Friday, January 27, 2012

Stand! In the place where you work (as ordered)...

Stand in the place where you live
Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before

Now stand in the place where you work
Now face west
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven't before

If you are confused, check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

("Stand" by R.E.M. from the album Green released in 1988)

I doubt R.E.M. was thinking about Japan, the Hinomaru and Kimigayo when they wrote this song. Perhaps it is time for a re-make of the video featuring the Hinomaru flag in the background with Tokyo Govenor Ishihara Shintaro and Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru singing and dancing.

VAOJ has long been following the lawsuits of teachers who refused to stand for the national anthem and flag at school ceremonies. There have been a few updates recently.

Top court calls for care in punishing teachers over flag, anthem

(from The Mainichi Daily News,1/17/12)

The Supreme Court on Monday nullified some punishments meted out to current and former Tokyo public school teachers for refusing to stand for the hoisting of the Hinomaru national flag or to sing the "Kimigayo" anthem at school events, saying careful consideration is required.

"In choosing a punishment greater than a reprimand, such as a pay cut or a greater punishment, careful consideration is needed," Presiding Justice Seishi Kanetsuki of the top court's First Petty Bench said in delivering rulings on three lawsuits brought by around 170 plaintiffs seeking nullification of their punishments.

The court annulled the suspension from work of one plaintiff and the pay cut for another, saying such punishments amounted to an abuse of power and were therefore illegal.

However, the court found the suspension from work of one plaintiff and reprimands meted out to the remaining plaintiffs were appropriate.

The decision concerned three suits filed by current and former teachers and other staff members at public schools run by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Last year, the Supreme Court found constitutional school principals' orders requiring teachers at school events to stand up for the raising of the national flag and to sing "Kimigayo," but said such orders indirectly restrict a person's freedom of belief and conscience.

Monday's ruling called for care when punishing teachers for not following those orders.

The ruling could also have an impact on debate in the Osaka prefectural assembly over a proposal calling for a "three strikes and you're out" rule to dismiss school teachers who repeatedly defy principals' orders to stand up and sing "Kimigayo." The proposal has been advocated by a regional political party, the Osaka Restoration Association, led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. 

Link to entire story:

Japan Focus has an informative post about this recent development as well (1/22/12).

Japan's Supreme Court Limits National Anthem Punishments for Teachers


And here's more...

Osaka mayor orders officials to bow to flag

(from The Daily Yomiuri Online, 1/23/12)

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has instructed high-ranking officials of the city government to always bow to the Hinomaru national flag as they take a seat in the municipal assembly's main conference hall and when replying to questions when the assembly is session, it has been learned. 

Hashimoto e-mailed the instruction earlier this month to bureau chiefs who sit on the platform of the conference hall during the assembly's deliberations. 

Titled "Paying homage to the national flag at the conference hall," the mayor's e-mail read, "You are asked to bow to the flag when seating yourself on the platform," assembly sources said. 

The e-mail also said senior city officials were required to bow their heads to the national flag every time they step on the hall's platform or respond to a question posed during assembly deliberations, they said. 

Furthermore, the instructions said officials must bow to the flag again when deliberations are resumed after a recess, according to the sources. 

Hashimoto has expressed his intention to present a draft ordinance in the coming assembly session in February that will call for the national flag to always be hoisted at the municipal government's facilities.

Link to story:

Mastering Manners

In today's Daily Yomiuri Online (1/27/12) there is a story about manners and the proper way to bow. Here is an interesting quote:

Japanese etiquette was developed during the era of the samurai, when strict relationships between superiors and subordinates were a key part of class-based societies. The tradition has been passed from generation to generation, but some people today may find its practice cumbersome.

"The idea behind Japanese etiquette is to use actions to express your deep feelings for other people," Kondo says. "As long as you acquire the basics, you can act with grace and confidence, while those around you will treat you with respect."

Link to entire story:

Manners and etiquette through the use of body movements are for showing respect to people. Such gestures should not be forced upon people to display patriotism or national pride.


Lillian said...

Those are both interesting stories, thanks. I really empathize with teachers who are resistant to orders to bower or sing along. I realize the history and culture are different, but I never wanted to be forced to go along with that kind of thing in my own country myself.

By the way, perhaps you'd like to comment on this:

I am not sure why the author posted it, as he does not seem to have an answer.

visual gonthros said...

Thanks for your comments. I don't think this issue can be explained as a cultural difference. It is a political issue. If standing for the flag and singing the national anthem were cultural traditions, why the need to enact new laws to force people to do so and punish those who don't? The "nail that sticks up gets pounded down" is too simplistic to explain these issues.

As for the sign language post - it is the kind of post that made me hate blogs before starting VAOJ - it is ill-informed lacking research, examples, links, illustrations... There was a sign language boom in the late 1990s when many sign language related dramas starring popular and good looking actors and actresses appeared on Japanese TV. As a result, many people started joining sign language circles. But those same people usually quit early on after realizing how difficult JSL really is. I would also suggest that any sign language or visual access to information in public is targeted for deaf people rather than those pursuing any hobby. Deaf people continue to work hard to get access to information along the lines of barrier-free. And finally, many of the language schools that taught mainly English in the past seem to be focusing on Chinese and Korean.

Lillian said...

Yes, I meant that I don't want to extrapolate my experience to that of Japanese people -- but actually, the political chill in the air might not be so different.

You write that "many of the language schools that taught mainly English in the past seem to be focusing on Chinese and Korean." That seems like a healthy (and pragmatic) change. I think it'd be great if schoolkids could at least choose among those three etc.

Thanks for the context! I enjoy your blog on several different levels. :)