Funding for politicians’ trips to Imperial rites constitutional

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the use of public funds for two Kanagawa politicians to attend Emperor Akihito’s enthronement ceremonies in 1990, which included Shinto rites, did not violate the Constitution’s separation of religion and state.

Upholding lower court decisions, the top court’s No. 2 Petty Bench dismissed a suit filed by 16 Kanagawa residents seeking the return on 28,000 yen used by then Gov. Kazuji Nagasu and Prefectural Assembly President Takatoki Iguchi as travel expenses to attend the ceremonies. Both men have since died.

“They took part in the ceremonies as part of social protocol in order to celebrate the Emperor’s enthronement,” presiding Justice Hiroshi Fukuda said in handing down the ruling.

“It does not amount to religious activity as banned by the Constitution.”

Nagasu attended the official enthronement ceremony in November 1990 along with Iguchi, who also took part in the Daijosai religious rite later that month.

The Daijosai — a wish for a good harvest — is held after the mourning period for a deceased emperor is over.

During the rites, the new emperor makes offerings of newly harvested rice and wine, and reads a message to Sun Goddess Amaterasu and other Imperial deities.

Although the Imperial House Law stipulates that an enthronement ceremony must be held when there is a succession to the throne, there is no legal basis for the Daijosai after relevant clauses were deleted from the prewar Imperial household law after World War II.