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Hi Blog. Here’s a story that people have been talking about for quite some time in the Comments section of Debito.org (but sandbagged by other projects, I haven’t quite gotten to until now, thanks to this good round-up article by Dr. David McNeill): Schools fostering ultra-rightist narratives even from a kindergarten age.
One thing I’ve always wondered about these nationalistic schools designed to instill “love of country” and enforce patriotism from an early age (which are, actually, not a new phenomenon, see also here): How are they supposed to deal with students who are of mixed heritage, or of foreign descent? As Japan’s multiethnic Japanese citizen population continues to grow thanks to international marriage, are these students also to be taught that love of country means only one country? Or that if they are of mixed roots, that they can only “love” one side?
This sort of jingoism should be on its way out of any developed society in this increasingly globalizing world. But, alas, as PM Abe toadies up to Trump, I’m sure the former will find plenty of things to point at going on in the USA to justify renewed exclusionism, and “putting Japan first” through a purity narrative. Still, as seen below, the glimmer of hope is the charge that this school’s funny financial dealings (and their anointment of Abe’s wife as “honorary principal”) might in fact be the thing that brings down the Abe Administration (if it does, I’ll begin to think that Japan’s parliamentary system is actually healthier than the US’s Executive Branch). And that Japan’s hate speech law has in fact bitten down on their racist activities. An interesting case study in progress. Dr. Debito Arudou
Japan’s Shinzo Abe under fire over ultra-right school
PM accused of giving sweetheart deal to school with ties to hard-right lobby group
David McNeill in Tokyo. The Irish Times, Feb 23, 2017
PHOTO: Shinzo Abe with Donald Trump: The Japanse prime minister has offered to resign if his involvement in the school controversy is confirmed. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times
Lingering suspicions about far-right ties to Japan’s government have surfaced again in a row about an alleged sweetheart deal for the operator of an ultra-nationalist kindergarten.
Under fire in parliament, prime minister Shinzo Abe, one of Japan’s longest-serving leaders, said he would step down if his involvement in the deal is substantiated.
The private kindergarten in Osaka has its 3-5-year-old students memorise a 19th-century edict that was used to indoctrinate youngsters during the second World War. Children at the school chant patriotic slogans in front of pictures of the emperor, including: “Should emergencies arise, offer yourselves courageously to the state.”
Its operator, Moritomo Gakuen, was recently investigated under hate speech laws after publishing ethnic slurs of Korean and Chinese people, who it dubbed shinajin – roughly meaning “chink”.
Opposition politicians have singled out the sale of a plot of land last year to Mr Gakuen [sic] by the government in Osaka Prefecture at a fraction of the appraised price.
A primary school is being built on the 8,770sq m plot. Mr Abe’s wife, Akie, will be its honorary principal when it opens in April. The prime minister’s name was allegedly used to solicit donations.
Below list price
Yasunori Kagoike, the president of the kindergarten, has denied that the million yen (€1.1 million) paid for the plot last June, far below its list price of million yen, was too cheap.
The school says the cost of cleaning up arsenic and other contamination found on the site explains the whopping discount. “We have done things open and above board,” Mr Kagoike said this week.
The controversy has thrown a spotlight on Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Charter, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to the government. Mr Kagoike leads a local chapter of the group.
About a third of the Diet (parliament) and more than half of Mr Abe’s 19-member cabinet support Nippon Kaigi. Mr Abe is a specialist adviser to its parliamentary league.
Like followers of US president Donald Trump, members of Nippon Kaigi want to “take back” their country from the liberal forces that they believe are destroying it. The group’s goals include building up the nation’s military forces, instilling patriotism in the young, and revising much of the pre-war Meiji constitution.
Critics say its charter is a shopping list of blatantly revisionist causes: applaud Japan’s wartime “liberation” of east Asia from western colonialism; rebuild the armed forces; inculcate patriotism among students brainwashed by left-wing teachers; and revere the emperor as he was worshipped before the war.
Mr Abe has denied that he or his wife were involved in the land sale or that he gave permission for his name to be used, though both have praised the curriculum offered by the kindergarten.
Responding to questions from opposition politicians last Friday, Mr Abe said he did not know that donations were being solicited for a “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe” memorial elementary school.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, adding that he would “quit as prime minister and as a Diet member” if found to have been involved in the scandal.
Japan PM’s wife cuts ties with school at heart of political furor
Reuters, February 24, 2017, By Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg | TOKYO
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife has cut ties with an elementary school involved in a land deal that provoked opposition questions just as the Japanese leader was basking in the glow of a friendly summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Abe has said neither he nor his wife, Akie, was involved in a murky deal for the purchase of state-owned land by Moritomo Gakuen, an educational body in the western city of Osaka that also runs a kindergarten promoting patriotism.
The affair has energized the often-floundering opposition, offering a reminder of the unexpected pitfalls that could still emerge for Abe’s seemingly stable rule, now in its fifth year.
Abe, grilled about the purchase of the land at a rock-bottom price, said on Friday his wife would scrap a plan to become honorary principal of an elementary school the institution will open in April.
Last year, Moritomo Gakuen paid 134 million yen ($1.2 million), or 14 percent of the appraisal price, for an 8,770-sq-m (94,400-square-foot) plot on which to build the elementary school, official data show.
The difference reflects the cost of waste cleanup at the site, officials have said. Finance Minister Taro Aso told parliament this week there were no problems with the deal.
Abe said his wife had tried to refuse the role as honorary principal, and only accepted after it was announced to parents.
“Despite this, she decided that it would be detrimental for both the students and the parents if she continued, and so she told them she would resign,” he added.
The institution’s president, Yasunori Kagoike, heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to Abe and his cabinet.
On the school’s website, Akie had said: “I was impressed by Mr. Kagoike’s passion for education and have assumed the post of honorary principal.”
Abe said the comments were removed from the website on Thursday at his wife’s request.
Abe reiterated that he had declined to let his name be used when Moritomo Gakuen sought donations for what it called the “Abe Shinzo Memorial Elementary School”.
He has also denied that either he or his wife was involved in obtaining approval for the school, or in the land acquisition, saying last Friday that he would resign if evidence to the contrary were found.
The main opposition Democratic Party has seized on the affair. “The prime minister is talking as if he were the victim, but it is the people who should be angry,” Democratic Party lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto told reporters.
His cabinet this time has lost several ministers to money scandals, but Abe himself has been untainted by scandal.
Abe’s approval rating rose five points to 66 percent in a media survey after his summit with Trump, where the leaders hugged, golfed and reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan alliance.
But his popularity could take a hit if the scandal continues to preoccupy the media, some political analysts said.
“The thing that makes a scandal really serious is when it keeps getting headlines,” said Chuo University political science professor Steven Reed.
Reuters LIFESTYLE | Thu Dec 8, 2016 | 8:25pm EST
Japanese kindergarten teaches students pre-war ideals
By Kwiyeon Ha | TOKYO
(NB: Do check out the link for its visuals; must see.)
At first glance, the Tsukamoto kindergarten looks like any other school in Japan, but its unique curriculum is reminiscent of pre-war Japan.
The private school, which has been visited by Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, aims to instil in its 3- to 5-year-old students a sense of patriotism with a curriculum focused on Japanese traditions and culture.
Its mornings start with uniformed children singing the national anthem in front of the country’s flag and reciting in stilted Japanese the pre-war Imperial Rescript on Education, containing commandments set out in 1890 to nurture “ideal” citizens under the Emperor Meiji. These embody Confucian virtues and demanded devotion to the emperor and sacrifice for the country.
“Be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters,” they chant. “Should emergencies arise, offer yourselves courageously to the state.”
After World War Two, occupying U.S. forces abolished the rescript, which many saw as a source of the obedience and moral certitude that helped fuel Japanese militarism.
In 1947, the postwar government passed the Fundamental Law on Education to bolster the liberal and democratic values of the postwar pacifist constitution.
Tsukamoto kindergarten, in Osaka, introduced the rescript 15 years ago, although school officials say it is not intended to fuel nationalism.
“What we’re aiming to foster in education is patriotism or ‘Japanese-ism’, expanding Japan’s spirit all over the world, not so-called nationalism. These are totally different,” said Yasunori Kagoike, principal of the kindergarten.
PHOTO: A student stops to bow to a portrait of Japanese former Emperor Hirohito and Empress Kojun at Tsukamoto kindergarten in Osaka, Japan, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ha Kwiyeon
Kagoike heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to Abe and his Cabinet and for which education reform is a key tenet.
PROTECTING THE NATION
Cultural activities at the school, where the walls are lined with images of the imperial family to which students bow throughout the day, include learning traditional Japanese musical instruments, martial arts and board games. Students also take trips to military bases.
Kagoike said he hopes other schools will adopt their curriculum so children are prepared to protect their nation against potential threats from other countries.
“If an imperialist nation is trying to harm Japan, we need to fight against it. For that, revising Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is indeed necessary and should be carried out as soon as possible,” he said.
Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution renounces war and, if read literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces, although Japan’s military, called the Self-Defense Forces, has over 200,000 personnel and is equipped with high-tech weapons.
Revising the constitution is one of the key policy targets of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. His government has already stretched its limits to give the military a bigger role.
Using an analogy of stopping a burglar getting into the house, teacher Chinami Kagoike – the principal’s daughter – said she teaches students it is necessary to fight against such threats to protect themselves and their families.
“Strengthening Japan would be subject to severe criticism from various countries,” she said. “But instead of pulling away from this, I teach children that the Japanese government has clearly demonstrated its will, so you also need to break silence and go forward and say you want to protect your family.”
The kindergarten plans to open a primary school next year and Akie Abe will be the honorary principal, according to school brochures.
Michael Cucek, an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Tokyo campus, said Abe’s wife is often seen as a proxy for the prime minister, who during his first, 2006-2007 term oversaw the revision of the education law to put patriotism back in school curricula.
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