Act On National Flag and Anthem (Japan) - Background of The Legislation

Background of The Legislation

The proposal for the law was motivated by the suicide of a school principal in Hiroshima, who could not resolve a dispute between his school board and his teachers over use of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo. The principal of Sera High School in Sera, Ishikawa Toshihiro, killed himself the evening before his school's graduation ceremony. The Hiroshima Prefecture School Board had demanded that all principals ensure use of both symbols at every school ceremony, but the teachers at Sera High School vehemently opposed the practice. Toshihiro took his own life after failing to win support of his teachers on this issue.

Toshihiro's suicide, along with the protests by teachers at the graduation ceremony at Sera High School, prompted Prime minister Keizo Obuchi of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to draft legislation to make the Hinomaru and Kimigayo the official symbols of Japan. He intended for the legislation to be introduced in 2000, but his Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hiromu Nonaka, wanted it in effect by November 1999, the tenth anniversary of the coronation of Emperor Akihito.

This is not the first time legislation was proposed to make the Hinomaru and Kimigayo official symbols. After the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972 and the global oil crisis of 1973, then-Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei hinted in 1974 at the passage of a law that would legalize use of both symbols, a move done partially to increase his popularity with conservative voters. At the time of his suggestion, the Japan Teachers Union was opposed to using the anthem because it " of emperor worship" and was seen as a connection to pre-war militarism. Although the literacy rate in Japan was 99 percent at the time, many students did not know what Kimigayo even was or how to sing it. In addition to instructing the schools to teach and play Kimigayo, Kakuei wanted students to raise the flag and read the Imperial Rescript on Education, pronounced by the Meiji Emperor in 1890, every morning. Kakuei was unsuccessful in passing the legislation through the Diet.

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