The main focus of this thesis is the legalization of Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem of Japan in 1999 and its connections to what seems to be an atypical Japanese form of postwar nationalism. In the 1980s a campaign headed by among others Prime Minister Nakasone was promoted to increase the pride of the Japanese in their nation and to achieve a “transformation of national consciousness”. Its supporters tended to use the term “healthy nationalism and internationalism”. When discussing the legalization of Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem of Japan, it is necessary to look into the nationalism that became evident in the 1980s and see to what extent the legalization is connected with it. Furthermore we must discuss whether the legalization would have been possible without the emergence of so-called “healthy nationalism and internationalism”. Thus it is first necessary to discuss and try to clarify the confusing terms of “healthy nationalism and patriotism”. Secondly, we must look into why and how the so-called “healthy nationalism and internationalism” occurred and address the question of why its occurrence was controversial. The field of education seems to be the area of Japanese society where the controversy regarding its occurrence was strongest. The Ministry of Education, Monbushô, and the Japan Teachers' Union, Nihon Kyôshokuin Kumiai (hereafter Nikkyôso), were the main opponents struggling over the issue of Hinomaru, and especially Kimigayo, due to its lyrics praising the emperor. Accordingly one must discuss the connection between the imperial institution and Kimigayo, the base on which much resistance is built, before trying to clarify in what way the political campaign of so-called “healthy nationalism and internationalism” influenced the field of education. In this respect we cannot avoid asking to what extent the influence on the field of education formed the basis of the law recognizing Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and national anthem. Finally it is important to address the present situation, where the use of the national flag and the national anthem at school ceremonies has reached levels close to 100 %. The question must be asked whether the aim concerning a transformation of national consciousness has been achieved through the campaign of healthy nationalism, the use of Hinomaru and Kimigayo at school ceremonies and the legalization of the national symbols.
Transformation of “national consciousness” achieved?
The legalization of Hinomaru and Kimigayo as the national flag and anthem of Japan in 1999 was the result of a political campaign to increase so-called “patriotism” or “healthy nationalism”, initiated in the 1980s by conservative politicians such as Prime Minister Nakasone. Because of World War II to be proud of Japan was a concept with negative connotations. Therefore, the political campaign aimed at increasing the pride of the Japanese in their nation. It was argued that one cannot profess an internationalist perspective without first possessing a clear sense of national identity. The result was the so-called “healthy nationalism and internationalism”. However, the strong tendency to emphasize positive aspects and to ignore negative problems, such as the question of the emperor’s war responsibility and that of the Japanese people as a whole, made it extremely controversial. Furthermore, it served to strengthen the problem of the confusing terms of nationalism and patriotism. The opponents saw the campaign as a possible return to prewar nationalism. Supporters spoke of the promotion of necessary “healthy nationalism”. This political campaign to increase “patriotism” or “healthy nationalism” focused on the field of education, where the controversy regarding its occurrence was strongest, with the Ministry of Education, Monbushô, and the Japan Teachers’ Union, Nikkyôso, as the main opponents. A council on education was established under the control of the Nakasone cabinet to work on education reform. The report showed that it adopted the way of thinking of the political campaign run by conservatives such as Nakasone. Based on the report, the guidelines on education were changed in 1989. The new guidelines made the hoisting of Hinomaru and Kimigayo at entrance and graduation ceremonies mandatory. Previously it had merely been ‘desirable’. Hinomaru and especially Kimigayo – due to its associations with the imperial institution and war responsibility, became symbols of the authorities’ campaign and were resisted by teachers’ unions such as Nikkyôso for that reason. However, it is important to stress that the struggle that took place – at least at the national level – regarding the symbols’ role was a part of a struggle between left and right in Japanese politics that had lasted since the end of the US occupation. To the authorities, fighting Nikkyôso was to fight the political opposition, and it seems the struggle concerning Hinomaru and Kimigayo was a means to deal with Nikkyôso. The revised guidelines provided authority, and many teachers who refused to use the symbols were punished. In addition the change of political climate after the collapse of the Cold War system weakened Nikkyôso, resulting in what the media referred to as a truce between the union and the authorities. Nikkyôso gave up its resistance against Hinomaru and Kimigayo, while Zenkyô, consisting of teachers who had left Nikkyôso in 1989, maintained their opposition. Gradually the percentages for the use of the symbols at ceremonies increased. However, there were still prefectures, such as Hiroshima, where support of Kimigayo remained low, resulting in the tragic suicide of a principal at a senior high school in Hiroshima. This incident seemed to function as an excuse for the government to establish a law. However, it seems this would not have been possible had it not been for the process that had taken place for more than a decade. Thorough discussions concerning the questions at the issue’s core, such as the questions of national consciousness and war responsibility, were avoided and the law was pushed through the Diet within a few months, even though SDP, and JCP opposed it. After the legalization the percentages have reached close to a hundred percent. Accordingly, in numbers the authorities can claim to have achieved their goal. However, it appears that the focus on the use of the symbols has been out of proportion to the role they played at the ceremonies. Furthermore, the picture often described of the Japanese school as a battlefield seems exaggerated. The focus of the school ceremonies appears to be human relations, and the problems local schools face are a far cry from the level of national politics; they are called bullying and school drop outs - not Hinomaru and Kimigayo. It seems that as a result of the focus on politics, important everyday problems within the field of education have not been sufficiently addressed. It is necessary to ask whether the legalization and the developments regarding the use of Hinomaru and Kimigayo in the field of education indicate that the aims of the conservative forces concerning a transformation of national consciousness have been achieved. Large argued in 1992, “that Nakasone for all of his rhetoric did not achieve the ‘transformation of national consciousness’... that he had envisaged.” However, since then a lot of things have happened. Based on the law legalizing Hinomaru and Kimigayo and statistics showing close to 100 % compliance to the guidelines, Hood argues that the issue is coming to an end, and with it, the discussions. As pointed out already the focus on these symbols seem to have been out of proportion to the role they actually play. It may be too simplistic to argue as the authorities did, that their use indicates that the symbols are being understood, and to consider the issue closed. A law does necessarily mean that the issue fades, just as Monbushô surveys showing high rates for the use of Hinomaru and Kimigayo at the entrance and graduation ceremonies, do not necessarily indicate that the symbols of the nation are embraced by the pupils or the population in general, or that national consciousness has become any clearer. It is interesting to note that Nakasone himself recently stated that Rinkyôshin has failed. Within the field of education there has been considerable focus on the national symbols. As a consequence the promotion of a constructive discussion in society in general, concerning the issue’s core, has not been achieved, but remained at a deadlock. Prior to the legalization of Hinomaru and Kimigayo, the government was urged to give the public time for thorough discussions. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The law was pushed through parliament in a few months after the principal’s suicide, in what seemed to be an attempt to end the issue once and for all. By promoting the legalization, the Obuchi government waded “into complex matters of history, memory, responsibility and identity,” which should be applauded. The Obuchi government made the issue the focus of national attention in a wider context than what has been the case in schools, in the sense that it touched on a problem such as revision of the constitution. However, the same government is to blame for missing out on an important opportunity to promote much needed balanced discussions about the questions of national consciousness and war responsibility. By avoiding such discussions, the law, like the guidelines, was implemented from above. And this is its fatal weakness. A law and statistics showing compliance do not mean that the core of the issue has been addressed or that questions that for so long have been a taboo have become any clearer. Much of the politics of the so-called “healthy nationalism and internationalism” are now an integrated part of the guidelines on education and the “nihonjinron” seem to continue to have a firm hold on many people’s way of thinking on Japan. It might be argued that the legislation, in combination with the politics promoted and the “nihonjinron”, have made the matter more complex, because of the strong tendency to polish the surface at the expense of the will to deal with negative aspects at the problems core. It seems the emperor remaining on the throne and not being tried as a war criminal has had serious consequences. His exemption from trial made it easier for the Japanese government and the people to evade their war responsibility. Accordingly, the fact that the emperor did not step down and the consequences it has had for postwar Japan, is in this sense more important than the question to what extent he was responsible for the disastrous war. Because the emperor remained it became easier to ignore the war and to bury it under a mountain of taboos, so that conservatives can ignore it while opponents can only decry it in abstract terms. At the same time the lack of dealing with war responsibility resulted in a situation where the shameful shadows of the war made it difficult to focus on positive aspects of Japan in the education system. Accordingly conservative politicians headed by Nakasone, found their chance to express what they claimed was their concern because of the purported lack of national pride among young Japanese. This resulted in the present school guidelines, full of words on internationalization and love and respect for Japan. However, despite these fine words and the law on Hinomaru and Kimigayo, the core question regarding national consciousness and how to feel about one’s country, remains unclear and has not yet reached the surface. The law was intended to end the issue, however, since the main problem has not been sufficiently addressed, the real discussion has yet to begin. It seems that ”if Japan wants to fully embrace its nationhood, it must first do the same with its past.” Therefore, “to find its future, Japan must face up to its past.”