Hashimoto stalks anthem foes


Staff Writer

Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto has stepped up his long-running feud with teachers opposed to the “Kimigayo” national anthem by pushing his political group to propose an ordinance that would force them to stand when the song is sung at school ceremonies.

Hashimoto’s Osaka Restoration Group, which consists of socially conservative politicians and older, former members of the Liberal Democratic Party, sent the proposal to the prefectural assembly Thursday.

With Osaka Restoration holding 57 of the assembly’s 109 seats, the proposal is expected to be approved by the end of this month.

It would by the first time a prefectural government has passed such an ordinance.

“It’s not unreasonable to punish public school teachers who reject orders from a principal to stand up,” Hashimoto told reporters in mid-May. “If they don’t like it, they can quit. It’s a problem of organizational management, not a question of individual thought or consciousness.”

The proposed ordinance doesn’t contain specific punishments for teachers who refuse to stand. Hashimoto and the Osaka Restoration Group are preparing to introduce a separate ordinance later this year that would spell out such punishments. The governor also wants to publicize the names of teachers who refuse to stand during the anthem.

Since taking office in 2008, Hashimoto and his supporters have publicly clashed with local teacher unions and prefectural officials who oppose the singing of “Kimigayo,” and have sought ways to curb the power of the unions. The unions have opposed Hashimoto, calling him a dictator, and have supported political candidates and parties opposed to the Osaka Restoration Group.

Many of Hashimoto’s supporters are also in favor of introducing textbooks that emphasize patriotism and what they say are traditional Japanese values that emphasize group harmony over individualism.