Anger, confusion as Japan revives militaristic edict

2017-04-20 09:43
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  (Shizuo Kambayashi, AFP)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Shizuo Kambayashi, AFP)

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Tokyo - Japan's century-old imperial proclamation urging people to be willing to die for the emperor was consigned to history books until video surfaced showing children in an Osaka kindergarten enthusiastically reciting it.

A cabinet decision allowing schools to teach the long-banished edict, which was used to promote militarism in the 1930s and 1940s, has delighted hardcore nationalists, but left many Japanese scratching their heads.

Others were horrified at the sight of youngsters chanting the archaic proclamation, even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife, Akie, praised them during a visit to the school, run by a nationalist seeking to inculcate pupils with pre-war values.

The once-revered Imperial Rescript on Education, issued in 1890, was abolished after Japan's World War II defeat at the hands of the US over concerns it had contributed to creating a militaristic culture.

It exhorted citizens to "offer yourselves courageously to the State" so as to "guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne".

Abe and his fellow conservatives have sought to stealthily bring it back into vogue, as part of a bid to revive traditional values that have lost their shine following the introduction of an American-penned pacifist constitution which renounces war and designates the emperor as a figurehead.

Some constitutional scholars have expressed concern over the government's attempt to expose impressionable minds to a document with "fanatic and cult-like" leanings.

The edict was once considered so sacred that school principals who accidentally disrespected the document would commit suicide out of shame or fear of punishment, according to some accounts.

The clumsily managed revival has left many Japanese confused over the 19th-century edict's relevance to their hectic 21st-century lives.

Read more on:    japan

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