A legal lesson: Taking on the (school) system


“Reiko, this is so unlike you! (Reiko-chan-rashikunai, レイコちゃんらしくない).”

“Is it?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever . . . “

” . . . seen me like this. I know. But you haven’t seen me in a long time.”

“I never thought I’d hear you use the words ‘give up’ (諦める, akirameru).”

“Oh, nonsense! (Nansensu, ナンセンス!)”

“The lawsuit . . . it was a bitter pill (mugoi, むごい).”

“You don’t know how bitter. And my mother’s illness is bitter. And my husband’s unemployment, and his . . . well, other things. It’s all bitter.”

“All right. Listen, Mrs. Keyes. When we were children you were always the leading spirit, right? You led, I followed. Suppose we change roles. Tell me everything. I’ll be your adviser.”

“All right. Where shall I start? The lawsuit (soshō, 訴訟).” Reiko took a sip of tea. “I have been teaching junior high school now for 32 years. I’m a good teacher, everyone knows it — students, parents, colleagues, everyone. Five years ago they wanted to promote me to vice-principal. I said no. My place is in the classroom, not in the office.”

“Yes, you wrote to me about that.”

“It was just around then that the Tokyo metro government issued that … that infamous directive demanding we sing the Kimigayo (君が代) while facing the Hinomaru (日の丸) national flag at school ceremonies. I said immediately, “No. I will not.” They can’t ask that of me. My father was arrested, imprisoned, tortured, for his opposition to the war (han-sen shisō, 反戦思想). I, his daughter, will not . . . And they can’t make me. It’s unconstitutional (iken, 違憲), it infringes freedom of conscience (ryōshin no jiyū wo shingai suru, 良心の自由を侵害する).

“Well, they tried. First came an official reprimand (chōkai shobun, 懲戒処分), then a pay cut (genkyū, 減給), then the threat of a transfer to a distant school when they knew I couldn’t work far from home because of my mother. I stood firm. I organized opposition; we sued (soshō shita, 訴訟した).”

“And lost (haiso shita, 敗訴した).”

“Lost for now. That’s a setback (zasetsu, 挫折), not a defeat (haiboku, 敗北). We’ll appeal (kōso suru, 控訴する) — we’ll go all the way to the Supreme Court (Saikōsai, 最高裁) if necessary. What’s worse . . . wait, I’ll show you.”

Laying down her teacup, Reiko left the room and returned with some papers. “Why I bothered printing up this up I don’t know. It’s from one of those . . . chat rooms or whatever they’re called. Public comment on the case. Read.” She thrust the papers into her friend’s hand.



“当たり前の判決だな. (Atarimae no hanketsu da na, a perfectly reasonable verdict.)”

“天皇を信仰しろとはだれもいってないし . . . (Tennō wo shinkō shiro to wa dare mo ittenai shi . . . No one’s telling you to believe in the Emperor . . . )”

“やりたくないなら公務員になるなよ (Yaritakunai nara kōmuin ni naru na yo, If you don’t want to do it, don’t become a public employee.)”

“こういう奴が教育に携わっていることが一番の問題 (Kō iu yatsu ga kyōiku ni tazusawatteiru koto ga ichiban no mondai, People like that being involved in education is the biggest problem.)”

“Well?” Reiko demanded.

“I see it’s all anonymous (nanashi, 名無し). People will say anything, you know, under cover of anonymity.”

“Why should ‘anything’ mean only bad things?”

“Well, people are spiteful. Come, Reiko-chan — courage! If you’re strong enough to take on the government, the school system and the courts, surely you can live with a bunch of anonymous bloggers!”

“From the government, the school system and the courts I expect idiocy. They’re just machines, after all, doing what they’ve been programmed to do. From the public, I expected . . . “


“I don’t know . . . Support, understanding.”

“What’s that?”

“Probably Stuart. Well, here he is in person! My husband, Stuart Keyes. Stu, this is my old friend Mayumi.”

Stuart bowed. “Hajimemashite. Reiko has mentioned you. You run a bar on Yakushima Island . . . have I got that right?”

“Absolutely right. City life was too much for me, and I fled.”

“Too much for me too, I think.”

Fiction series “Keyes Point” appears on the first Bilingual page of every month.