Regarding the Argument page in the July 17 edition, “Should Japan allow females to ascend the throne?” I’d like to speak for the negative side.
We should keep the tradition of passing the throne down the paternal line even if we accept an interim empress temporarily.
With all due respect, the argument on the other side seems to crucially misunderstand Japan’s emperor, such as when Koichi Yokota refers to “the principle that men and women be treated equally,” and Carol Gluck says, “The general public seems to be fine with a woman on the throne.”
The emperor is not merely a modern individual, but certainly someone more than that. “‘The king is dead, long live the king’ actually meant that the king ‘is a corporation in himself that liveth ever’; he also incarnated on earth a divine origin in which law and power coincided,” says Hannah Arendt in “On Revolution.” The same with Japan’s emperor. When we say, “Long live the emperor,” it means “Long live the emperor as a corporation in himself that liveth ever with a divine origin.” Most Japanese understand this.
Furthermore, the word “emperor” is a fatal mistranslation for Japan’s emperor. Japan is the country of Shinto gods and the emperor should be called “the Priest-King of Shinto,” whose main mission is to pray for the people. “I have considered that the first and foremost duty of the emperor is to pray for peace and happiness of all the people,” said Emperor Akihito in his message of August 2016. And his spiritual power for praying stems from the unbroken imperial line of male heirs since time immemorial.
Call it superstitious or pre-modern, but that’s what culture is all about everywhere in the world. Ronald Reagan said America “is a city upon a hill, while Abraham Lincoln called the U.S. “the last best hope of Earth.” This might be mumbo jumbo to most of the people in the world, but many Americans take it for granted. If we didn’t have a guiding principle in our culture with a metaphysical recognition of the transcendent, our society would turn out merely materialistic.
Despite what modern scholars say about it, I think Japan’s centuries-long imperial tradition preserves our common law and common law is not at the mercy of the current Japanese. At the end of the day we should never rush in where angels fear to tread.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.