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Japanese Government


Recently, Toike Noboru, a professor of imperial history at Den-en Chofu University in Tokyo, invoked Japan's freedom of information law in his effort to make the numerous imperial tumuli that dot the Japanese countryside accessible to historical knowledge. At stake is not only the possibility of writing a more lucid account of the origins of the Japanese people but also a less idealized history of the modern imperial house. Blood myths of an unbroken line of imperial succession for ages eternal" (bansei ikkei) and Japan as a "divine land" (shinkoku) could be better understood. Indeed, the entire field of ancient Japanese history would benefit if the oldest tombs were excavated, and the question of the imperial family's descent from Korea could be resolved. We might also learn more about why keepers of the imperial secrets go to such great lengths to conceal this strong likelihood. Even Emperor Akihito has said that the mother of the so-called "50th emperor," Kammu, had Korean blood and "it made him feel a certain closeness to Korea." (..) Japanese archaeologists and historians have long rejected the government's claim that Japan has had 124 emperors from the mythical Jimmu, descendant of the Sun Goddess, to the controversial Showa Emperor Hirohito, whose pre-World War II reign brought havoc to Asian and Japanese people. The scholars recognize that most sites of ancient imperial tombs should be treated as objects of scientific inquiry rather than as religious remnants of discredited State Shinto. But bureaucrats of the Imperial Household Agency, claiming to follow the Imperial Household Law, interpret the rules and control the tombs. They will neither allow the tombs to be treated as ordinary historical sites for investigation nor release copies of documents pertaining to them or to more recent emperors. Professing concern for the peace, calm, and privacy of emperors, but really fearing public scrutiny of the imperial institution and its "traditions," they continue to deny permission to excavate the tombs. -- Herbert P. Bix, Pulitzer Prize winner, June 14 2005. Read more.



(..) The entire episode has reinforced the impression formed soon after my return to Japan last year after an absence of 30 years. It has not become more "westernized" and liberal, as so many commentators, particularly on the business side, like to claim. On the contrary, its underlying rightist nationalism with the attendant suppression of unsuitable news is emerging once more. Yet at the very time when observers should be most alert, they are failing in their duty to scrutinize. (..) The Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, recently quoted a German government official's puzzlement over the "silly act" of Japanese prime minister Koizumi Junichiro's continuing visits to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, where 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined. A German leader, the government official told Li, would never worship at the burial places of Adolf Hitler or convicted Nazi war criminals. Such thoughts from Germans are reinforced by Aso Taro's espousal of Japanese racial supremacy, such as displayed in a remark in a speech at the opening of the Kyushu National Museum in Fukuoka last October. Then, he described Japan as "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, and one race, the like of which there is no other on earth." It was an observation that echoed Japan's fascist period of 1930-45. Aso Taro is among the leading candidates to replace Koizumi Junichiro when he retires as prime minister in September. -- Christopher Reed, Japan Times, 25 April 2006. Read more.



The Japanese state, while going to great lengths to compensate, and commemorate, former "loyal" Japanese soldiers and their families, persists to this day in denying and covering up the crimes committed by that same state, including judicial frame-up, detention and torture. Some 70,000 people were arrested under Japan's prewar and wartime peace preservation laws between 1925 and 1945. The "Yokohama Incident" refers to a series of unrelated incidents initiated by imperial Japan's thought police and pursued between 1942 and 1945. The horror experienced by those innocently targeted by the state of that time was worthy of Stalinism at its peak. The secret police, procurators, and the judiciary persisted in the actions described here to the point of securing many of the guilty verdicts and carrying out the punishments even after the Japanese surrender. (..) As the 21st century Japanese state gropes towards a renewed system of thought control and state intrusions on conscience -- punishing teachers who refuse to stand for the national anthem or flag ceremonies, detaining, arresting, and indicting anti-war leafleters at Tachikawa in Tokyo or in Okinawa (the former for 75 days), and seeking to revise the constitution to give greater powers to the state and diminish popular liberties, the Yokohama story deserves to be widely known and its lessons pondered. -- Gavin MacCormack, Australia National University Professor, 27 January 2006. Read more.



Is Obora Toshiyuki a threat to society? The Japanese state certainly seems to think so. The police arrested the bespectacled, 47-year-old elementary school worker, interrogated him in grueling five-hour stretches and held him in detention for 75 days. "I thought it would never end," says Obora, who claims the arrest came "out of the blue." Few would feel much sympathy for a teacher embezzling funds or, heaven forbid, molesting children in his care, but Obora was guilty of distributing scraps of printed paper to grown adults suggesting they 'think deeply' about Japan's decision to support a costly and illegal war. (..) "The authorities want to scare people off," says Obora, who is challenging his conviction in the Supreme Court. "We have a chilling situation where the police are now permitted free reign and can justify even such an arrest as ours." (..) "This case is crucial," says Professor Lawrence Repeta, a faculty member of Omiya Law School. "Here we have ordinary citizens being arrested for handing out fliers. This is the most traditional means of free expression. The government must carry a very heavy burden to justify a restriction on people expressing their opinions on an important matter of public policy in this fashion. And in my view they have shown nothing at all to justify their actions." (..) But the ramifications of the case also ripple upwards to the hawkish heart of Japan's government which gives increasingly clear signals about the country's future course. Minister of Foreign Affairs Aso Taro, for example, offered this defense for official visits to the Yasukuni war memorial on TV Asahi's Hodo Station at the end of January: "If we don't pay respect to those who died in the war, people will no longer want to fight for their country." --David McNeill, Tokyo-based Journalist who teaches at Sophia University, 10 February 2006. Read more.