TV & Radio
Japanese teacher fined over national anthem protest
By David Pilling in Tokyo
Published: May 31 2006 01:18 | Last updated: May 31 2006 01:18
A schoolteacher who urged parents attending a 2004 graduation ceremony to remain seated during the national anthem was yesterday found guilty of disrupting the solemnity of the occasion.
The Tokyo District Court fined Katsuhisa Fujita Y200,000 ($1,800, €1,400, £970), but stopped short of jailing him for eight months, as prosecutors had request-ed, on the grounds that the disruption was not severe enough. The ceremony was delayed by two minutes.
Mr Fujita, a 65-year-old retired social science teacher, had distributed leaflets to parents telling them that teachers were being forced to sing the national anthem and stand before the national flag. Many teachers remain uncomfortable with such patriotic symbols, which were virtually taboo for decades after the war, because they associate them with Japan’s imperial aggression.
Several teachers have been reprimanded or even lost their jobs for failure to obey a 2003 notice issued by the Tokyo board of education requiring display of the flag and singing of the anthem. Mr Fujita, who appealed against the ruling, said: “If such a decision is confirmed, Japan will slip into totalitarianism.”
Kyodo news quoted Judge Hitoshi Murase as ruling: “While freedom of speech should be guaranteed, it should not be allowable to disturb someone’s business.”
The issue of how appropriate it is for Japan to foster a sense of patriotism more than 60 years after the war has become the subject of rancorous debate. Some teachers unwilling to sing the Kimigayo national anthem have come up with a parody alluding to Japan’s wartime use of South Korean women as sex slaves.
The version, which subverts the lyrics of an anthem that prays for the emperor’s long life, was this week blasted by the Sankei newspaper, a conservative daily, which accused participating teachers of “sabotage”.
This month, parliamentarians have been debating an amendment to the 1947 basic education law, to build an education system that develops “an attitude that respects tradition and culture and loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them.”
Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister, argued it is time Japan became relaxed about being patriotic. “It is natural for everybody to develop a sense of emotional attachment and patriotism towards the state,” he told parliament. That view has wide support among the political class, outside leftwing parties. Even an alternative bill proposed by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan talks of “cultivating love towards Japan”.
But the move towards patriotism has raised concern among some Japanese, especially teachers’ unions, who say the country is glossing over its history and drifting towards nationalism.
Hiroko Arai, who has been banished from teaching since she refused to sing the anthem, said: “Those in power desire to control education from above. Enforcement or coercion is inappropriate in a place of education.” She objected to what she said was an attempt to “imprint nationalism in the hearts of children”.
Additional reporting by Kaori Suzuki
Japan teacher fined for disrespecting anthem
By Kaori Kaneko TOKYO, AFP
A Japanese court for the first time Tuesday punished a teacher for disrespecting the national anthem, which liberals associate with World War II militarism, officials said.
Retired instructor Katsuhisa Fujita, 65, was fined 200,000 yen (US$1,800) but escaped prison time for delaying a graduation ceremony when he urged the audience to stay seated during the national anthem.
The anthem, "Kimigayo," or "His Majesty's Reign," praises the emperor. Critics say it harks back to the militarism under late Emperor Hirohito, who was considered divine during World War II.
It is the first known time that a court has punished a teacher over the anthem, although the Tokyo metropolitan education board has disciplined 345 teachers for refusing orders to honor it, a board official said.
"It is clear that there was concern that the defendant's behavior may have negatively impacted the smooth running of the ceremony," Judge Hitoshi Murase of the Tokyo District Court said in handing down the fine.
But he refused prosecutors' demands to imprison Fujita for eight months.
"Considering the actual interruption in the ceremony was short, it is not appropriate to order imprisonment," said the judge, as quoted by Jiji Press.
Fujita, who had retired before the incident, said he was practicing his right to free speech.
"I regard the 200,000-yen fine as opposed to eight months in prison as a de facto acquittal. I will appeal the ruling, though," he told reporters.
Japan has gradually been adopting symbols of patriotism it shunned after World War II, causing concern in neighboring countries invaded by imperial Tokyo.
Teacher guilty over anthem case
Updated: 2006-05-30 11:27
A court ordered a retired high school teacher to pay a fine for urging parents to remain seated during the national anthem, which critics consider a symbol of Japan's militarist past, news reports and a court official said Tuesday.
Katsuhisa Fujita was found guilty of forcible obstruction of business and told to pay 200,000 yen (US$1,775; euro1,390), according to an official at the Tokyo District Court, who declined to be named citing policy.
Prosecutors said Fujita asked parents at a 2004 graduation ceremony to remain seated while the anthem was played, and refused to obey school supervisors who told him to stop his appeal and leave, Kyodo News agency reported.
Fujita, already retired at the time, attended the ceremony as a guest.
Fujita's lawyers criticized the case as a crackdown on those who consider the "Kimigayo" anthem and Rising Sun flag symbols of past Japanese militarism. Many teachers say they object to the flag and anthem's militarist connotations.
The flag's and anthem's links to Japan's imperialist wars in Asia during the 20th century prevented them from becoming official symbols until 1999.
A 2003 directive from Tokyo's nationalist Gov. Shintaro Ishihara threatened teachers with punishment for not recognizing the symbols, and the school board has penalized some 300 teachers so far.
Hundreds of public school teachers have retaliated by filing criminal complaints against Ishihara.