The Japanese monarchy and nationalist politics, past and present

If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Aristocracy , Royal Blogger
Aug 8, 2007
I am opening a new thread here because the discussion in the current events thread for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko is getting OT.

I think it worthwhile to open a special thread for this subject as the wish or the need to discuss it might arise again from time to time. At least according to my impression, the Japanese monarchy is unique among present-day monarchies in so far as it is still seen by some people (inside and outside of Japan) as a symbol of an ultranationalist political stance and is claimed to justify and legitimate ultranationalist and maybe even antidemocratic political goals. On the other hand, the present as well as (predictably) the next emperor clearly refuse to support such goals. It is probable that this silent dissent will become visible again in the far and near future as it has already influenced Japanese politics as well as the personal life of imperial family members during past decades.


Thanks, ChiaraC

Yes, I agree with you. The Emperor seems to me to be a counterweight. Perhaps because he is not tainted with nationalistic family ties and as the enlightned man he obviously is can, and is allowed, to look beyond the nationalist boundaries.

Admittedly this is very difficult for me to comprehend.I wonder if it is cultural or whether is has more to do with not tainting the family-name for certain politicians. I.e. an extreme form of denial.
What are they afraid off by admitting that these atrocities did take place? You can hardly be accountable for what your grandparents did, however hideous it may have been. Painful? Yes, absolutely! Something to feel ashamed about? Sure!
Is the fear of losing face greater than the fear of letting the nutcases take over? - If so, Japan is hardly alone in world politics today!
To quote Pink Floyd: The lunatics are on the grass...

I certainly feel there is a reason to worry! Japan doesn't have that many friends, should there be a conflict with China, be it economically, politically or even militarily. With the current financial stagnation in USA and Europe and as a consequence the political influence decreasing and with the economic balance shifting worldwide, Japan cannot and should not expect help, even in the very worst scenario.
If the Japanese elect ultra nationalist politicians and these politicians do something silly, Japan will lose! Either being reduced to a has-been economic power or finding themselves reduced to very much a political secondary power in the region.
Japan may be in for a very brutal lesson.

And a little chuckle. :p Attilla the Hun was anything but a nationalist.
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Well, in my world it is a bit ironic to say that the emperor “is not tainted with nationalistic family ties“. After all, everything that was done during the war and the colonization has been performed in the name of the emperor and the imperial institution. Quite a few people thought that Emperor Hirohito should have been executed as war criminal, and, in fact, this might well have happened. It is true that, after the war, the Japanese claimed that the emperor had been unaware of what was really going on, and the US occupation authorities trusted them - which is why nobody from the imperial family has ever been convicted. But there is good reason to believe that the emperor knew more and bore more responsibility for what happened than was ever officially admitted (albeit it is a matter of historical debate how much he exactly knew and how much power he actually had). I happen to think that the difference between Emperor Hirohito and many (other) war criminals (not only from Japan) does not lie so much in the amount of guilt they bore, but in how they dealt with this guilt.

Emperor Hirohito had been raised in a way that was, on one hand, very militaristic, and, on the other hand, rather removed from everyday life of ordinary people. This may have seriously impacted his ability to interpret the information that was given to him by his advisers. He may have seen war as sort of a strategic game that Japan had a very good chance of winning. It is possible that, for quite some time, he had but a faint idea of what war really felt like – to the soldiers, the families, the innocent victims. This was probably changed at some point towards the end of the war, maybe when he was informed of the strategic bombing raids that the Allied Forces conducted on Japan. Besides, I suppose that Emperor Hirohito must have realized in the end that nobody had ever bothered to make it clear to him that Japan actually MIGHT LOSE THIS WAR. In my opinion, this, more than anything else, convinced him that he could no longer rely on his advisers. I, for one, doubt that Hirohito was a moralist. But he was – unlike most of his advisers, I´d reckon – a pragmatist. He never lost his ability to perceive – maybe due to his attitude as natural scientist – what actually did and what did not work, independently of his wishes or personal feelings. He understood that the nationalist politics that had led Japan into the war did – obviously – not work in the best interest of the nation. And so he decided that they had been wrong and ought not be continued.

Nationalists – like other people who passionately believe in a certain ideology of whatever sort – tend to be dreamers (although they´d never admit it ;)) and rather often refuse to face reality if it happens to disagree with what they aspire to or believe in. They may go to great lengths in order to defend their belief system. (For people who are not familiar with this system their behaviour often seems completely absurd.) It is this characteristic trait that makes them so dangerous. But it is not that hard to understand them if you come to think about it. Most people do not like to give up their hopes, their dreams. And nearly everybody wants to think himself a good person. You will find many people – today and in the past – concerning whom we would probably all agree that they are/were bad. But if you asked them themselves, they would (with very, very few exceptions) always tell you that they are good people and have the best of intentions, and what is more, they would believe this themselves (or would, at least, do their very best to believe
it ;)).

What are they afraid of by admitting that these atrocities did take place? You can hardly be accountable for what your grandparents did, however hideous it may have been.
I do not find this so hard to understand, maybe because I am German. It is not so much a question of accountability than of identity. The family you come from usually makes an important part of your identity. It is not easy to accept that you are the child or grandchild of a person who has seriously hurt or even killed other people. It is, emotionally, much easier to claim that it did not happen/ that your relative was not responsible/ not sufficiently aware/ you name it... If you admit to yourself that someone who is closely related to you has contributed to committing an atrocious crime, you may always be haunted by the question if there is something wrong with yourself, too, if you have maybe “inherited” a “criminal gene”, or something of the sort.

Besides, there are always strong bonds of love and loyalty in a family. You probably know what a big problem it is to take children away from criminal, abusing, addictive parents, even if it is absolutely necessary to save the children´s very lives. Little children love their parents no matter what. If you ask, “Is the fear of losing face greater than the fear of letting the nutcases take over?“, this is clearly the reasoning of an adult. But the dynamics that matter here are neither rational nor mature.

Things gets even worse by the fact that, also today, tradition plays an important role in the world view of the Japanese. Japanese usually invoke ancient traditions or forerunners to justify present actions or projects. It is true that, if you look closer, you will sometimes find that the planned project does not bear much similarity to what was done in the past or even that a so-called tradition is made up or over to fit the needs of today. But this does not prevent it from being presented as an authentic tradition and people from confidently claiming it as justification for what they are doing today. To my knowledge, there is no accepted pattern in Japan that would allow you to say: "All we did in the past was wrong, and now we are starting all over again and are doing things in a completely different way." - something that, if you excuse me for saying that ;), US Americans, for example, at times seem to love to be doing.

Please, do not take me wrong: Generally speaking, one behavioural pattern is not any better than the other. But within certain contexts and under certain circumstances either one may turn out to be rather detrimental (which admittedly also goes for a tendency to part from the past too easily and without a last look back, but this is not what we are discussing here.)
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I have to add that, being German, I think I can understand at least part of the Japanese problem very well indeed. They did not have a national anthem nor a flag for decades because the old ones were tainted by the use that had been made of them. This is admittedly an impossible situation for a country. It was inevitable that they would come back to the old flag and anthem, however compromised they may be, sooner or later - if they did not get themselves new ones. Maybe because of a general tendency to put off fundamental decisions, they have unfortunately failed to do that. And, of course, this is not only about flag and anthem. I am afraid that they may have failed to find a new definition of who they are as Japanese and what basic values they want to follow. I have read an excerpt of Vogel, Ezra F.: “Japan's New Middle Class: The Salary Man and His Family in a Tokyo Suburb”. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971, and he says:
Mamachi [the Tokyo suburb where Vogel did his research] residents do not have an articulated system of thought which embodies their fundamental beliefs. The recent rapid changes in society have weakened faith in statements of traditional ideology and no new system of consistent and widely accepted values has emerged. As many Japanese scholars have noted, whereas the Germans responded to defeat by reasserting their prewar values without seriously re-examining them, most Japanese responded by questioning their view of life and submitting it to an agonizing reappraisal from which it never recovered.

The formal statements of Confucian and Shinto ideology, though widely accepted before the war, are now so closely identified with the "feudalistic" past and tainted by association with the militarism and superpatriotism of World War II that today few Mamachi residents can accept them without serious modification. Few believe, for example, that the husband should sacrifice his family in order to serve his superior. On the other hand, many Mamachi residents believe that although democracy and individualism might help point the way to a new value system, they often are only a justification for selfishness and therefore not a solid basis for morality.
It is, of course, quite understandable that Japanese are hesitating to simply accept Western values. This it admittedly rather a sign of intelligence and highly developed critical faculties - their doubts are but too valid. But the problem is that where there are no generally accepted principles (of what sort ever) that people can refer themselves to when they are making decisions, the outcome is in a way up to coincidence, or even worse, to whoever is more powerful to push his interests against the needs of others. Vogel states that loyalty to the group one belongs to seems to have become the highest moral principle in Japan:
One of the characteristics of loyalty as a basic value is that no principle is more important than regard for the other members of one's own intimate group. Hence, there is no fully legitimate basis for standing against the group. Once group consensus is reached, one should abide by the decisions. Although some deviants attempt to justify their failure to follow group consensus in terms of democracy or freedom, these values have not been internalized sufficiently to justify the deviant's behavior to himself, let alone to other members of the group. It is true that there is now sufficient acceptance to cause some hesitation and tinges of ambivalence before an overly frank or pretentious deviant is put down, but not enough to counter effectively the eventual pressures toward group consensus, nor enough to turn an occasional deviant into a hero for courageously defying his group for other principles.
If you are aware that pioneers in all ranges of life are nearly always deviants at first, you get to recognize the problem. It is true that Vogel did his research end of the 1950s. But, unfortunately, I get the impression that his findings still provide a useful framework for the analysis of the problems of Japan in the 21st century.

The crucial point is, in my opinion, that you can only let go of an old value system for good – however tainted it may be - if you have a new one to substitute it with. I am convinced that people/nations cannot live without a set of generally accepted values that serve to inform themselves and the world of who they are. That is, in a nutshell, why I am convinced that the emperor and the crown prince are a godsend and big chance for Japan: they think for themselves and stand for what I would call a Japanese version of democratic enlightened values.

P.S.: I know next to nothing about Attila the Hun. But is not it a rather common phenomenon that passionate nationalists usually crave to conquer the whole world? ;)
Thanks, ChiaraC :flowers:

Your posts are as always informative.

Oh, I can easily understand why people go into denial in regards to their country or even family's past. - It is, also on a personal level, usually very unpleasant to look at yourself in the mirror and look into your soul. Much easier to just close the eyes.
I can also understand the resurgence of Japanese pride in it's national identity and culture. Fully justifiable by the way - but so easily exploited.
National symbols are important. They sure are to me.

Your remarks about Emperor Hirohito is interesting, because it is indeed intriquing to what extent he was informed. It is obvious, at least to me, that he towards the end of the war did not share the militaristic sentiment, hence the famous vote on whether to capitulate after Nagasaki. In a sense you can say it saved Japan from an even greater calamity. - Mainly from being bombed with more A-bombs. But just as disastrously, (perhaps even more!) were the three plans for defeating Japan with conventional means. - But that's getting OT in this respect.

I must confess that I'm not familiar with Emperor Hirohito's education and upbringing and what persons may have influenced him early on. It seems to me that he was presented to more diverse views than certainly the government hardliners. Especially the generals whose adherance to the code of Bushido had reached hysterical heights.
If you compare Japanese warware in WWII to WWI and the war against Russia in 1905, you will see that the military leadership had a much less extreme view. Presumably, is my guess, because so many Japanese young officers and eventually politicians had studied abroad.

I find the Japanese sense of conforming almost no matter what, to be very, very fascinating, because that sort of thinking is very alien to me, both as a person but also as a Dane. (*)
You are of course right, it's deviants, those who stand out, who make the big changes, for better or for worse. The big grey anonymous mass cement the changes however.

The cynic within me says: free us from idealists! A lot of mess in this world was, and is, done with the best of intensions. From missionaries who destroyed native cultures to the Mussollinis.

What does baffle me however, is the ordinary Japanese. Even one who is mainly getting informed via purely Japanese news sources and who rarely travel abroad, surely should be able to understand that a continuation of the nationalist policy is playing with fire?

On a final note. ;) Attilla the Hun was indeed a Hun, but he was no nationalist. He was basically a super-warlord, whose band consisted of several peoples/tribes and several cultures and languages, (who in many cases would have spoken Latin simply to understand eachother) all more or less on equal footing. And that lack of a common identity was of course the reason why the Hun-empire collapsed almost the second he died.
In that respect he's comparable, albeit much more beneficial, to Tamerlane/Timur Lenk, who was also a kind of non-nationalist conqueror.

(*) Slightly off topic but nevertheless illuminating for showing how much difference there can be in the mentality between two closely related countries. I recently read a very interesting article about why Swedes have a very feminist official policy, while such a policy would be met with ridicule and pulic uproar in Denmark. The author believed because in this context, womens liberation in Sweden came from the top and down, while it in DK was implemented from the grassroot level and up.
In Sweden womens rights is a very serious thing, while in DK it's something we can joke about and speak against.
Example in regards to a common joke: Three persons, two men and a women are fixing a door and having a quality time together. Man A says: "That's a tight fit".
Man B responds: "She said that yesterday too".
Woman C burst out: "You sexist b....."!
What remark ruined the mood?
A Swede is very likely to say B.
Most Danes would say C. - According to the author.

I cannot help wondering whether current Japanese politics and nationalist politicians would survive in a Japan where the rebirth of national pride came from the grassroot level and up.

- And I wonder if this even made sense to you....:p
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Thank you, Muhler. :flowers: It is a real pleasure for me to talk to you because you so often seem to understand the implications of what I say, even if I have not expressly mentioned them. Besides, it seems to me that we sometimes have a similar way of formulating questions concerning the world and human life. And in case you should actually not know: your posts so far have always made complete sense to me. ;)

I have read a lot about the Japanese monarchy in the present time. But when I talk about its past, what I say is usually rather an impression, an impression that is based on facts, but not on all facts that are available. That means that my opinion may change when I learn new facts. What I said about Hirohito´s education is mainly based on what I know about his foster father, elderly Count Sumiyoshi Kawamura, a former admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and about the headmaster of the Peers School that Hirohito later attended, General Maresuke Nogi.

Hirohito, at the age of two months, was handed over to Count Kawamura and his wife Countess Haruko. Kawamura had been very hesitant to accept this task, supposedly because of his advanced age, but at last promised to do his “duty.” One year later, Hirohito´s younger brother Yasuhito (later Chichibu) was born and joined him at the old admiral´s home. The two princes passed their first years in an atmosphere that was as homespun as it was ascetic. Kawamura´s favoured method of disciplining the often mischievous Hirohito was to threaten to declare Prince Chichibu the “senior” prince in the house. When Hirohito was only three years old, the admiral died at age 67. Later, from the age of seven, Hirohito´s education was supervised by the headmaster of the Peers School, General Maresuke Nogi, a popular national hero who would become one of the major influences on Hirohito’s life. When Hirohito was eleven, his grandfather, the Meiji Emperor died. On the day of the emperor’s funeral, as the guns marking the departure of his coffin were fired from the imperial palace, Count Nogi sliced open his abdomen and his wife plunged a dagger into her throat in the traditional precept of Japanese ritual suicide, seppuku, by which the couple followed the emperor into death.

In his suicide letter, the general said that he wished to expiate for having lost a banner of the emperor in a battle, and for the fact that when he captured Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War, he had lost, from his point of view, too many soldiers. That may be all well and good. But the general´s wife bore certainly no responsibility whatsoever for any of these incidents. Still, it was obviously taken for granted that she would willingly die with her husband. There is a photo that was taken of Nogi and his wife on the day of their death. (scroll down) On it, the poor soul looks to me terribly scared. :sad: I have to openly confess that general Maresuke Nogi does not have my sympathies, nor do I believe his influence on Hirohito´s personality to have been very beneficial.

It is obvious, at least to me, that he towards the end of the war did not share the militaristic sentiment, hence the famous vote on whether to capitulate after Nagasaki. In a sense you can say it saved Japan from an even greater calamity.
You can say that for sure. To someone who is not German it may seem a matter of fact that a political leader will sooner or later see and admit it if a war is lost and will start to try and limit the damage. But as you probably know, Hitler, when he understood that the war was lost, ordered to destroy the very foundations of existence of the German people, provisions, buildings, roads, bridges, harvest, cattle etc. (Fortunately, just for this once many people – but by far not all! – disobeyed his orders.) So, as I am aware that such a reaction is possible, I highly appreciate the opposite decision Hirohito took. He must have known that his own life might be at stake, and he could have tried to “buy” some months more for himself by sacrificing ten thousands of his subjects. For that, he would have had to just lean back and do nothing. But he really made a big effort to end the war, and this action of his I must confess I admire without any restrictions.

I find the Japanese sense of conforming almost no matter what, to be very, very fascinating, because that sort of thinking is very alien to me, both as a person but also as a Dane.
I think that the very pronounced tendency to conformism in Japan has historical reasons and is due to the fact that Japan is an island and has been isolated for centuries. In most other countries´ history, “misfits” had the possibility to go elsewhere, to leave the village, the city, the country or even the continent if things became unbearable for them. A Japanese "misfit", in contrast, usually could not go anywhere. The country was most of the time on the brink of being overpopulated, and while it sometimes was possible or even required to change your place of living (for example, in case of a marriage), this did not mean that you could start afresh somewhere else where nobody knew you, but you rather needed to be “handed over” from your old community to the new and had to be “recommended”, so to speak.

What does baffle me however, is the ordinary Japanese. Even one who is mainly getting informed via purely Japanese news sources and who rarely travel abroad, surely should be able to understand that a continuation of the nationalist policy is playing with fire?
I am afraid, not. :sad: It seems to me that many ordinary Japanese are not correctly informed about the historical facts. And those who are interested are oftentimes being fed via internet with revisionist reasonings. I had a discussion with someone who was obviously Japanese in connection with an article about the present Japan-South Korea conflict. This turned out to be very enlightening, if somewhat depressing. For example, the man wrote: “Hashimoto recently said there is no evidence to enforced sexual slavery, not because he is shameless and imperialistic but he honestly believes there is no sound evidence for that.“ I get the impression that for people who live in Japan the question of whether the Japanese army used Korean women as sex-slaves may well seem to be on the same level as the question how much responsibility Emperor Hirohito bore for the war: matter of historical debate, and both points of view are respectable and legitimate. :ermm: And one should not be surprised that people in Japan should think so: if members of the political elite can express revisionist views that distort history without causing a storm of outrage, they cannot be totally absurd or wrong, can they? *sigh* Even if ordinary Japanese are probably aware of how such statements are received by Japan´s Asian neighbours, they may attribute these reactions to the hate propaganda that is conducted there. (Things does not get easier by the fact that such propaganda does in fact take place.) In their view, they are innocent. They do not see it as their responsibility to silence or even contradict revisionist opinions because they do not actually recognize them as revisionist. They certainly know that the Chinese use to get mad when those views are expressed, but they are not aware that the Chinese actually have a good reason to get mad. Accordingly, most Japanese would probably not expect that the world would calmly watch, for example, Korea or China attacking their country for, from their point of view, nothing, or mere propaganda lies.

And those Japanese who do understand the danger will probably hesitate to inform their fellow countrymen of it: it is very impolite in Japan to say something disagreeable or something that might make your conversation partner uneasy... :ermm:


Thank you for the example that illustrates the difference between the Danish and the Swedish attitude! I am not familiar with the differences between the two countries and have to admit that I would not have understood your general explanation without the example. :confused:

Although this has probably not been your intention, it is also a brilliant example for the fact that, for me, it totally depends on the atmosphere and the context what sort of boundaries are necessary. It is very hard to find a general rule there. “It's not what you say, but how you say it.” Depending on who says it in which way, I might find remark B either degrading and sexist, or witty and charming. And, in my opinion, it can be used both ways. As a bottom line, I think you could say, the safer you feel in general in the environment you are in, the more you can afford to allow jokes. So, your example does make a lot of sense in the frame of top-down via grassroot change, if you assume (which I would do) that the grassroot change is usually more reliable and sustainable.

And, yes: a rebirth of national pride in Japan from the grassroot level would be great. But unfortunately from what I know so far I think it is hardly realistic.

On the other hand, all the emperor can actually do, politically powerless as he is, is to serve as symbol and maybe sort of a “trend setter” to ordinary Japanese who can refer themselves to his statements and actions - if they choose. Which would amount to being sort of a grassroot movement.

Well, it is not forbidden to dream, is it? :ermm:
You are most kind, ChiaraC :)

I find your description of the important persons in Emperor Hirohitos early upbringing to be absolutely fascinating!
These important persons died in his early childhood, that must have made some impact.
Do you happen to know about his schooling and later education in his teens?

The story about Maresuke Nogi and his wife is hardly surprising. That was in complete accordance with the ancient ways of the samurai, not to be confused with Bushido - the code of the warrior.
At the storming of Port Arthus he would have seen many of his batallion and regimental commanders die, because Bushido dictated that they led from the front. And even though he would have felt an immense pride, it would have been mixed with some sadness as well, as quite a few of the staff officers, who died, would have been proteges and sometimes sons of personal friends. I.e. people he would have been familar with.
He followed the ancient code of committing seppuko when his "daimyo", i.e. the Emperor died. - A thing that was both admired and frowned upon at the same time thorughout the centuries as many, also among the new daimyos, considered it a terrible waste of experience and talent.
That his wife should follow her husband is almost a matter of course. As a samurai (I don't know if she and her husband descended from the abolished samurai class or the newly created officers caste) she would have considered her husband her lord and she would naturally have followed him in death. - Had she been younger, been a mother of infants or had a lower social status, she might very well not have committed seppuku but rather been expected to remarry.

Bushido - the Way of the Warrior, is something I have referred to a couple of times and it's essential to understanding the behavior of the Japanese military, from the lowest conscript to the higest ranking generals.
In that you are honor bound to do your utmost to achieve your goals or die trying. There is nothing inbetween! You simply cannot yield or retreat, that would a failure and a loss of face. Surrender is impossible! Doing so you are no longer a soldier, you are no longer Japanese, you are hardly human - your disgrace is complete.
That explains the extremely low rate of Japanese soldiers who were captured alive during WWII.
It also explains the attrocities committed, because people who surrendered or civillians who had submitted, had completely lost face, they were to be treated with disregard - they deserved no better.
Also, according to a psycologist I read about, the behavior of Japanese soldiers, a behavior that was tolerated and to a considerable extent encouraged by senior officers, can very simply be attributed to lack of social control.
In other words, back home in Japan, the soldiers were a part of a society where there was a lot of social control. Quarters of cities in many ways functioned as villages, everybody knew everybody else and that put a damper on any undesired behavior. But in China, there were no such limitations, they were among fellow soldiers who thought like themselves, led by officers who believed their soldiers deserved "a little fun". The Chinese civillians were subjects, people who had lost face. - They ought to have committed suicide rather than become subjects - So they were treated as subhumans.
This is something I know abput first hand, because the behavior in Japan can in many ways be compared to the atrocities in Ex-Jugoslavia. Except that those who mainly committed atrocities in Jugoslavia were not long-serving sodiers but ordinary men who suddenly had the power to do what they wanted, without any moral, legal or social restraint.

Your comparison of the military high command towards the end of WWII to Hitler is very apt indeed.
Hitler's vision was a kind of apocalyptic suicide, a Götterdämmerung (spl?). The Japanese generals had a similar vision. Capitulation or even yielding is impossible - except to save the Emperor and Japan. More on that in a moment. Their in my eyes completely insane and irrational vision was that all Japanse, tens of millions of them, should fight to the death or commit suicide. It was their durty, their debt (giri) to Japan and the Emperor.
The Allied terms of unconditional surrender was as such, according to the code of Bushido, completely unacceptable! A ceasefire, yes. A peace, where Japanese soil would not be tainted by foreign soldiers and where the Emperor was saved, yes. Unconditional surrender, impossible! That's an irretrivable loss of face.

I think one solution for Japan, could be for Japanese high school students in particular and pupils in general to travel outside Japan and to become exchange students on a much systematic level than now.
Because the adults are a lost cause, I think. It's the youth that needs to see the world and learn about the world from different perspectives.

Your comments on the Swedish Danish mentality example is interesting to me, but it's actually more subtle than that.
A Danish woman who reacted to an admittedly not very funny, but still very common, remark like that, would be looked at in disbelief by Danes. She would seen as overreacting and taking herself too serious, not to mention being too sensitive - which is something you shouldn't be in Denmark, as we a infamous for being very direct. I would lose a little respect for such a woman, - in Asian terms she would lose face.
In Sweden they adhere to political correctness, you do not utter opinios that are too controversial. While we in DK positively revel in political incorrectness! It's the rebellious mentality that stems from social changes often being made from the grassroot level and up and such changes naturally tend to be rebellious and in the beginning non-conforming.

The Japanese concept of not saying anything that would make others feel uneasy, is also pretty alien in DK, where we sometimes pride ourselves in speaking our mind, except for some considerations. I.e. politeness, not to start a conflict and most crucial not to hurt anyone's feelings (if we like that person, that is).
So this is very much a learning process for me. :) And for that I thank you.
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Japan´s present government, led by PM Shinzo Abe, may be called easily the most nationalist since the end of World War II, and it is about to finally realize one of the darling projects of Japan´s ultraconservatives, the amendment of the Constitution. Whoever may be interested in what this may mean in detail, please see Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change that names as some of the „Ten Most Dangerous Proposals“ „1. Rejecting the universality of human rights“, „2. Elevating maintenance of “public order” over all individual rights“ and „8. Granting the prime minister new power to declare “states of emergency” when the government can suspend ordinary constitutional processes“. At the same time, the government is planning to introduce a law that would allow the government to keep secret whatever they may want to keep secret, for any length of time, see here:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis. The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years. [...]

Critics see parallels between the new law and Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted, post-war constitution to stress citizen’s duties over civil rights, part of a conservative agenda that includes a stronger military and recasting Japan’s wartime history with a less apologetic tone. [...]

Legal and media experts say the law, which would impose harsh penalties on those who leak secrets or try to obtain them, is too broad and vague, making it impossible to predict what would come under its umbrella. The lack of an independent review process leaves wide latitude for abuse, they say.
All in all, one could say that Abe is attempting to break boundaries that have been taboo ever since the war in more than one respect:
Abe sparks constitutional debate with attendance at Ise Jingu ceremony
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stirred domestic controversy by visiting a Shinto shrine closely associated with the emperor, which some assert is at odds with the constitutional separation of religion and politics. Abe attended a ceremony called Sengyo no Gi held Oct. 2 at Ise Jingu shrine in Mie Prefecture. He is the first prime minister in 84 years to do so. [...]

"In the past, Ise Jingu was the fountainhead for unifying politics and religion and national polity fundamentalism," said Hisashi Yamanaka, 82, a children's literature author who has also written works related to Yasukuni Shrine. "Abe's act is clearly a return to the ways before World War II." [...]
There is reason to believe that the governments´actions are influencing the social atmosphere in the country and are already changing it for the worse:
The Shin-Okubo district of central Tokyo, until recently known as a cosmopolitan hub of the Korean pop-culture boom and long an enclave of diversity, has suddenly been thrust into the front line of jingoism as nationalist rightwingers have marched through its streets over the past several months carrying ominous placards calling for “Death to Koreans.”

This is the city that has just been awarded the 2020 Olympics? [...]

Businesses in Shin-Okubo, mostly owned by Zainichi (long-term Korean residents of Japan), have suffered a sharp fall in business as visitors steer clear of the repellant atmosphere and potential violence as counter-demonstrators confront the xenophobes. Sadly, racists have transformed Shin-Okubo into an ugly blemish on Olympic Tokyo.

What’s going on? Zainichi have lived in Japan for generations and are not prone to crime or other antisocial behavior that might incite such outbursts. They have assimilated into Japanese society and are at home here even if they are subject to significant discrimination that serves to marginalize them both economically and politically. [...]
Remarkably, though, the tenno who has ever since the Meiji era always been claimed and perceived as the main stronghold of the nationalists (not necessarily regarding the individual who happened to occupy the throne but as a symbol) seems to no longer easily serve as such. The first post-war emperor, Akihito, has apparently succeeded in changing the image of the imperial institution from dictatorial to democratic. Progressive-minded people in Japan appeal to the emperor and try to get at least his muted approval for their cause:

Parliamentary democracy without a viable opposition
A series of events took place recently demonstrating that the foundation of Japan’s democracy has become fairly fragile. Particularly noteworthy are the issue surrounding the Emperor’s political role and lawmakers’ approach to it.

Under the Constitution, the Emperor is “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people” and “shall not have powers related to government.” Japan’s Imperial system is a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch “reigns but does not govern.” However, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have indeed been issuing political messages quite frequently — in ways that can only be inferred from between the lines.

One example is the remark made by the Empress about the Constitution during a news conference on Oct. 20 marking her 79th birthday. [...] The remarks by the Empress can also be interpreted as her implicit assertion that freedom and democracy are the values that represent the tradition of modern Japan. [...]

The Emperor meanwhile visited Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, in October — the place where the Minamata disease, the worst industrial pollution in Japanese history, broke out. [...] Speaking in front of such people, the Emperor said that he would like to work toward “creating a society where people can live upholding the truth.” The remark can be interpreted as the Emperor’s objection to a statement made just before his speech by Abe, who told an international conference on the Minamata Convention on Mercury that Japan “overcame” the Minamata disease.

Novelist Genichiro Takahashi, in his commentary in the Oct. 31 issue of the Asahi Shimbun on recent opinion articles, quoted the Empress’ words on the Constitution and said he highly values the remarks. [...] On the same day, Upper House member Taro Yamamoto handed a letter to the Emperor during a garden party hosted by the Imperial couple, in which he reportedly tried to tell of the plight suffered by people who are affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. [...] Both Takahashi and Yamamoto take a liberal or progressive political position and oppose the Abe administration’s agenda to revise the Constitution and restart nuclear power plants. And the two events that happened on the same day indicate that progressive-minded people in Japan have gone as far as to rely on the Emperor’s authority to justify their own arguments. [...]

During a ceremony organized by the Abe administration on April 28 to mark the anniversary of the day that Japan regained independence from postwar occupation with the San Francisco Peace Treating going into force, participants shouted “Tenno Heika banzai!” (Long Live the Emperor!), at which point the Emperor showed an expression of apparent bewilderment. This indicates that there is a gap between the values symbolized by Emperor Akihito and the ideological direction of the Abe administration. [...]

The situation in which opinion leaders in the progressive camp feel like relying on the authority of the Emperor points to a crisis of democracy.[...]
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For whoever may be interested to take a look at the emperor and empress gloomily attending the "National Sovereignty Day", see here. The empress´remarks about the Constitution were the following:

[...] It seems to me that this year, before and after the Constitution Memorial Day in May, we saw more active discussion regarding the Constitution than in previous years. As I followed the discussion, mainly in the papers, I recalled the Itsukaichi Constitution draft, which we once saw at the Folk Museum of Itsukaichi during our visit to Itsukaichi in Akiruno city.

Many years before the Meiji Constitution was promulgated in 1890, the local elementary school teachers, village heads, farmers, and other common people gathered together, and after much deliberation, drew up a private draft Constitution.

The Constitution contains 204 articles, including those about respect for basic human rights, guarantee of freedom of education, the obligation to receive education, equality under law, as well as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and it also mentions local autonomy.

I was told that similar draft constitutions were drawn up by the people in more than 40 places across Japan at the time. I was deeply impressed by the strong desire for political participation of the people who lived at the dawn of modern Japan and their passionate hopes for the future of our country. As a document of how ordinary citizens in Japan had already developed an awareness of civil rights at the end of the 19th century, in a country which was just opening up after years of closure, I think it is a rare cultural asset in the world. [...]
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Regarding Upper House member Taro Yamamoto who handed a letter to the emperor in which he reportedly tried to better inform him about the suffering of Fukushima victims, see, for example, this article and this thread.
Thanks ChiaraC :flowers:

Dangerous times ahead for Japan!
Because who is going to help Japan if China should decide to say "that's it"? (A naval and/or air exchange of fire seems to getting closer, followed by a trade embargo by China).

The UN? - Ha!
Other East Asian countries? - Whom the Japanese nationalists are busy alienating? - Yeah, right!
USA? - With the economic influence China has? Not to mention that Japan don't seem particular popular among the Americans anyway. At least not enough to make the Americans willing to do too much.
Europe? - To far away and not our problem - and China is more influential here anyway.
In short: Japan is on their own, should the nationalist do something monumentally stupid. And nationalists tend to want to do stupid things.
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Thank you, Muhler! :flowers:

Because who is going to help Japan if China should decide to say "that's it"?
Well, I am not the only one to suppose that there is a reason for why they are now sending the elderly and frail emperor and empress to visit India. But while it may be possible to boost the cultural exchange and trade between the two countries, I somehow doubt that India will be much help to Japan if there should a be serious conflict with China.

Europe? - To far away and not our problem - and China is more influential here anyway.
I do not really know about Europe in general, but regarding Germany, there definitely is a surprising lack of interest in Japan´s affairs, even more surprising as there usually tends to be a strong interest here in all sorts of nationalist movements in other countries, for obvious historical reasons. But in this case, there is hardly anything to be found in the German media. If I am somewhat informed about the political situation in Japan, it is definitely not due to German sources.

And nationalists tend to want to do stupid things.
That is unfortunately very true. :sad:
For whoever may be interested to take a look at the emperor and empress gloomily attending the "National Sovereignty Day", see here. The empress´remarks about the Constitution were the following: The Yomiuri Shimbun Regarding Upper House member Taro Yamamoto who handed a letter to the emperor in which he reportedly tried to better inform him about the suffering of Fukushima victims, see, for example, this article and this thread.

Were these comments seen as controversial at all? These could be construed as a thinly-veiled attack on the proposed constitution's provisions for lack of transparency in the government.
Whatever the emperor and empress say is by definition not controversial... ;)
Seriously, the emperor and the imperial family members always make sure to express themselves in a way that is open to various interpretations, in case this should be needed.

For example, at the Autumn Garden Party in 2004, Tokyo Board of Education member Kunio Yonenaga introduced himself to the emperor saying, "It is my job to see to it that in all the middle schools of Japan, everyone is made to raise the flag and sing the national anthem." The emperor replied, with deadly wistful understatement and indirection, "You know, it would desirable that it were done in a way that could not be called forcible." (You have to be aware that in some cases it has in fact happened that teachers, after having been attentively watched during the general singing of the anthem, were fired because it was found that they had not moved their lips during the singing. You have to also be aware that the national anthem has remained the same as during war time and still carries strong nationalist associations which is why it has been for a long time generally rather uncommon to sing it and which is also why many Japanese still feel very uncomfortable with it - an emotion I can very well understand. I suppose it is a bit like as if someone forced me to sing the Horst-Wessel-Lied...)

Most watchers think that the emperor´s answer to Yonenaga shows much understanding of the scruples of those who refuse to sing the anthem and disapproval of the pressure to conform that is put on them. Still, for those who find this interpretation of the emperor´s words too inconvenient, it is not absolutely impossible to find another:

In 2004, Hirohito’s son, Emperor Akihito triggered another debate when he told Kunio Yonenaga, a member of the Tokyo Board of Education, that it was “desirable not to force” teachers to sing Japan’s flag and national anthem in schools. Yonenaga had been enthusiastically reporting to the monarch that it was “his job” to have schoolchildren sing the anthem, a pean to the man in front of him.

Some interpreted this incident as evidence of the current Emperor’s liberal leanings, but Yuzawa disagrees. [Yutaka Yuzawa is the head of "Shinto Seiji Renmei" ("Shinto-Government Association") that strives for Shinto affiliation in government.] “In this case, Yoneyama was taking an extreme position, so his majesty was trying to show other opinions and give space for the public to discuss it. It doesn’t mean he was against Yoneyama’s stance, he was just giving an alternative way of thinking about it.”
The Japan Times

Mind you, I am absolutely convinced that Yuzawa is wrong and Akihito in fact did want to criticize the governments´attempts to pressurize people into a sort of nationalism that they have neither chosen nor reflected upon because that would be in line with all we know about Akihito´s personality. Still, as long as Akihito does not directly and openly say, "I really wish you would let people decide for themselves if they want to sing the anthem or not.", as long as on a occasion like the National Restoration Day he will look uncomfortable and unhappy but will not absolutely refuse to attend, it is possible for all sorts of people to presume and claim that he supports their views or is not absolutely against them, for the very least, if they like.

In the same way, I, for one, - as well as some others, obviously - do not doubt that the empress´ remarks are in fact an attack not only on the proposed constitution's provisions for lack of transparency but, more generally, on the government´s attempt to annihilate Japan´s democratic structures and the people´s constitutional civil rights (that, so far, are all but perfect but undeniably still somehow there). But if you accused her of taking a political stance, she would have to be discharged because of lack of hard evidence...
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But if you accused her of taking a political stance, she would have to be discharged because of lack of hard evidence...
As always, very interesting information. Not accusing her at all, but certainly very interesting that the Japanese royals have found a way to still be politically relevant and part of the conversation.
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:previous: Thank you! :flowers:
Actually, you know, it is imo a much-needed act of self defense by Japan´s royals to find a way to actively make their views known, at least to a certain extent. Otherwise, they would just politically be "held hostage" by Japan´s ruling politicians, compelled to passively (but effectively!) serve their agenda. Not everybody will feel comfortable with the idea of lending one´s name in order to oppress and silence the common people. Japan´s emperor and empress clearly don´t.
As filmmaker Tatsuya Mori says in the following article, the Emperor cannot avoid politics.

Emperor’s apparent liberal leanings jar with Japan’s right wing
In the media debate about the state secrets bill, much has been said about the public’s right to know. Participants in a democratic society must be informed to make decisions in their interest, and critics of the bill, which ostensibly protects matters of national security, believe it will be used to keep people in the dark about anything the government doesn’t want revealed or discussed openly.

But even before there is a law limiting the dispersal of official information, Japanese citizens operate with a built-in filter that controls what an individual believes he or she has a right to say. According to documentary filmmaker Tatsuya Mori, this self-censorship function is a holdover from the prewar regime’s effort to monitor the hearts and minds of the populace, and its main tool in that effort was emperor worship.

In an interview published in the Asahi Shimbun on Nov. 27, Mori talks about the recent controversy surrounding rookie lawmaker Taro Yamamoto, who handed Emperor Akihito a letter during the annual autumn garden party at the Imperial Palace. [...]

Mori asked a group of university students for their opinion of the incident and everyone said Yamamoto had been “rude,” even “blasphemous.” [...] What struck Mori was that all of these young people were born during the current Heisei Era, and yet their approach to the Emperor was effectively no different from the public’s reverence prior to the end of World War II, when Hirohito was considered a deity. [...]

When the interviewer points out that the Emperor, whose role is defined in the Constitution as being symbolic, is not supposed to be “used” for political purposes, Mori says the Emperor cannot avoid politics. The United States decided not to remove Hirohito after the war so as to make it easier for the Japanese people to accept its authority during the Occupation. He was used by the American military to achieve its goals, just as the wartime Japanese government used him for its own purposes. [...]

In April last year, the government celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the American Occupation with a ceremony attended by the Emperor and Empress. Since the LDP was sponsoring the event, it was politically “using” the Emperor, and when the Imperial couple left the stage, shouts of “Banzai!” — a remnant of emperor worship — erupted from many members of the audience, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. [...] When the shouting started, Mori said, “The Emperor looked much more perplexed than when he received the letter from Yamamoto.”

It’s not the first time the Emperor has resisted, passively or actively, the role that some want him to fill. [...] Rumors persist that he wants to visit South Korea but that the government won’t let him, saying it doesn’t want the Emperor to be used politically by South Koreans. But isn’t preventing him from going also motivated by politics?

Mori, who once planned a documentary about the imperial system, likes the Emperor because he appeals to his own liberal leanings, which is why genuine right-wingers, such as former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, aren’t interested in the Emperor as a person. Their agenda really has no use for the kind of open-mindedness the Emperor occasionally demonstrates. [...]
Please also note the very interesting comments. One of them compares Akihito´s role as constitutional monarch to that of the Queen, saying that Yamamoto`s appeal to the emperor - that met with such outrage in Japan - would have been a matter of course in Britain:
The Queen receives -literally- hundreds of letters daily. Many contains problems/complaints from UK citizens, and ask for Her Majesty's help. As she herself said (in the 1992 documentary Elizabeth R) while she was reading a selection from her post, "Rather nice to think that one is able to help and that the buck stops here." (Quoting the sign Truman had on his desk.) The letters are passed on to an appropriate governmental official for possible solution, while all (except those from obvious nutters) are gracefully acknowledged.

I'm sure other Heads of State -whether monarch or president- receive the same sort of letters. Point is, Elizabeth II -like Akihito- is a constitutional monarch, but she is not a mere cypher. Being the "human face at the centre of government" others will turn to them. We will never know how many persons have been helped with difficulties, but at least they have done what their role does allow. [...]

Japan must take first step away from precipice of war in east Asia
Sir, I completely agree with Martin Wolf, that, as east Asia approaches 2014, there is a grave risk of a scenario reminiscent of Europe in 1914 [...]

Were [...] current Emperor Akihito to travel to Seoul and reflect at the monument erected in memory of the "comfort women", and from there to go to China and pay tribute at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to all those who were massacred, tortured, raped and buried alive, then we could declare that the second world war is over and that the road to peace in the 21st century is becoming clearer, even if it is still challenging.

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba recently claimed that street protesters who voiced opposition to the new state secrets bill by shouting it in public demonstrations were doing something “not so fundamentally different from an act of terrorism”. (Source) Considering the degree to which self-censorship already is in fact established in Japan´s media system and every day life, this statement is as absurd as it is dangerous. A country in which it is deemed an act of terrorism to publicly state that you happen to disagree with the political line of the government has imo clearly lost the right to call itself a democracy. The day on which this may happen to Japan seems terribly close.
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As always, the wealth of information you provide ChiaraC is most appreciated. :flowers:

A little question: Taro Yamamoto, is he by any chance a decendant of admiral Yamamoto?
That would perhaps explain his, in current Japanese terms, liberal political stance.
Thank you, Muhler! :flowers:
Regarding Yamamoto, I have unfortunately no idea who his ancestors are, and quite frankly, I know nothing about admiral Yamamoto. :blush:
But then it seems to me that "Yamamoto" would not be such a rare name in Japan.
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Admiral Yamamoto was the admiral tasked with the strategic planning (but not the execution of) the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 - and the naval offensive afterwards.

He was an interesting man, not only as a strategist but because he cautioned the then ultra-nationalistic leadership in Japan from attacking USA.
He had been stationed in USA as a military attache before the war, and he had travelled the country and knew quite a few Americans and as such he understood the American mindset and not least the strategic and industrial capabillities of USA.
That was in complete contrast to the vast majority of the Japanese military and political leadership, who understood little of, let alone had visited, the western countries.

After the abolishment of the shogunate, forced by USA in the 1860's, the majority of the first generation of Japanese staff officers in the modern terms of the word, studied and were stationed for extended periods in western countries. As such they were influenced by and certainly learned about western mindset, which IMO had the consequence that Japanese treatment of prisoners and general attitude during the Russian-Japanese War of 1905 and WWI was much more in line with the prevailiant western moral at that time. I.e. the Japanese military was much less rabid and much less fanatical than during WWII.
Which also means that the excuse some use to explain away ordinary Japanese soldiers bahavior in China during the 1930's is not valid. Since their fathers and grandfather's behavior was much more disciplined. And similar excesses as the ones perpetrated in China were much less tolerated, and certainly not actively encouraged beforehand.

By the late 1920 and early 1930's that first generation of staff officers had long since retired and few Japanese officers were now stationed abroad. That lack of outside influence combined with the increasingly nationalist political climate and the surpression of political opposition meant that especially young officers were more inclined to join the hardliners. Partly because they genuinely believed in it but also for career reasons. So the officer corps grew ever more fanatical while they at the same time knew and understood less and less about how things looked from outside Japan.
That culminated with the genuine Japanese lack of understanding and deep sense of being insulted by the western critisism of Japanese behavior in China in the 1930's. Why, everybody had invaded China at some point, so why not Japan? - Well, it wasn't perhaps so much the expansionist policy as the methods used by the Japanese military the west objected to... Somewhat akin to Italy's invasion of Abbyssinia.
Anyway, the Japanese high command merely closed their eyes even more to the foreign political realities and worse, ignored the lessons they ought to have learned during the border battles along the Manchurian frontier between Japanese and Soviet forces during the early 1930's. Where Japan really got a bloody nose!
As such Japan was in for a very brutal awakening after the attack on Pearl Harbour - just as admiral Yamamoto had warned.

But Yamamoto was a traditional officer who would not dream of resigning in protest, but instead he planned and launched the attack that he deep down knew would most likely end in, at best a negotiated settlement after six months or so, at worst in defeat.
He prediction was dead right, almost to the day.
Yamamoto was shot down, when flying in a transport plane in 1943 IIRC.
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Thanks for your informative posts and great job of explaining the complex situation surrounding the Japanese Emperor. :flowers::flowers::flowers:

Like his Europeans counterparts, Emperor Akihito participates in politics to a certain degree and furthers a Prime Minister's wish to reinforce strategic partnerships with a given country. Japan and China have and will have difficult relationships heavily aggravated by the past. For instance, the recent trip to India might be viewed as a display of the time-tested realpolitik maxim— “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
What does further dragging Emperor Akihito into the messy politics achieve? Making Emperor take sides in a political debate will definitely contribute to a discord within the Japanese society. The IHA will not allow it to happen.
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Thanks for your informative posts and great job of explaining the complex situation surrounding the Japanese Emperor. :flowers::flowers::flowers:
Thank you very much for your kind words! :flowers:

What does further dragging Emperor Akihito into the messy politics achieve? Making Emperor take sides in a political debate will definitely contribute to a discord within the Japanese society. The IHA will not allow it to happen.
Unfortunately, I doubt that the IHA would have the power to prevent it because, at least as it seems to me, it is the other way round: the political discord in Japan may become so grave that the emperor - as the symbol of Japan´s unity - will necessarily be dragged into it. If there is no unity left, what is he meant to symbolize? As I have said above, the very constitutional basis of post-war Japan, democracy and peacefulness is in danger of being destroyed. Those are the very values Emperor Akihito has taken pains to support and uphold during all the time of his reign. If now they should be dismissed by Japan´s government, what would become of him?

Experts speak of a possible war in Asia - I do not see how Emperor Akihito could survive its start. It would mean the ruin and shattering of his life work, of all he ever lived for.


VOX POPULI: 2013 and an alarming revival of prewar values
January 11, 2014
When Shinzo Abe began his second stint as prime minister in late December 2012, he proceeded with caution at first. But lately, he has become like a cocky, aggressive driver. He should take care to watch out for dangerous potholes in unexpected places. [...]

On his 80th birthday, Emperor Akihito picked World War II as the event that left the strongest impression in his long life. He said: "Under the postwar Allied occupation, Japan adopted the Constitution as a means for protecting precious peace and democracy, and built Japan into what it is today through various reforms."
The current trend toward reviving prewar values is alarming. The controversial state secrets protection bill became law. Kunio Suzuki, 70, adviser to the right-wing nationalist group Issuikai, noted: "Having been a right-wing activist for more than 40 years, I find today's rightist movement too dangerous for my liking. That's because there aren't enough people left nowadays who understand the true horrors of war." [...]

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who defied apartheid, died on Dec. 5. We must take to heart the words of Marianne Severin, a South African studies expert, who warned to the effect, "Democracy will atrophy unless every citizen carries out Mandala's legacy, which is that sovereignty rests in every citizen."
Admiral Yamamoto was the admiral tasked with the strategic planning (but not the execution of) the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 - and the naval offensive afterwards.

He was an interesting man, not only as a strategist but because he cautioned the then ultra-nationalistic leadership in Japan from attacking USA.
Thank you very much for telling his story :flowers: - I had never heard of him before, and he really is an interesting man. Tragic even.

That culminated with the genuine Japanese lack of understanding and deep sense of being insulted by the western critisism of Japanese behavior in China in the 1930's. Why, everybody had invaded China at some point, so why not Japan? - Well, it wasn't perhaps so much the expansionist policy as the methods used by the Japanese military the west objected to...
You know, I do think that the Western criticism of Japan´s actions was at times and in some respects rather hypocritical. What I find much more alarming is the Japanese tendency to defend their actions even today - whereas for example a lot of US-citizens would probably freely admit that the war in Vietnam was not such a good idea as was thought at the time, and the atrocities committed were simply appalling. It is probably human to defend the actions you have just committed - but should not it be possible to sincerely apologize 70 years later?
You know, I do think that the Western criticism of Japan´s actions was at times and in some respects rather hypocritical. What I find much more alarming is the Japanese tendency to defend their actions even today - whereas for example a lot of US-citizens would probably freely admit that the war in Vietnam was not such a good idea as was thought at the time, and the atrocities committed were simply appalling. It is probably human to defend the actions you have just committed - but should not it be possible to sincerely apologize 70 years later?

That is something I believe I can understand. I.e. the reasoning behind that mindset. It's the tribal/village/island mentallity that sets in. - You close ranks to the outside world if they dare to critizise you tribe/village/island. - While alone or with close friends you can admit that there is probably some degree of truth in that. But once out with the other members of the tribe you collectively close your eyes.
That mentallity can sometimes be completely irrational.
In a society that is much less conform and more exposed to outside views on a daily basis, that kind of mindset has more problems thriwing.

(You being a vivid follower of Asian culture I can refer to an extreme case of that mindset. At the Chinese Imperial Court during the Taiping Rebellion, towards western forces approaching Beijing. - They went into a state of denial that seems utterly insane! I mean, you have to read it twice to even start believing it! - Comical Ali would have been green with envy)!
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Commentary / Japan | SENTAKU MAGAZINE
Imperial family will pay close attention to Abe’s statement | May 11, 2015

In a written response to questions from members of the Imperial Household Agency’s press club on Oct. 20 [2013], the Empress noted that debates on the Constitution were becoming much more active than in the past and referred to a meeting of local teachers, landowners and farmers who gathered in the city of Akiruno in Tokyo prior to the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution in 1889. She wrote that she was greatly moved when she saw the draft constitution written by them.

Her statement went on to say, “I was told that similar draft constitutions were drawn up by the people in more than 40 places across Japan at the time. I was deeply impressed by the strong desire for political participation of the people … and their passionate hopes for the future of our country. As a document of how ordinary citizens in Japan had already developed an awareness of civil rights at the end of the 19th century … I think it is a rare cultural asset in the world.”

A natural interpretation of her words would be that she disagrees with the view that the present Constitution was forced upon Japan after the war by the Occupation forces and that she is concerned with the move by the Abe government to force a constitutional amendment on the people in a top-down manner.

Two months later, on Dec. 18 [2013], the Emperor told a press conference, “After the war, Japan was occupied by the Allied forces, and based on peace and democracy as values to be upheld, established the Constitution of Japan, undertook various reforms and built the foundation of Japan that we know today. I have profound gratitude for the efforts made by the Japanese people at the time … I also feel that we must not forget the help extended to us in those days by Americans …”

And on Feb. 21 last year [2014], Crown Prince Naruhito said at a press conference held two days before his birthday, “The Japan of today has been built throughout the postwar period based on the foundation of the Constitution of Japan … I believe that it is important to continue to attend to duties in a manner compliant with the Constitution, while receiving the necessary advice.”

When a reporter asked Yutaka Kawashima, grand chamberlain of the Imperial Household Agency, if the Emperor and the Empress were skeptical about Abe’s call for amending the Constitution, he shouted, “How do you think I can answer such a question?”, breaking wooden chopsticks in anger. His reply is tantamount to giving an affirmative response.

The comments made by the empress on her birthday in 2013 have been discussed here.
Jeff Kingston: Emperor Akihito's succession offers lessons in modern monarchy- Nikkei Asian Review

There was a striking contrast in the respective 70th anniversary commemoration statements by Abe and by Emperor Akihito that highlighted the ongoing political divide between the revisionists and the understanding of most Japanese about how the nation got to where it is today.

Noting the deaths of more than 3 million Japanese during World War II, Abe asserted that Japan's current peace rests on those "precious sacrifices," and that they were the origin of postwar Japan. This assertion that wartime sacrifices begot contemporary peace is the revisionist conceit, one that Emperor Akihito clearly rejected on Aug. 15, 2015, when he said, "Our country today enjoys peace and prosperity, thanks to the ceaseless efforts made by the people of Japan toward recovery from the devastation of the war and toward development, always backed by their earnest desire for the continuation of peace."

Peace and prosperity, in the emperor's view, did not come from treating the Japanese people like cannon fodder during the war, but rather was based on their postwar efforts to overcome the tragedy inflicted by the nation's expansionist leaders.
Ceallach has already linked to the following article in the thread on the Emperor's possible abdication. :flowers: As I planned to post pieces of it in this thread, I hope that I can still do so.

The article is incorrect in saying the constitution does not allow abdication, and in dubbing Nippon Kaigi a "cult", but it is worth reading.

The Emperor Strikes Back: Japan's Monarch Takes On Imperialist Abe - The Daily Beast
Media reports in Japan already are calling the consideration of abdication the current emperor’s final act of resistance against the prime minister, a bid to halt the return to Japan’s aggressive pre-war attitudes and policies. […]

He used the phrase “symbol of the state” six times. It was a pointed reference to the dark time in Japan’s history where the emperor was not a symbol but the divine ruler of Imperial Japan. […]

The NHK report last month of the emperor’s possible abdication plans, coming just days after the elections, was seen as a move to throw cold water on Abe’s evident ardor for old Imperial glories.

Not surprisingly, after the NHK scoop Abe’s people at first vehemently denied reports that the emperor wished to retire. According to Japanese reporters covering the administration, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga angrily scolded NHK reporters for having the audacity to broadcast the news without letting him know in advance, and a witch hunt supposedly was launched within the Imperial Househould Agency to find out where the leak came from. […]

This is a pivotal moment in Japanese history, and for the emperor there must be a grim sense of déjà vu. Since Prime Minister Abe took office in 2012, Japan’s World Press Freedom ranking has declined to 72; down from 11 in 2010.

The state secrecy bills which make it a potential crime even to ask persistent questions, were passed into laws amid huge protests.

Japan’s remilitarization is steadily underway. The weapons industry has been revived; the country is shipping arms.

The State Security Laws will enable Japan to wage war overseas for the first time since the war ended. […]

In light of the current administration’s revisionist inclinations, many observers have picked up on a significant shift in the tone and content of the Emperors’ public statements. This year alone, he has referred several times to wartime experiences and “the need to study and learn from this war.”

Prime Minister Abe and his political allies have long derided Japan’s constitution as a humiliation imposed upon the Japanese people by the United States occupation government, impinging on “basic human rights.” […]

It is not only the emperor who has been vocal about the current administration’s current misguided reverence for the Imperial Family. The number of times Prince Naruhito has referred to the Japanese Constitution in his annual birthday press conferences has gone up significantly since 2012. He has also spoken of the necessity to correctly pass down history to future generations seemingly a jab at Abe’s constant denial or minimization of Japan’s wartime crimes.

Even the Empress Michiko, always beside her husband physically and ideologically, when asked on her birthday in 2014 about her thoughts on upcoming 70th anniversary of the war, pointed out the grave responsibility of Japan’s war criminals.

It was something that the Japanese popular press attempted to ignore. Litera, a Japanese news and research site, suggested this was in direct response to Abe sending an official message of condolence, as the leader of the LDP, to the memorial services honoring the Class A war criminals that year. […]

On the other hand, in recent years, the Royal Couple have visited the sites where Japanese soldiers died overseas, expressing their condolences also to the foreign nationals killed in the war. […]

Even in Monday’s speech, Emperor Akihito pointed out that he was a state symbol under Japan’s constitution, not a leader. On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Abe had planned a glorious revisionist address, the Abe Danwa (discourse) where the vocabulary traditionally featured by his predecessors—“colonial rule,” ”invasion,” “remorse,” “apology”—would be omitted for the first time. However, in the end Abe had to defer to his elder.

A senior LDP member told The Daily Beast, “Abe was anxiously obsessing over the probable content of the emperor’s address since he could not present something that does not align with it. In the end, he had to capitulate, keep the old wording, and made a mealy-mouthed insincere apology.” […]

Abe is also a special advisor to the political branch of Nippon Kaigi, an emperor-worshipping Shinto cult and the majority of his cabinet are also members of the group, which wields considerable influence. […]

One of the most terrifying thoughts for the Abe administration after today’s speech must be about what will happen after the crown has been passed. Imagine what the retired Emperor would say once he steps off the Chrysanthemum Throne….

“Everything the Emperor says is correct,” said the acting head of Nippon Kaigi, Tadae Takubo, in a press conference last month. […]
Thanks for the video!:flowers:
The subject is not surprising. Prime Minister Abe announced possible changes of/ revisions to the 1947 Constitution several years ago. Possible reinterpretation of the pacifist status of the SDF was mentioned as well. The Japanese navy is impressive.
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The Liberal Democratic Party has passed a rule change to allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to seek a third term as party president, which means that he in all probability will remain as prime minister until September 2021. That would give him four and a half years to implement his goals to invest the emperor as the "head of state" rather than "symbol of the state" and restore former branches of the imperial family.
Okay so bad news for those who want a Japanese Empress for the first time in so many years. I honestly find the Ultra-Conservatives in Japan to be rather annoying but I enjoy the prospect of Japan becoming known as something like the Japanese Imperial State or Imperial State of Japan or something like that. Heck Imperial Japanese National Self Defense Force (IJNSDF) sounds rather cool in my opinion but I think that this would royally (no pun intended I swear) upset the PRC and South Korea.

-Frozen Royalist
New education minister supports prewar rescript urging children's loyalty to emperor - The Mainichi
Opposition lawmakers have slammed new education minister Masahiko Shibayama for his remark on his first day in office that the prewar Imperial Rescript on Education stressing loyalty to the emperor is "universal" and can be used for moral education classes.


Shibayama told a press conference on Oct. 2 that the rescript has "portions that have universality in a sense that they can be used for moral education today." He also talked positively about moves to rearrange the document's wording for contemporary education, saying they are "worth consideration."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was quick to downplay Shibayama's statement. He told an Oct. 3 press conference that the government "has no intention to actively utilize the Imperial Rescript on Education for school education," adding, "I assume that the remark was intended as a general argument that it is up to schools to decide" on the use of the document.


Yeees, quite a few politicians these years want us to walk around with a stiff right arm...
Pretty worrying!

I'm in no doubt that Masahiko Shibayama actually speaks for many party members - even though they are not supposed to say such things out loud.
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