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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 February 21 - 27  > Gov’t should stop imposing ‘Hinomaru’ and ‘Kimigayo’ on children
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2018 February 21 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Gov’t should stop imposing ‘Hinomaru’ and ‘Kimigayo’ on children

February 27, 2018
Akahata editorial (excerpt)

March is the month when most schools, kindergartens, and day nurseries in Japan hold graduation ceremonies. Under the government led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, teaching staff and schoolchildren participating in these ceremonies are forced to pay respect to the “Hinomaru” flag by standing and singing the “Kimigayo” song, and the government intends to have preschool children do the same. As public opinions vary on the issue of Kimigayo and Hinomaru, requiring people to take a particular attitude toward Hinomaru and Kimigayo tramples on their constitutional right to human dignity and the freedom of thought and conscience. The use of coercion is inappropriate in schools where each child’s rights should be fully respected.

As “Hinomaru” and “Kimigayo” were used as symbols of Japan’s war of aggression in the past, many people today still have a dislike for the flag and song. Their right to refuse to stand up and not bow to the Hinomaru flag and sing Kimigayo should be guaranteed. When the law on the national flag and the national anthem was enacted in 1999, government officials in Diet deliberations said that the government will not impose Hinomaru and Kimigayo on the public.

However, in many public schools, under the instruction of the Education Ministry and local education boards, children and teachers are forced to stand at attention before the Hinomaru flag and sing Kimigayo in graduation and entrance ceremonies. Every year, public school teachers who refused to stand up receive punishment. In Tokyo, in the fifteen years from 2003 when the Tokyo Metropolitan government issued a directive forcing teachers in public schools to stand up for the “Hinomaru” flag and sing Kimigayo song at school ceremonies, nearly 500 teachers have been punished.

The judiciary casts a critical eye on this situation. In lawsuits in which teachers in public schools in Tokyo demanded the withdrawal of punishments, courts issued rulings in favor of their demands. In a series of rulings, courts stated that school authorities’ orders compelling teachers to stand up and sing Kimigayo “can indirectly restrict the right to freedom of thought and conscience”.

However, the Abe government disregards the court judgements and is moving toward even stronger coercion. The new government guidelines for teaching in kindergartens and child care in nurseries which will take effect this coming April states that teachers and care workers should help children become familiar with and take pride in “the national flag” and “the national anthem”. The revised guidelines can be used as a pretext to oblige pre-school children to bow to the Hinomaru flag and sing Kimigayo at formal events held at kindergartens and childcare centers.

Currently, schools, pre-schools, and childcare centers have more and more children who came from various countries or whose parents are foreigners. Some children are from countries that suffered from Japan’s past war of aggression. It is particularly objectionable to impose Hinomaru and Kimigayo on such children.

The Abe government should stop imposing Hinomaru and Kimigayo on children, teachers, and citizens, and protect their right to freedom of thought and conscience.

Past related articles:
> Court: punishing teachers who don’t stand up for ‘Kimigayo’ is illegal [September 16, 2017]
> Welfare Ministry seeks to have children at daycare pay respect to ‘Hinomaru’ and sing ‘Kimigayo’ [February 16, 2017]

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