I’d been wondering for awhile what the deal was with schoolteachers in Japan refusing to stand for or sing the national anthem, Kimi ga Yo. While news outlets continue to refuse to even begin to explain the issue, there are some enlightening comments on Japan Today on the subject. (And, of course, the usual riffraff.)
Several reasons here.
In Tokyo 253 teachers have been punished, re-educated, admonished, and or have had their salaries docked for not standing, not singing, or not meeting the requirements set down by the district. (This includes not playing the National Anthem, or singing it loud enough). The courts have upheld those ‘punishments.’
The second underlying issue is that in 1999 the Hinomaru (Japan’s) flag was officially re-instated, as well as “long shall the Emperor reign” Kimigayo. Both are closely associated with Imperial Japan (and extreme Nationalism) … and were pushed through the Diet by the LDP … when there was about 50% opposition against these two symbols publicly.
Problem is – how do you recognize your country when you do not like the “association” with its dictatorial past?
There is also a push to have ‘included’ in the new constitution a ‘test’ of patriotism – and Hinomaru and Kimigayo are both included in that … the teachers come in two very extreme camps – either totally for this, or totally against it … not too much fence sitting in the center…
And Poppa adds:
After the end of WW2, Japan was forbidden to fly the Hinomaru flag or sing the Kimigayo, as both were used as symbols of the extreme nationalism that drove Japan to wage war in Asia and the Pacific.
From the late 50’s onward, there began a push to raise the national flag and sing the Kimigayo at schools. Due to opposition at the time, this was only a “guidance”, not a law, though the Hinomaru and Kimigayo were not officially recognised as the national flag and anthem in Japanese law.
In 1989 the ministry of education issued a stronger “guidance”, but the Japan Teacher’s Union refused to recognise the directive, saying there was no legal basis for recognising the Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem.
In 1994, the Hinomaru and Kimigayo were officially recognised by the government as “offical national emblems” and the Teacher’s Union dropped their opposition. Though officially recognised as emblems, that recognition was never actually legislated in law. This was a compromise solution to balance the factions that wanted to recognise the flag and anthem, and those that opposed.
After a further dispute in 1999 where a school principal in Hiroshima committed suicide over being unable to resolve an issue over singing the Kimigayo at a school graduation, the LDP pushed to legislate the Hinomaru and Kimigayo. This step was immediately opposed by most other parties, as well as the Teacher’s Union.
The bill was passed, though, but with no provision for actual enforcement (so it could get through). This has caused problems as the education department’s teachers manual tries to enforce the raising of the Hinomaru and the sing of the Kimigayo at school ceremonies. The Ministry of Education claims that making students stand and sing the anthem, or ordering them back to their seats if the try to leave, does not constitute “enforcement”.
There are pretty huge contraditions in the teachers manual and the law, and what the government can and can’t force the teachers or students to do. This current issue is just another manifestation of the problems.
ColumbaOphidia points to an About.com article on the subject.