Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
For many years I didn’t hesitate to think of the Emperor as the head of state, despite disagreement from Japanese I spoke with about it that the Emperor was the “symbol of the state,” not the head of state. I tended to disregard them, first because these were the same people who insisted that Japan didn’t have an army because, due to Article 9 of the Constitution its rather large Self Defense Force is not a military force at all and, second, I thought the words “symbol of the state” were just gobbledegook.
Maybe I was wrong not to respect their credibility, but the habit of thinking of the Emperor as the head of state made sense to me as elementary civics: constitutional onarchy equals head of state, power in the legislature.
But the March 15, 2013 Japan Times story “LDP calls for titling Emperor ‘head of state’” still made me feel uncomfortable, not with the idea of the Emperor as head of state so much as with the LDP’s proclivity for active intervention in society with a terribly conservative agenda. Of course government intervenes all the time in the form of legislation and regulation not just to enable government, stability and civic welfare but to address specific incidents that periodically arise. In a democracy legislation is supposed to be the fruit of a process of compromise that takes the opposition’s view into account. It is not the unilateral prerogative of the party in temporary power even if that party has a sufficient majority. Why? Because power is not the possession of the governing party so much as the possession of the citizenry for whom the government acts. Furthermore, because debate is discouraged in this culture for its risk of enabling/exposing public contention - a great faux pas in Japan - I do not trust the committee process of Japanese politics.
The LDP’s agenda is symptomatic of the conservative disposition to tell us what to think rather than allow us the freedom to think what we want with impunity, and it’s annoying. As a tax payer in Japan all public servants here are my employees, and I don’t fancy being annoyed by my employees.
Published on Sunday, April 7, 2013 as "The LDP's annoying agenda."