MATSUE, Shimane Pref. – After coming under renewed attack from opposition parties, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori admitted Sunday that a remark he made the previous day using the term “kokutai” was improper.
The word refers to a national polity centering on the Emperor before and during the World War II.
“Last night in Nara, I spoke too long . . . made a slip of the tongue and have been scolded again,” Mori said during a lecture in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.
The apparent attempt to quell growing antipathy among voters came after all four major opposition parties launched a fresh attack on the 62-year-old prime minister, who remains tainted by an earlier comment in which he described Japan as a “divine nation centering on the Emperor.”
Appearing in a series of TV programs Sunday morning, senior officials of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party criticized Mori and demanded the prime minister retract the kokutai remark, which was made Saturday evening.
The opposition parties said they would make both the remarks an issue in the runup to the June 25 election because they have the same context.
The latest remark was made during a lecture in Nara as Mori attempted to criticize the JCP, which he says does not recognize the Imperial system.
“The Japanese Communist Party says it will not change its principles. It does not recognize the Imperial system,” he said. “The party calls for dissolving the Self-Defense Forces and does not approve of the Japan-U.S. security arrangement.”
“How could we possibly secure Japan’s kokutai (polity) and ensure public safety with such a party,” he said.
Before and during World War II, kokutai was a term commonly used to refer to what was seen as the Japanese polity, the most important elements of which were rule by an unbroken Imperial line, and the concept of the state as a family in which the relationship between the Emperor and his subjects was likened to one between a father and his children.
But as a result of Japan’s defeat in World War II and the reforms made under the Occupation, the concept of kokutai fell into disuse and today has little meaning to most Japanese.
The comment follows recent controversy over Mori’s remark that Japan is a divine nation with the Emperor at its center.
DPJ Secretary General Tsutomu Hata said both the remarks stem from the same prewar idea of sovereignty resting with the Emperor.
Hirohisa Fujii, secretary general of the Liberal Party, echoed Hata, saying Mori’s latest comment reflects nothing but the idea of Shintoism.
Sadao Fuchigami, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, and Kazuo Shii, chief of the Secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, also lashed out at the remark.
Speaking to the press in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa said, “He (Mori) has
made remarks that may be interpreted as denying the Japanese Constitution or the modern universal principle that sovereignty resides with the people. I think he is not fit to be prime minister.”
Shizuka Kamei, policy affairs chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, criticized the opposition parties and said they are intentionally distorting the meaning of Mori’s remarks, which he described as innocent.
During one of the television programs, he said that kokutai literally means state polity.
LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka also tried to play down the issue by saying there was no need for the prime minister to retract his latest remark.
However, he added, “I hope he (the prime minister) will be careful enough not to make remarks (after) that he will have to explain what he really meant.”
Tetsudo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, a key coalition ally of the LDP, also defended the prime minister.