Lawmaker under fire for letter to Emperor

Yamamoto's Fukushima missive seen as political ploy

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The repercussions continued Friday after independent Upper House lawmaker Taro Yamamoto the previous evening handed an apparently politically inspired letter to Emperor Akihito.

Many lawmakers criticized the rookie politician, a former actor, and some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party even called for him to quit the Diet.

Yamamoto, a well-known antinuclear activist, handed his letter to the Emperor when he attended a biannual garden party in Tokyo on Thursday. The letter apparently touched on the radioactive fallout from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and the situation surrounding the workers dealing with the calamity.

The action by Yamamoto was seen by many as an attempt to use the Emperor for political purposes, an act interpreted as forbidden by the Constitution.

On Friday, several Cabinet ministers criticized Yamamoto, and education minister Hakubun Shimomura even argued that his behavior “is something that deserves resignation as a Diet member.”

According to Kyodo News, Masashi Waki, the LDP’s Upper House affairs chief, told party executives that the LDP should consider proposing a Diet resolution demanding that Yamamoto resign from the Diet.

Land minister Akihiro Ota, ex-head of LDP coalition partner New Komeito, reportedly said Yamamoto’s action was “inappropriate” and that he lacks the proper decorum of a Diet member.

LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said the Diet should take strict steps, saying Yamamoto’s deed “cannot be overlooked.”

Jin Matsubara, chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Diet affairs committee, said Yamamoto’s action was unforgivable.

“I share the idea that he should resign as a lawmaker,” Matsubara said.

Since the end of the war, it has been taboo for anyone to include the Emperor in a political agenda, and the monarch himself is not allowed to express any view that could be construed as political.

Article 4 of the Constitution is interpreted as allowing the Emperor to only engage in politically neutral state ceremonies.

On Friday, the Upper House Steering Committee convened an urgent session and asked Yamamoto to explain his actions.

Yamamoto told reporters after the session that he wrote and handed the letter because he wanted the Emperor to learn the true situation concerning the Fukushima No. 1 fallout and the plight of the workers there.

Yamamoto claimed he did not expect his action would be reported by the media or be seen as any kind of political activity.

“I had thought only his Imperial Majesty and people around him would know of the letter, but (this) has been reported by the media,” he said.

“Because you media people play this up, (my behavior) is being used for some political purposes,” Yamamoto said.

Yamamoto said he was not aware that his action was violating any rules, but he will accept any decision by the Diet.

He also argued that if his action is regarded as political activity and he will face punishment, the government should similarly be punished for having a princess from the Imperial family campaign for Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

Yamamoto, who was elected in July, is known for his radical, if not extreme, anti-nuclear arguments.

He has claimed many children in eastern parts of the country are suffering health problems because of the radioactive substances escaping from the Fukushima plant. Mainstream scientists deny that.

At the Upper House committee meeting, members were split on whether Yamamoto should be punished. The committee will decide Tuesday whether to discipline him, Kyodo reported.

The postwar Constitution was enacted to ban the Shinto-influenced militarism of the 1930s and 1940s, in which the Emperor was used by the military as a untouchable living god to keep the people united during the war.

Article 4 states that “the Emperor shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in the Constitution, and he shall not have powers related to government.”

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Emperor immediately gave the letter to the grand chamberlain, who was accompanying him.

“By using common sense, people should consider if it’s appropriate to give a letter to the Emperor during such an occasion as a garden party,” Suga said.

It wasn’t immediately known if the Emperor read the letter.

  • Dismantle_Me

    It would be a shame if one of the few true independents were to get chucked out of parliament for what was admittedly not a very clever move. The man certainly has guts, you’ve got to give him that much.

  • Gilles

    In contrast to these old and grey LDP politicians Yamamoto has “balls”…

  • Hanten

    Can’t he just apologise and then get back to work?

  • SIA

    A modern-day Tanaka Shozo?

    • zer0_0zor0

      This is not the Meiji era; it’s post WWII.

  • martaz

    BRAVE MAN. To be applauded, not censured/censored

  • Franz Pichler

    The establishments up in arms! Kasumigaseki’s looser get cold feed when a newcomer takes matters in his own hands and puts the spotlight on the terrible plight of the fukushima people! Good on you Yamamoto!! If only I could vote, you would get my one!!

  • Franz Pichler

    Please don’t resign!!!

  • philippesama

    The hypocrisy here reaches new heights. A Member of Parliament has the right to celebrate the memory of the war criminals, but it is prohibited to protect the children of his country. When the law leads to this type of aberration, it is urgent to change the law.

  • Myriam Heral

    We are really in a strange Era, with only courageous whistleblowers having to take responsabilities of their acts….be carefull “establisment of all sort”. Citizens are far from as stupid as you think, and understand clearly what’s going on.

  • Vixzer

    .
    “By using common sense, people should consider if it’s appropriate to
    give a letter to the Emperor during such an occasion as a garden
    party,”

    No, is better to kiss ass instead of doing YOUR JOB and instead of protecting the people!!!

    Not that the emperor cares mind you…unfortunatelly he wants the ass kissing but none of the hard work that should come with “his birthright”

  • zer0_0zor0

    Obviously most of the foreigners commenting here are not familiar with the Constitution of Japan. There are various implications and repercussions stemming from such irresponsible behavior.

    His actions are going to have to be assessed with respect to whether it represents a violation of any of the several Articles of the Constitution related to the Emperor.

    Apparently Mr. Yamamoto thinks he is on a stage set in Hollywood or something. Probably an admonishment will suffice and serve as a warning to any future celebrity upstarts that manage to get elected to such a high public office. Maybe it will lead to a new law governing the conduct of politicians and public officials toward the Emperor.

    But clearly, a country cannot tolerate lawmakers violating its Constitution.That would threaten to undermine the Rule of Law as such.

  • Hanten

    One person’s political grandstanding is another’s activism. He was working.

  • Myriam Heral

    We are really in a strange Era, with only courageous whistleblowers having to take responsabilities of their acts…..