Abe cabinet approves textbook use of controversial Imperial Rescript despite opposition

Apr 06, 2017, 09:08 am

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The Imperial Rescript on Education, which was announced by Japanese Emperor during the Meiji era, has been controversial in the Japanese political community. As it emphasizes loyalty and obedience to the emperor, it was abolished by the Diet in 1948./ Source: Screenshot from NHK

By Tokyo correspondent Um Soo-ah & AsiaToday reporter Kim Ye-jin - The reintroduction the Imperial Rescript on Education, which symbolizes militarism, has become a big issue for the Japanese political community.

According to Kyodo News and NHK on Tuesday, opposition politicians criticized the Japanese government's approval for using the Imperial Rescript on Education as a teaching material on March 31, saying that it is an anachronism.

The Imperial Rescript on Education is a teaching ideology of the Japanese empire announced by Emperor Meiji in 1980 and it emphasizes to be loyal and obedient to the emperor.

Although it contains universal values such as filial piety and brotherly affection, the Rescript was used to promote Emperor-oriented and militaristic education and thus, it was abolished by the Diet in 1948 to symbolize the end of imperialism.

Since Abe took office, the Rescript was continuously mentioned and now Abe's administration has approved to use it as long as it does not violate the Constitution and the basic education law.

In order to avoid criticism that the government is trying to return to militarism, the government shifted the responsibility to teachers and principals claiming they are the ones who should decide whether to teach the Rescript and how to teach it. However, it looks like the government is actually encouraging them to teach it.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Rescript seem to be inseparable. Far-right educational institution Moritomo Gakuen, where Abe's wife Akie was the honorary principal, has recently drawn criticism for making its preschoolers memorize the Rescript. The head of the controversial school is known for his extreme right-wing views.

Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, a close ally of Abe, caused a stir after saying, "I don't think we should say the rescript is entirely wrong," in a recent parliamentary session over Moritomo Gakuen issue.
Japan's opposition politicians have criticized the government's decision. Hiroshi Ogushi, policy chief of the Democratic Party, said in a press conference Tuesday, "We might end up reintroducing the Imperial Rescript. This clearly shows the Abe administration's move to return to prewar philosophy."

The Abe Cabinet's move to return to prewar values ran to an extreme in the middle school education guidelines approved on March 31. The new version of education guidelines include "bayonet exercise", a match where a player strikes the other player's neck, torso and other parts of the body with a wooden gun, as an optional course of "martial arts education", which has been included by the Japanese government in 2012 as a mandatory class in the physical education curriculum for middle school students.

The initial version of the education guideline announced in February this year included archery, aikido, and shaolin martial arts as optional courses of martial arts that was limited to judo, kendo, and sumo. However, the final version of the guidelines announced last month includes bayonet exercise. As a result, Japan's middle schools will be able to teach bayonet exercise to their students.

Some claim that bayonet exercise is basically Japan's traditional swordmanship. However, it symbolizes Japan's militarism since it is used to train Japanese military during the time of imperialism. Niigata governor Ryuichi Yoneyama pointed out on the issue in his Twitter, stating, "What is it if it's not about nostalgia for pre-WWII," reported Sankei Shimbun on Wednesday.

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