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Japan Cabinet allows schools to study banned imperial order

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/04/2017 By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2016 file photo, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference after he reshuffled his Cabinet at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. Opposition politicians on Tuesday, April 4, criticized a decision by Japan’s Cabinet to allow schools to study a 19th century imperial order on education that was banned after World War II for promoting militarism and emperor worship, saying it’s a sign that Abe’s government is becoming more nationalistic. The Cabinet adopted the policy Friday, March 31. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2016 file photo, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference after he reshuffled his Cabinet at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. Opposition politicians on Tuesday, April 4, criticized a decision by Japan’s Cabinet to allow schools to study a 19th century imperial order on education that was banned after World War II for promoting militarism and emperor worship, saying it’s a sign that Abe’s government is becoming more nationalistic. The Cabinet adopted the policy Friday, March 31. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

TOKYO — Opposition politicians on Tuesday criticized a decision by Japan's Cabinet to allow schools to study a 19th century imperial order on education that was banned after World War II for promoting militarism and emperor worship, saying it's a sign that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is becoming more nationalistic.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the Imperial Rescript on Education should be allowed as teaching material if it is used in line with the constitution and the education law. The Cabinet adopted the policy Friday. He added, however, that schools should primarily follow the government-approved curriculum.

Opposition politicians on Tuesday called the move unconstitutional and unacceptable.

"The decision clearly underscores an attempt by the Abe government to reinstate prewar (philosophy)," opposition Democratic Party policy research chief Hiroshi Ogushi told reporters.

The rescript, which all students were required to memorize, called on Japanese to sacrifice themselves for the emperor and his empire. It was issued in the name of Emperor Meiji in 1890 at the beginning of Japan's half century of expansionism and militarism.

The rescript was recited at schools as students and teachers bowed before photos of the emperor and empress, and was included in moral discipline textbooks until it was banned by parliament in 1948.

The rescript recently captured national attention because of a political scandal involving a school whose ultra-nationalistic owner, Yasunori Kagoike, taught students to recite it daily.

Kagoike, former head of the Moritomo Gakuen group, testified in parliament that Abe donated 1 million yen ($9,000) through his wife in 2015 to the school, which became embroiled in a scandal over its purchase of state property in 2016 at one-seventh the appraised price. Abe, who has praised Kagoike, has denied making a donation, which is not illegal, or influencing the property sale.

Kagoike is among many Japanese conservatives who have tried to reinstate the imperial rescript.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told a recent parliamentary session that the rescript contains universal values such as respect for parents that can help create a moral nation. "Its core spirit should be reclaimed," she said. "I don't think we should say the rescript is entirely wrong."

Historian Masanori Tsujita, an expert on wartime history, disagrees, saying the family ties, friendship and other virtues advocated by the rescript were for the benefit of the imperial system, and suppressed civil rights.

"Should it be reinstated for public use? The answer is clearly no," Tsujita wrote recently in a Gendai Business magazine article.

The Cabinet said it would be "inappropriate" to use the rescript as the sole basis of national education, and officials deny that the Abe government supports militarism.

Abe has pushed educational reforms that promote traditional gender roles, respect for Japanese heritage, traditional martial arts, and a downgrading of Japan's wartime atrocities, some experts say.

Recently, the education ministry instructed the publisher of a moral education textbook to replace a reference to a bakery with a Japanese sweet shop to encourage patriotism.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/mari%20yamaguchi

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