Agreat debate is raging in Japan, and it is not about economics or politics . . . well, not ostensibly so. It is about semantics. And yet, the outcome may have as much impact on the future of this country as many more seemingly concrete issues.

The semantic debate revolves around the word aikokushin (patriotism), that emotion of hot panting and conspicuous fist-waving described by George Bernard Shaw as "your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."

On April 13, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the inclusion of a definition of aikokushin in a bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education. A debate had broken out between the two normally chummy coalition partners, the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party.