High court sides with Tokyo on anthem

Kyodo News

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and board of education did not violate the Constitution by requiring school teachers and other staff to stand when the Hinomaru flag is raised and the national anthem sung during school events, the Tokyo High Court ruled Friday, reversing a lower court decision.

A three-judge panel led by Hiromu Tsuzuki acted on an appeal against a 2006 decision by the Tokyo District Court that disciplinary action against those who refused to stand and sing “Kimigayo” was unconstitutional.

In the high court decision, Tsuzuki called “reasonable” an instruction by the head of the metropolitan government’s education office to require teachers and school staff to stand during the raising of the Hinomaru and sing the anthem during enrollment and commencement ceremonies.

The instruction doesn’t represent an infringement of the Constitution, which stipulates “freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated,” Tsuzuki said.

It also doesn’t represent an act of unjust governance in education banned by the basic education law, the judges said.

The high court said the Hinomaru and “Kimigayo” have long been established as the national flag and anthem as a customary law even before the national flag and anthem law was enacted in 1999.

Judge Kazuo Miwa read out the decision on behalf of Tsuzuki, who has retired.

The Hinomaru and “Kimigayo” were long regarded the national flag and anthem without any legal base. The Diet enacted a law in 1999 officially recognizing them.

Some people in Japan are opposed to the flag and anthem because of memories of their links with Japan’s militaristic past.

The plaintiffs in the suit are 395 teachers, clerks and retirees at high schools and special schools for physically disabled people run by the metro government. The plaintiffs plan to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.