Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The editorial “An Imperial break from tradition” (Japan Times, Wednesday, November 27, 2013), about the Emperor and Empress’s decisions to be cremated upon their deaths rather than interred raises the matter that decisions about state-controlled Imperial functions touch upon the Emperor’s role as the “symbol of the State and the unity of the people” as described in the Constitution. Whenever a matter arises that touches upon, or risks touching upon the Emperor’s role in Japanese society the media, politicians and the Imperial Household Agency always resort to quoting these words from the Constitution. The problem is that these words in English are practically meaningless. They might sound noble and majestic, but in fact they are almost gibberish. The Constitution was written originally in English and then translated into Japanese, so maybe those words are more meaningful in translation. Politicians, the media and the Imperial Household Agency certainly wield them like they mean something. But since I know that in English they are almost gibberish it significantly compromises my regard of remarks on the Emperor’s role by those sources.
Such was the case when lawmaker Taro Yamamoto handed a letter to the Emperor - ostensibly
describing the ongoing plight of Fukushima disaster victims - at the annual autumn Imperial Palace garden party held on October 31 (“Letter to Emperor causes uproar,” Japan Times, November 1). He was variously criticized for “populist politics,” for resorting to direct appeals to the Emperor to uphold Japan’s democratic principles, and for violating the Emperor’s proper Constitutional function as the symbol of the State and unity of the people devoid of any real political role. He was even congratulated (“Lawmaker’s brave public action,” Japan Times, Thursday, November 7, 2013). There were calls from the Liberal Democratic Party government for Yamamoto to quit the Diet (“Lawmaker under fire for letter to Emperor,” November 1). Eventually he was censured by the Diet and even received the traditional ultra-rightest death threat (“Envelope containing knife, threat sent to lawmaker Yamamoto,” November 14). When ultra-rightists threaten you with their posted threats you know you must be doing something right. Since the language in the Constitution that describes the Emperor’s role is near gibberish in the first place I put little credibility in criticism of his action. Critics who resort to the Constitution’s language look ridiculous.