Providing a Cabinet-approved formal response to a question posed by an opposition lawmaker, the Abe administration says to the effect that it is permissible to use the Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890 — an officially invalidated document — as a teaching material in school classes as long as the way it is used does not contravene the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education. Given its content and the historical role it played, the rescript should not be used in moral education. Its use by schools should be limited to history classes, and teachers need to make sure the document will be taught in its entirety, in context and from critical viewpoints.

It is worrying that some members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet endorse the rescript in one way or another and that the administration appears reluctant to set a concrete standard on the conditions under which the document can be used in classrooms.

The 315-word text was issued in the name of Emperor Meiji in October 1890, following the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution in February the previous year, to articulate the guiding principles of education of subjects of the Great Japanese Empire. It served as an indoctrination vehicle to strengthen the Japanese national polity founded on close bonds between emperors and their loyal subjects.