Anger, confusion as Japan revives militaristic edict

This article is more than 12 months old

TOKYO Japan's century-old imperial proclamation urging people to die for the emperor was consigned to the history books - until video surfaced showing children in an Osaka kindergarten enthusiastically reciting it.

A cabinet decision allowing schools to teach the edict, which was used to promote militarism in the 1930s and 1940s, has delighted hardcore nationalists but left many Japanese scratching their heads.

Others were horrified at the sight of youngsters chanting the archaic proclamation, even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie praised them during a visit to the school, run by a nationalist seeking to inculcate pupils with pre-war values.

The Imperial Rescript on Education, issued in 1890, was abolished after Japan's World War II defeat at the hands of the US over concerns it had contributed to creating a militaristic culture.

It exhorted citizens to "offer yourselves courageously to the State" so as to "guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne".

The edict "functioned as a mechanism to strike down people's individual rights," said Mr Kenji Ishikawa, a law professor at Tokyo University.

But Mr Abe and his fellow conservatives have sought to stealthily bring it back into vogue, as part of a bid to revive traditional values that have lost their shine following the introduction of a pacifist constitution.

"Japan should not just be an economic power but a country respected and relied on in the world for its high ethical views and morality," hawkish Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said last week.

Some constitutional scholars have expressed concern over the government's attempt to expose impressionable minds to a document with "fanatic and cult-like" leanings.

Mr Sota Kimura, a law professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, said the revival appeared to be a sop to nationalists who "feel terribly humiliated about the post-war system imposed by the Allies".- AFP