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A bar association in Tokyo has urged principals at two public elementary schools in the city of Kunitachi, western Tokyo, not to force music teachers to play the national anthem at school ceremonies.

The No. 2 Tokyo Bar Association in a written recommendation urged one of the principals not to order a music teacher, who is a Christian, to play piano accompaniment to “Kimigayo,” saying it violates her freedom of conscience.

The bar association said the teacher was ordered to play at entrance and graduation ceremonies in 2002 and 2003, but ignored the order on each occasion.

“I see the recommendation as valuable,” the teacher told reporters. “When I was virtually compelled to play the piano, I said I could not oblige because it would be rejecting my way of life.” She asked that her name and school not be identified.

Her lawyers said her beliefs as a Christian and the context of the anthem — intended to make children admire the Emperor — have made her unwilling to perform it.

“This is an issue I cannot give in on,” the teacher said. “If the children saw me being coerced to do something against my wishes, there will be no truth to my teachings that no one can ever be coerced because the Constitution guarantees freedom.”

The bar association issued a similar recommendation to former and current principals of the other teacher, who has been forced since the 2001 academic year to play piano accompaniment to the anthem at entrance and graduation ceremonies.

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