Friday, September 08, 2006

The Return of the Imperial Rescript

We all know that Japan has completely changed since WW2. Why that era just a slight diversion from the path to democracy. WW2 was really just something foreign powers either tricked Japan into entering, or forced them to as they had no other options.

Before Hirohito died, we were told that the modern Japanese no longer thought much about him. He was just a funny old man. None other than Edwin Reishauer himself pushed this laugher. Then Hirohito died and the response of many in Japan made us wonder if Japan really had just completely changed overnight when the war ended.

But now, despite the opposition of the rightwing loonytunes like Fuijiwara Masahiko, Japan is said to have a democracy (debatable). One has to wonder for how much longer as we keep hearing of a desire to return to the past. In Fujiwara's top selling book, he renounces democracy (and even claims that the Japan that started the Pacific War was a democracy) and suggests Japan be ruled by an elite unelected group. He suggests that Japan should return to bushido---in fact, he wants to export it. This all worked so well in the past.

The Imperial Rescript on Education has was used by such elites from the late 1800s to indoctrinate young Japanese children with the idea that the emperor was the head of the state in Japan and they owed him allegiance. It was one of the strongest symbols of nationalism in that era.

The 1890 decree, issued on behalf of Emperor Meiji, was criticized on the grounds that it was "based on the belief that sovereign power resides with the emperor, upholding a mythological view of the fundamental character of the nation." The Diet ruled that it "clearly infringed on basic human rights." (From below)

It is coming back in some areas, and is fully supported by many parents---the average Japanese mom and dad. Children are again being forced to recite it---elementary school children!

So what does this mean? Is Japan becoming a militarist Japan again? No, but Japan does not hold the same values, world views, and visions as the US or other western countries. The beliefs, traditions, and tendencies that existed in Japan prior to World War II did not suddenly disappear. They still exist at some level in Japan. US citizens should in particular be aware of this. Japan is not becoming more like us. Japan is an American ally only as long as the US remains strong and as long as it is to Japan's benefit. No shock there.

The story, from Asahi Shimbum is here: Potent Words.

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