment of new laws concerning U.S.-Japan defense cooperation, the U.S. plan to create a Theater Missile Defense, and the move to change the status of Yasukuni Shrine, China considers this legislation to be a step toward Japan's remilitarization. Although in June 1999, a Chinese foreign ministry official said that the bill was a matter of Japan's internal affairs, another ministry spokesman noted opposition to the bill within Japan and hoped the issue would be solved in a manner that would contribute to Japan's peaceful development. South Korea is also wary of this legislation and the review of Yasukuni's status, and it deems the sum of these actions to constitute a serious move to the right. The Kankoku Nippo, a Japanese newspaper that supports South Korea, wrote in August 1999, just after the bill's passage, that Japan had used the North Korean threat as an excuse to pass the bill in order to promote its military buildup and weaken citizen opposition to the nation's move to the right.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, older generations that had experienced Japanese occupation during the war still harbor resentment against the Hinomaru and Kimigayo, whereas younger people seem to have no such feelings. A senior lecturer at Singapore National University said that, insofar as there is no guarantee that Japan will not revert to militarism, a concern remains. He also said that it would be easier for him to accept the legislation if Japan had fully admitted its war guilt, as Germany has done. In contrast, a graduate student at the same university said that Japan was too sensitive about what other nations said about it and that the legislation would make Japan an ordinary nation with an official national flag and anthem. As for the Philippines, a Filipino foreign ministry spokesman said that the ministry did not consider the legislation a revival of Japanese militarism, while a high-ranking official of the ministry said that the legislation would merely make the de facto national flag and anthem official and that every nation had a right to choose its own flag and anthem.

Implications for Japanese Schools

Far from ending the controversies over the Hinomaru and Kimigayo, the legislation created more confusion concerning how to enforce the teachers' manual. The problem with the bill was that it has no provisions for enforcement despite the fact that one of its primary purposes is to provide a legal basis for teaching about the Hinomaru and Kimigayo in public schools. In July 1999, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka explained that the government had left the bill without an enforcement clause so that there would be no change in the teachers' manual concerning the current practice of not enforcing observance of the flag or the anthem.

But if the government has no intention of enforcing observance in the schools, why did it initiate such a bill in the first place? It seems that the cabinet deliberately left the bill without an enforcement clause in order to make passage easier, while intending to enforce observance later after the legislation had become a fait accompli. It should be recalled that the CGP initially had reservations about the bill (Secretary-General Fuyushiba was against it) and that the Obuchi cabinet did not have a majority in the upper house. Here, the interpretation of "enforcement" was critical. As a matter of fact, in August 1999, the exact meaning of "enforcing" observance of the flag and anthem became the focal point of deliberations in the upper house. Asked what acts constituted "enforcement," Yasushi Mitarai, director-general of the Ministry of Education's Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, answered that instructing pupils to stand while the Hinomaru was being raised and to sing Kimigayo at ceremonies, including telling students who left their seats during observances to return and sit down, did not constitute "enforcement." Education Minister Akito Arima explained that only inflicting psychological pain on pupils-- for example, by ordering them to repeat the instructions on the observance of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo many times and making them open their mouths during the singing of Kimigayo-- would constitute "enforcement."

Despite Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka's earlier statement that there would be no change where schools were concerned, Education Minister Arima expressed the ministry's intention to strengthen its guidance over teachers. They should teach their pupils the significance of the national flag and anthem, and those who failed to follow the ministry's guidance would be disciplined (chokai). Shigenori Yano, director-general of the ministry's Education Promotion Bureau, added that teachers would be required to teach pupils the anthem and the importance of the national flag and that they could not refuse to do so by claiming a right to freedom of thought and conscience. Insofar as teachers are public servants, they are required to execute their duties and those who do not do so can be disciplined under the public servants law. While the government did not make the law mandatory, it is attempting to enforce it anyway by tightening the guidance to teachers and disciplining those who resist.

Another issue is how to discipline pupils who do not observe a teacher's instruction. Education Minister Arima stated that the ministry would not force pupils to obey and that to the extent the instruction interfered with their inner convictions it would not reprimand pupils who did not comply. Also, Education Director-General Mitarai stated that refusal to comply would not affect pupils' academic evaluations. Even Prime Minister Obuchi stated that the legislation would not change the current practice of non-interference with pupils' inner convictions. Do these statements mean that pupils do not have to observe the instruction at all? Then, what is the rationale for teaching pupils the significance of the national flag and anthem?

The Ministry of Education's stance is fraught with contradictions. Director-General Mitarai's earlier statement that instructing pupils who left their seats during the raising of the Hinomaru and the singing of Kimigayo to come back did not constitute "enforcement" means that teachers should make them return and participate. Yet, Education Minister Arima's statement that the ministry would not "force" pupils means that teachers cannot physically make pupils come back and that those pupils who refuse would not have to do so. But is it not contradictory to discipline teachers who fail to make pupils observe the instruction, while not disciplining pupils who refuse to do so? And wouldn't it also be unfair to pupils who observe the formalities, regardless of their inner convictions?

In short, the legislation deepened contradictions concerning the observance of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo in public schools. The government has a long way to go to resolve these contradictions. For example, the Ministry of Education must clarify what constitutes enforcement and where to draw the line between "instruction" and "enforcement." Recognizing the contradictions in its officials' statements, the ministry announced that it would issue a teachers' manual on how to deal with pupils who do not obey the instruction.

Implications for Japan's Future

The Hinomaru and Kimigayo bill required the least amount of time for deliberations in the 145th regular session of the Diet. The bill's fast passage was remarkable, given that the issue was so controversial and was expected to paralyze the Diet. The same session also passed a bill creating a constitutional research council to study revising Article 9, which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and relinquishes the possession of any armed forces. In addition, the Obuchi cabinet decided in August 1999 to create a study group on Yasukuni Shrine. Yasukuni, a Shinto jinja honoring the war dead (including convicted war criminals from World War II), belonged to the Army and Navy Ministries until the end of the war. Today it is ostensibly a purely religious edifice. Leftist political parties therefore object to politicians paying official visits to it because that would violate the separation of church and state (Article 20 of the Constitution). After Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985 paid a controversial visit as a "public person," succeeding prime ministers have refrained from doing so. But in 1999 the LDP leadership recommended that a study group consider giving the shrine the status of a special government corporation, thereby obscuring its religious nature. Prime Minister Koizumi has proclaimed that he will visit Yasukuni this coming August on the anniversary of the end of the war.

In May 1999, the Diet also passed bills concerning the new guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. Among other things, these new laws authorize Japan to give logistical support to U.S. military operations in emergency situations in areas surrounding Japan, even though the phrase "areas surrounding Japan" is said not to be a geographical concept. An editorial in the Chunichi Shimbun of October 7, 1999, argues that the LDP, using its "tyranny of the majority," hastily forced through the Diet a series of very controversial bills that will change the nation's fundamental stance and functions. Kikue Sawachi, a popular writer, held that it was less than even farcical that the Obuchi cabinet passed these bills when there were no real opposition parties to confront the LDP. Similarly, Ken'ichi Matsumoto, a notable historian, argued that the LDP leadership was engaged in a petty display of numbers to show off its majority (kazu awase) in passing these bills, without demonstrating any national design for the next century.

The legislation seems to have signaled the advent of "neo-nationalism" in Japan and opened Pandora's box concerning the status of the emperor. Professor Tetsuya Takahashi of the University Tokyo argues that the Hinomaru and Kimigayo were the mechanisms whereby during the war Japanese were initiated into becoming the emperor's loyal subjects. He believes that by making them Japan's official national flag and anthem, what the Japanese learned from the defeat in war will be forgotten. Thus it was not surprising that former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori made his ill-conceived remarks about the emperor being the "God of the Nation" and that the movement to rewrite history, led by Kanji Nishio, professor of history at Japan Telecommunications University (Nihon Denki-tsushin Daigaku), emerged in the wake of the legislation. The new law also provided leverage for other items on the conservative agenda, such as amending the constitution and changing the status of Yasukuni Shrine. Kozy K. Amemiya, a sociologist, is concerned not only with the government's use of this legislation to turn Japan further to the right but also with its intolerance of different opinions and its resort to state power to silence opposition (see Patrick Smith, Kozy K. Amemiya, and Sheila K. Johnson, "Three Views of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo Vote," JPRI Critique, Vol. VI: No. 9, September 1999).

While these moves do not necessarily mean that in the short-term Japan will revert to militarism, as some Asian nations fear, the long-term implications of the legislation are serious. It is true that the LDP's initiatives, passed by large majorities, entail only symbolic changes in the nation's status and prestige rather than changes in Japan's actual national defense policy. Nonetheless, the conservative agenda is concerned with regaining Japan's national confidence and identity, lost in the defeat in World War II. Although the LDP will try to further intensify the "color of nationhood" in Japan, it also seeks to minimize national defense spending and will work in close consultation with the United States within the framework of the new guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. This mechanism has served the Japanese national interest well and the LDP knows it. Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems to be adding its pressure to bring about constitutional revision of Article 9 and increased military spending by Japan.

The effect of symbolic changes on the national psyche over the long term should also not be underestimated. A case in point is the resurgence of the movement to rewrite textbooks and the Ministry of Education's approval in April 2001, of a middle school textbook written by the Society to Create New History Textbooks led by Nishio. The textbook not only justifies Japan's military acts of aggression during World War II but also includes the unestablished mythology and ancient history concerning the imperial family. By reading such distorted views of history, the younger generation will not learn what the Japanese military did during World War II and will receive a mythical understanding of the emperor.

Hatoyama, the new president of the Democratic Party and its former deputy secretary-general, has become an advocate of constitutional revision in order to end the artificial status of Japan's Self Defense Forces. However, he believes that Asian countries will have grave misgivings about the revision if Japan ignores its past acts of aggression (as conservative politicians do). Therefore, Hatoyama argues that Japan should acknowledge these acts of aggression unequivocally and solve lingering problems with Asian countries once for all by issuing a comprehensive review of these acts. He is also opposed to the new high-school history text and says that he would recommend to all local boards of education that they not adopt it.

It may be difficult to determine when a symbolic change concerning the nation's pride becomes a real change in the nation's defense policy. It should be noted that Japan's current defense budget is already about the size of France's and much larger than China's. Moreover, the new Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has advocated revision of Article 9 but without Hatoyama's preconditions. As of this writing, it remains to be seen whether the LDP-led coalition cabinet will actually succeed in legislating the remaining "unsettled postwar issues" and whether opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party with its new president Hatoyama, can effectively confront the cabinet. The Japanese voters will have a chance to issue their verdict in the forthcoming general elections for the upper house in July 2001.

MAYUMI ITOH is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and author of Globalization of Japan: Japanese Sakoku Mentality and U.S. Efforts to Open Japan, St. Martin's Press, 1998. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, San Diego, California, March 9-12, 2000.

Table 1: House of Representatives Votes on the National Flag and Anthem Bill

 

in favor

opposed

abstain

absent

total

LDP

260

0

0

0

260

Democratic Party

45

46

0

1

92

CGP (Komeito)

52

0

0

0

52

Liberal Party

38

0

0

1

39

Communist Party

0

26

0

0

26

Socialist Party

0

14

0

0

14

Independents

8

0

0

8

16

Totals

403

86

0

10

499

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 1999.

Table 2: House of Councillors Votes on the National Flag and Anthem Bill

 

in favor

opposed

abstain

absent

total

LDP

101

0

0

0

101

Democratic Party

20

31

5

0

56

CGP (Komeito)

24

0

0

0

24

Liberal Party

12

0

0

0

12

Communist Party

0

23

0

0

23

Socialist Party

0

13

0

0

13

Independents

9

4

0

9

22

Totals

166

71

5

9

251

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, August 10, 1999.


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