National

Public funding of religious Daijosai ceremony draws flak

JIJI

The government’s decision to finance the Daijosai ceremony with state funds has faced criticism from experts claiming the move was taken with undue speed in order to avoid reigniting controversy over the Constitution, which guarantees the separation of state and religion.

The secretive ritual was conducted by Emperor Naruhito, who acceded the throne in May, from Thursday evening into the early hours of Friday.

As with the previous Daijosai, conducted in 1990 by Emperor Akihito, the government covered the related costs of the latest ceremony with state funds, while characterizing the Daijosai as an imperial family event, unlike other enthronement-related ceremonies stipulated as acts of the emperor in matters of state under the Constitution, due to the rite’s strong religious nature.

The costs related to the ceremony this year totaled about ¥2.44 billion, up some ¥200 million from the last one.

Crown Prince Akishino is among those who have argued against the use of state funds for the rite.

Citing the government’s policy on Daijosai funding, Koichi Yokota, an honorary professor at Kyushu University, who is well-versed in such matters, said, “If it is considered a religious rite, the ceremony should be funded with costs set aside for the imperial family, in line with the constitutional principle of the separation of government and religion.”

Yokota criticized the government for neglecting to answer the question of government funding for imperial succession rituals with religious links.

“The government decided at an early stage to hold the ceremony in the same way as it did last time,” he said.

Calling attention to the top court’s ruling, Sota Kimura, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, said, “Discussions should have been held more earnestly than the previous time so as to avoid suspicions concerning the constitutionality of state funding for the rite.”

“It is hard to say that sufficient discussions took place,” Kimura said.

In contrast, Isao Tokoro, an honorary professor at Kyoto Sangyo University, argued that “the problems were cleared after thorough discussions 29 years ago.”