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In September 2006, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the policy of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education to force school teachers to sing the national anthem Kimigayo (“Your Reign”) during school ceremonies was illegal. The court ruled that the policy violated Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought and conscience, and constituted “unjust control” as prohibited by the Fundamental Law of Education. But on Jan. 28, the Tokyo High Court overturned the lower court ruling and ruled that the policy neither violates the Constitution nor constitutes such “unjust control.”

The lawsuit had been filed by 395 incumbent and former school teachers targeted by the board of education’s October 2003 instruction that teachers must stand facing the Hinomaru (Sun) national flag and sing Kimigayo during school ceremonies. Teachers face discipline if they defy the instruction. Defiance subjects teachers to progressively heavier punitive measures that starts with a reprimand and then escalate to a wage cut, to suspension from the job and to refusal of reemployment after the teachers reach retirement age.

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