A leaflet explaining the lyrics of “Kimigayo,” the de facto national anthem, that was distributed to Japanese embassies in more than 110 countries is not intended to be an official government interpretation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Wednesday.
A Japanese daily reported Wednesday that the International Society for Educational Information, an affiliate of the Foreign Ministry, issued a leaflet called “The National Flag and Anthem of Japan” in 1993, and it explained that “Kimigayo” means the “Reign of our Emperor.”
The recent attempt by the government to make “Kimigayo” and the Hinomaru (Sun Flag) — both de facto national symbols — official through enacting legislation has provoked public debate because of their close association with Japan’s wartime past.
Because of strong opposition, especially from opposition parties, the government is currently monitoring public sentiment carefully to decide whether to submit the bill to the current Diet session.
Nonaka admitted the leaflet was distributed to the embassies to help explain about Japan. But, he said, “It has not been issued to express the government’s official explanation of ‘Kimigayo.'” The government has stopped distributing the leaflet because it is liable to cause “misunderstanding,” he added.
Critics say that the lyrics of “Kimigayo” are not appropriate for a national anthem under the Constitution, which stipulates that sovereign power resides with the people, and the emperor shall be the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people.
However, the government has argued in past Diet debate that “Kimigayo” under the Constitution can be interpreted as the “reign of the people.” The leaflet’s explanation contradicts the government’s past explanation.
The leaflet was issued as part of the “Facts About Japan” series published in other languages, including English, French and German.