City Hall to appeal ‘Kimigayo’ ruling

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday that City Hall will appeal Thursday’s 12.03 million yen district court ruling against the “Kimigayo” directive, which obliges Tokyo’s teachers to sing the national anthem before the national flag at school ceremonies.

“We will appeal as a matter of course,” the well-known nationalist said at a regular press conference. “The judge should see what the situation is like at places such as metropolitan high schools.”

He also said punishing teachers for not obeying the directive from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government board of education was “only natural because they neglected their duties as teachers.”

Having students and teachers “pay respect to the national flag and anthem is one way to restore discipline” to the schools, the governor said.

Meanwhile several ministers said they were surprised by the ruling.

Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura said Friday that it was “unbelievable” a lawsuit could be filed over the raising of the national flag and the singing of the anthem.

While saying it was his “personal view as a lawmaker,” the justice minister told a news conference that “Kimigayo” and the Hinomaru have been accepted as Japan’s national anthem and flag since the 1868 Meiji Restoration.

The Hinomaru did not officially become the national flag until 1999, when “Kimigayo” became the official anthem.

Referring to the part of the ruling that said, “The Hinomaru flag and ‘Kimigayo’ anthem were the spiritual backbone that supported imperialism and militarism until the end of World War II,” the minister said the flag and anthem have nothing to do with events that led to the war.

Sugiura, who is also a member of the House of Representatives from the Liberal Democratic Party, also said that Britain’s national flag is called “the bloodstained Union Jack” but that the British people have never changed it.

In recent years, the government and politicians have been making steady efforts to promote patriotism.

Education minister Kenji Kosaka said at a separate news conference that the court’s decision was unexpected, given past rulings in similar lawsuits.

Kosaka declined to comment on the disciplinary action Tokyo metes out to teachers who refuse to obey the directive. “It is up to the judicial authorities to decide whether it is legal,” he said.

Meanwhile, about 50 of the 401 plaintiffs in the lawsuit and their lawyers went to the metro board of education Friday to demand it repeal punishments imposed on 345 teaching staff. They also asked the board not to appeal the district court ruling.

In Thursday’s ruling, presiding Judge Koichi Namba said the Tokyo school board cannot force teachers to sing “Kimigayo” before the flag or punish them for refusing to do so, because that infringes upon the freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution.