Some university leaders say academic freedom in Japan is under threat after education minister Hakubun Shimomura called on Tuesday for such institutions to fly the Hinomaru and sing the national anthem at entrance and graduation ceremonies.

Smaller universities fear that the government might reduce their subsidies if they fail to comply.

The Hinomaru and the “Kimigayo” were legally designated as the national flag and anthem in 1999. Whether schools should fly and sing them is a controversial issue, with some critics citing their links to past Japanese militarism.