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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 11 - 17  > Shinto priest stands firm against Shinto association’s move to revise Article 9
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2018 April 11 - 17 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Shinto priest stands firm against Shinto association’s move to revise Article 9

April 16, 2018
The chief priest of a Shinto shrine is standing firm against the Association of Shinto Shrines which promotes a signature collection campaign in support of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s move to undermine Article 9 of the Constitution.

The priest is Miyata Shigekazu of Shinmei Shrine in Iga City, Mie Prefecture. In 1996 when he was 50 years old, he succeeded his father to the position after his predecessor became unable to carry on the duty. Miyata was a junior high school science teacher at that time.

Miyata at first hesitated to become a Shinto priest because the Association of Shinto Shrines, the umbrella organization that covers most shrines including Shinmei Shrine, is known for its rightist stance praising prewar Japan. In the end, however, he decided to assume the post in order to help ensure the continuation of the peaceful lives of residents in the parish with the determination to not go along with the association’s political stance.

In 2014, the Abe Cabinet decided to change the interpretation of the Constitution in order to allow Japan’s use of the collective self-defense right, which is banned by Article 9 of the Constitution. This shocked Miyata and made him extremely worried about the dangerous nature of the Abe government.

Miyata thought he had to do something. With help from city assembly members of the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party, he launched a local group protesting against Abe’s move to turn Japan into a war-fighting country. The group holds a study meeting and a demonstration on a monthly basis.

Miyata’s critical stance toward the Abe government receives negative reactions from some people. A rightist group lodged a protest against Miyata with the local body of the Shinto association. Miyata was repeatedly urged to join the political body of the association, but he refused to give in. He stated, “Given that protecting Shintoists’ peace of mind is a priest's responsibilities, I have an obligation to oppose government policies that pave the way for war and oppose peace.” Miyata says that few followers openly criticize him and some give encouragement to him.

Miyata said, “The association should abide by the constitutional principle of the separation between state and religion. The Japanese government must not send the society back to the prewar days when there were no human rights and no democracy. We need to step up efforts to collect 30 million signatures for the petition opposing Abe’s move to revise Article 9.”

Past related articles:
> Alteration of official documents and Nippon Kaigi [March 19, 2018]
> Japan’s ultrarightist group supports SDF legitimation in Article 9 [May 28, 2017]
> What motivates Abe to change Constitution? [January 20, 22 & 23, 2015]

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