National

Japanese city in a dance over pop band that criticized ruling LDP

by Yuzuha Oka

Staff Writer

The municipal government in the city of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, is taking the unusual step of retroactively withdrawing support for a public event, after deeming that a band’s lyrics were too political.

At the June 13 event, all-girl pop ensemble Seifuku Kojo Iinkai (Uniform Improvement Committee) performed a song that slammed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“The LDP, the root of all evil,” the group sang. “Let’s remove the LDP from power.”

One condition the authority set for lending its support to the June 13 event, a discussion forum organized by supporters of the pacifist Constitution, was political neutrality. The city declares that it does not extend nominal support to organizations and events that express specific political beliefs.

Organized by the Article 9 Yamato no Kai civil group, the event was billed as an opportunity to discuss the nation’s right to collective self-defense.

Eiichi Funakoshi, chief of the city’s International and Gender Equality Department, attended the event. He said the city recognized the forum as having a strong political slant, and that it plans to withdraw its support even though the event has already taken place.

“It’s quite unusual to quash an event after it’s over. The withdrawal per se is intended to show that the city does not support specific political ideas,” he said.

The city has lent its nominal support to events organized by Yamato no Kai for the past nine years. Funakoshi said the city understands that it is a civil organization that advocates peace and provides opportunities for citizens to learn about and discuss peace and the Constitution.

Ryuta Saito, the secretary-general of Yamato no Kai, said the group had simply tried to provide an opportunity for citizens to learn more about Article 9, adding that the event also featured former Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kyoji Yanagisawa, who is well-versed in constitutional issues.

“We wanted more young people to come to the event to discuss the Constitution, and I thought inviting an idol group would be a great idea to attract young audiences, (rather) than having Mr. Yanagisawa alone,” Saito said.

The organizers did not intend to proselytize against the LDP, he added.

Saito said the group has been a target of criticism for years. Prior to the June event, the city council had received a petition from some citizens who support constitutional revision — urging the city to reconsider its nominal support for Yamato no Kai.

“Considering the change in the political sphere, an increasing number of people are now calling for amending Article 9 of the Constitution,” the petition said.

The city did not act on the petition, and Funakoshi said the reason support was being withdrawn was that the band had simply criticized a political party.