[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 139 / July. 20 .2007 ]
NEZU Kimiko (Minami Osawa School for Physically
Handicapped and Mentally Retarded Children)
 
On June 27, 2007, Ms Nezu Kimiko received an invitation to address the members of the Melchizedec group at Catholic Kojimachi Church. The lecturer, opposing the imposition of the Japanese flag and the singing in unison of the National anthem at the entrance and graduation school's ceremonies, refused to stand up and thus has been punished several times by Tokyo's Board of Education. A documentary film on this subject of refusing to stand up at the singing of the National Anthem that was produced in December 2006 depicts several teachers punished for the same reason and is been shown all over the country. On the same day, June 27, the documentary was exhibited at Sophia University with the participation of Kawarai Junko one of the figures appearing on the film. We have edited this article from the lecture of Ms. Nezu
The official notice of the Board of education (2003/10/23) on the "National Anthem" marks the beginning of the punishments. The notice reads, "in case people do not follow the administrative order given by the principal of the school, in accordance with this official notice, they should take due responsibility of their duty." And since the administrative order can only be given by the principal, those who do not follow it would be punished.
The first graduation ceremony after the official notice happened in 2004. Up to now, there have been 8 entrance and graduation ceremonies and 388 teachers have been punished. Ms. Kawarai (5 times) and I (4 times) have been the most heavily punished. I was 6 months suspended from duty and Ms. Kawarai 3 months. In my case, I had a 3-month cut of salary before the official notice. Then, the first punishment after refusing to stand up at the singing of the National Anthem was a 6-month cut of my salary; in March and April 2005 I was suspended from duty for a full month and after the graduation ceremony of March 2006, I had a 3-month suspension from duty. Finally after the graduation of March 2007, I was suspended from office for 6 months.
This type of punishment only happens in Tokyo. Nevertheless, the Diet has passed the legislation on Education (School Education Law, Teachers' Certificate Law and Local Educational Administration Law) as well as the retrogressive revision of the Fundamental Law of Education. Thus, it is my guess that this type of punishment regarding the National Anthem could be concretely implemented any place in the country. Supposing that it succeeds in Tokyo, Osaka would be the next target or Hokkaido where teachers are already fighting. Other places follow the official notice and there is no issue. In Tokyo, the official notice (2003) spread naturally into almost all Primary and Secondary schools, but the punishments started because teachers of High schools refused to stand when the National Anthem was sung. At present Hiroshima prefecture, the City of Kitakyushu, Niigata prefecture and Tokyo implement the system of punishment and in the case of Tokyo the more punishments continue the heavier they are inflicted.
That is why the Board of Education tells me that there will not be anything else after my 6-month suspension from duty, suggesting dismissal.


You have in your Church a past period of repression during the war times and, most probably, many of you will think that we are now in a situation similar to those prewar times. I, really, strongly feel such a crisis. I am a teacher and work for education in the school. As a result, I cannot stand up for what goes against education. That was my attitude from the very beginning. But, even putting aside such basic beliefs, one cannot stand by in front of the actual political situation. Children are considered "little citizens," so much that often feel shocked in the classroom. Within that environment I cannot surrender to the above official notice (2003).

Standing at the Main Gate of the School
I am suspended for 6 months from duty but every morning I go to School and stand at the gate. During my first punishments for not standing at the National Anthem, in March 2005, 2006 and 2007 I used to go to Tachikawa Second Middle School and Tsurukawa Second Middle School in Machida City, places I accustomed to teach. Now, since the policy of the Board of Education is to move me around, I was appointed this year to Minami Osawa School for physically handicapped and mentally retarded children. Thus I visit the 3 schools every day by turns.
Thus I visit the 3 schools every day by turns.
I am not doing anything wrong. I believe that I educate people according to the principles of education and the system established by the Fundamental law of Education in 1947. I want to work and that is the reason why I go to the schools. I remain at the gate, because if I enter the school I could be arrested for doing something illegal. Besides, I want to show with my physical presence to the children the realities that are going on these days.
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About two years ago when I was suspended from duty for a month, I stood at the gate of Tachikawa Second Middle School for the first time. I had a number of good appearances and was much concerned about possible personal dangers. Nevertheless, feeling that I should continue affirming that strange situations are strange, I went to the school and stood there by myself at the gate. The school children showed a great sympathy to me. There was among them one girl that advanced to a part-time high school. She told me:
"When I saw you, teacher, standing at the gate, I thought it was a good thing to do when things go wrong." Other children greeted me saying "terrific!" It is unusual to say that "it is good to stand up when someone believes that things go wrong." Some teachers said to me "Hold out!" Instead I think that they should take it as their own problem and, in fact, I tell that straight to new teachers, but not everybody agrees with that. I felt consoled by that girl that told me "It is good to stand up."
Maybe society and schools accustom to address children, since early childhood, as persons without responsibility that adults must raise up. That is why that girl thought that one should confront unreasonable situations instead of crying silently. That was an unforgettable lesson to me.
Even if middle school children cannot fully understand my action now, the time will certainly come when they will suffer from low wages and long hours of work. Few can escape from such difficult situation. In case that happens it would be very important to realize that "I did all I was able to do. It is nothing wrong with me." Such attitude is essential to continue living ahead. There will be no place for suicides or mental distress.
I feel satisfied if children could learn from me that it is very important to realize through our lives, long or not - who knows? - "I did not do any wrong." I wish they could remember this advice at critical moments. Thus, I stand at the gate of the school during my suspension from duty.

Is the National Anthem an Education Tool?
The imposition of the National Anthem by the Board of Education, as is included in the official guidelines for teaching, is part of the educational activities at schools. I want to talk now about the reasons why I believe that the "National Anthem Education" is not education at all.
The Board of Education stresses that the official guidelines are the basis for it.
In reality the beginning is not at the publication of the official notice (23 October 2003), but it goes back to 1989, when the official guidelines were revised. The guidance to impose the National Anthem in the schools had started at that time. It is already stated there: "we have decided that, upon stressing their meaning, to hoist the national flag and the singing of the national anthem must take place during the entrance and graduation ceremonies at schools." And, as a result, this is happening all over the country.
Nevertheless, observing the practice at the schools, especially in Tokyo, practically no high school implemented the guidance around 1989. And as for Primary and Middle schools it was implemented in the center of Tokyo, but the national anthem was not used in the Tama districts. This is especially true of Primary schools. In Middle schools although the national flag was used, almost no school used the national anthem. From 1989 schools introducing the national anthem and flag increased and by 1999, when legislation on the national flag and anthem was passed, almost all schools introduced it. But the singing of the national anthem seldom is implemented in high schools. Finally, from the year 2000 when the national anthem is accepted teachers refuse to stand up. As a consequence, the official notice was published, as explained above.
The Board of Education says, "Let's begin with formalities and then introduce the spirit. Even if it is only a formality, to stand up is the first step." (November 11, 2003, words of the head of the guidelines committee) It was the same way of thinking during the pre-war times. In 1941, when Japan entered the war an official notice was sent by the ministry of Education to all schools on how to perform educational ceremonies. There are plenty of similarities with today's practices.
Next issue is the documents prepared by the Board of Education concerning the trial in court. "From the point of view of the children that are under the guidance of teachers, some standing up and others refusing to do that, children receive the impression that it is the same to stand up or to refuse to do it whenever the national flag is hoisted and the national anthem played. So, they cannot learn about respect given to the national flag and anthem and thus their right to learn is infringed. Such symbolic ceremony performed seriously within a fresh atmosphere becomes an intangible experience for the children." (Document of the Board of Education, 2 February 2007) Starting from a formality, if everybody stands then it becomes an intangible experience. Is not this brain washing? But it is not only the national anthem, but the so called "education of the heart" started several years ago are in fact 'mind control.'
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Students and Guardian Associations
During the last years children became used to stand up at the singing of the national anthem. In March 2004 I was teaching at Chofu Middle School.
Naturally I did not stand up at the singing of the national anthem. The Asahi Newspaper interviewed me and wrote an article on the subject. The principal got angry at it. But what are the reactions of students and their guardians? People like me are always marked, so each year I am dismissed. This also happened at that school. They did not provide me work at the school and of course I was never given responsibility of a class. Regarding the guardians I could never know who was who. At the end of the school year I understood, for the first time, who were PTA officers.
In spite of that, I accustomed to explain the children the reason why I will not stand up during the singing of the national anthem. The children said to me, "We read about it in the Newspaper and understood well why our teacher did not stand during the singing of the national anthem." Once I received a phone call from one of the PTA officers who told me that she did not feel resistance to the national anthem and the flag, in fact she liked them. She agreed with me that it was strange to impose on people to stand up. She looked for the opinions of other guardians and told me that everybody thought the same way.
In April-March of 2005, just a year later, the Asahi and Tokyo Newspapers published the results of a survey on the national flag and anthem. Between 60% and 70% of all the answers were against imposing both in the schools. It is clear that many Tokyo residents opposed the imposition of the national flag and anthem at a time when the punishment based in the official notice of 2003 started to be implemented. Nevertheless, about 3 years later, if you watch the film where the Tsurukawa Second Middle school appears, you can understand the insults of the children directed at me standing at the gate of the school, "she is an embarrassing teacher that does not keep rules." Guardians did the same. I could finally enter the school on July 1, 2006, when I was again allowed to do my duties and heard that the Board of Education tried to convince local people and the guardians to push me out from teaching and that they were preparing a signature-collecting campaign to obtain that.
The talk went around that "I was a troublesome teacher breaking rules and that the Board of Education had asked the principal of the school to retain me one more year, because nobody else would accept such teacher" This the principal denied, but... Such propaganda became common. It took me time to realize that when I appeared in the film standing by the gate of the school, the 2 informers to the police had been the former and the actual presidents of the PTA.
Some children started to change little by little their attitudes. Guardians and children usually make an "evaluation of the teachers." Some wrote in the evaluations that teachers should stand when the national anthem was played, but some students, like the child from Tachikawa, agreed that when a person thinks that something is wrong to affirm that clearly is a good thing to do. They change slowly and get to know what is going on. Nevertheless, many do not care about me.
Then, will children of Tsurukawa Second Middle school be different? Children are not responsible. Society has moved towards the right quite fast during the last 3 years. Children were in Primary school 3 years ago and did not know all discussions with regard to the national anthem at the time. As a matter of fact, the national flag and anthem were ceremoniously implemented in all schools and teachers stood up. Only Nezu sat down. The rumor that she is a teacher breaking the rules spread quickly. I really think that children have become "little citizens." It is a pity that the national anthem "education" recommended by the Board of Education has succeeded.
A different matter is that the national flag and anthem are not restricted to just the days of school entrance and graduation. At present, the staff meetings are not allowed to make a decision on this. The things stand as this, there is practically no school that has decided on this. The newspapers report that and in order to avoid that the rest of the schools left do it the notice was published ahead. Every school follows the same pattern: the decision of the Board of education is transmitted to the principal and the principal handles it to the teachers.

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Regarding school programs, even those schools with a tradition to look for the opinions of the children cannot do it anymore. Many schools before tried to make the lessons more interesting but it has become impossible nowadays. It is quite dangerous to introduce with creativeness new approaches during the lectures or to look for new teaching materials. Back in 2005 and with the principal's permission, I tried to use in my classes materials to prove that it was right not to stand during the singing of the national anthem. I did that in all the classes I had. I was prepared for already fixed reactions, because there were children of local politicians of the ruling parties in the classroom. In fact, my lessons became an issue at the city assembly in June. The whole problem ended there because I had already been forced to stop teaching, but I was planning to continue with the issue, in case I would have been allowed to teach in the school.
Besides this, I told the principal that I wanted to teach this way or the other, but often the answer was NO. In 2001, before the publication of the notice of 2003, Ishihara became governor of Tokyo and he started to meddle with educational matters. I selected the issue of "comfort military women" as an issue of discrimination against women in my classes in 2001. Since I am a teacher of Home affairs I took for granted to select the issue of "comfort military women" that still remains unsolved, as an example of gender discrimination against equal treatment of women. The children were all in favor. Only later, the principal made a problem out of it, saying that Nezu was teaching during the Home affairs time themes unrelated to her subject. Nevertheless, in court he changed the wording to "Nezu spends her time teaching such issues and there is no time left for teaching other important subjects that are provided by the Guidelines for Teaching." Since then, anytime I ask for permission to teach something during class time, the principal demands me to put in writing the plan and the object of the lesson to make a judgment, because such matters are not included in the teaching guidelines. I was denied permission many times. Thus, people around me are forced to use self control in their actions.
Not so long ago, teachers tried various ways to teach human rights, using materials that were not included in the text books. This is impossible today. Even the word "peace" has already a dangerous connotation. It was in the year 2000 at the Second Primary school of Kunitachi. An American military plane that crashed in Yokohama killed the two children of Mr. Doshida and his mother. A book called, "Papa Mama bye-bye" about the accident, was published and a teacher who read the book during class to the children was punished. That was the situation during the year 2000 and now nobody does similar things to avoid problems.
There are also lessons under the name of "expertise degree." Lessons on arithmetic are given from the second year of primary school, according to different abilities. If children cannot follow them that is the result of their own responsibility and thus they give up. In the year 2000 Miura Shumon said "there is no problem if people cannot follow. The important thing is righteousness." This is what is happening now. I believe that such lessons are destined to make people despair realizing that their abilities cannot expand much farther.
The achievement tests that started to be used in Tokyo have expanded, this year, to all over the country. The teachers as well as the classes with worst marks are made public. As a result, teachers strive to improve only marks and the teaching in the classroom becomes loose.
There is also in middle school education the issue of "selective-combined" lessons. The tendency is to increase them and greatly reduce the numbers of compulsory general subjects. This doesn't mean to do as one wishes but anything smelling as "peace" brings forward claims. And, as it is the case of lessons of "expertise degree," the approach is that only those kids with special intellectual capabilities need to go through school education.
Besides that, classes are conducted on "factory-experiences and social service." At the middle school such experiences take place for a week at Machida City and the teachers call them "students' mobilization." They send the students without further information given even to the guardians of the children.
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Of course, everybody thinks strange the achievement tests and the expertise degree lessons, but nobody makes any comment. Once you step on a 'fumie', it becomes very difficult to affirm that is strange. This is the actual situation of schools.
This is how I think. During the war times, when the military call-up red letters arrived, families prepared special food and sent their children to the Army giving them cooked rice and red beans (sekihan). Parents did not want to send their children to war, but they had to simulate they felt happy. I think the situation is very similar now. The schools imposing the "national anthem," as a 'fumie' where the teachers step on, become naturally similar to those of the war times. The problem is not to have only 2 times a year such ceremonies.

Politics and the Schools
The actual political situation, where the legislation on the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education was adopted in December 2006, has clearly shown that education is aimed at making people patriotic and loyal to the State. If trade unions speak about education it is considered intervention, but when the educational administration speaks basing its opinions in the legal system that is not considered intervention but guidance. A few weeks ago, the three-related educational legislation started to be implemented and, as a result, the teachers' certificate has to be renewed every 10 years. This gives the impression that such system was adopted because there are teachers that lack the power to lead the students, but this is wrong.
According to the Board of Education and the Municipal Assembly the lack of leadership means teachers that cannot properly guide the students in the education of the national flag and anthem. In other words, those teachers that do not try enough to educate their students in the loyalty to the nation are considered teachers lacking leadership. I have already explained that, since 2001, the attacks brought against me for over a year were that I was a teacher lacking leadership. Nevertheless, since many persons fought to defend me, the authorities could not prove that I lacked leadership, but that would not be the case if I were left by my self. In Tokyo there was one teacher claimed to be lacking leadership, Ms. Masuda, who was fired from the school, in 2006. She was a teacher of social science and taught thoroughly peace issues. The Educational Board claimed that the teaching aids she was using were unsuitable. In other words she had not enough leadership. They fired her and she is fighting. This is the meaning of having to renew the teachers' certificate every 10 years.
Another issue is the school education for "patriotism." According to the local administration law, the Minister of Science and Education can provide guidelines to the Boards of Education to rectify educational practices. At the beginning, the Minister of Science and Education, Mr. Ibuki, said that his Ministry could intervene to rectify the situation, referring to circumstances when schools and the Board of Education are doing nothing, with regard to bullying and lack of credits to graduate. But, in the next breath he mentioned he will provide guidance in cases where the national flag and anthem are not properly taught. That was, really, what he was aiming at. Educational legislation is changing this way.
Many diet members, from the Liberal Democrats to the Democrats, affirm that children should be educated to give their lives for the country. Besides that, allow me to quote the words of Mr. Mitarai, Japan's Business Federation (Keidanren) President, "Economic differences are the origin of economic dynamism" and "Whenever economic reforms and patriotism join together success occurs," in other words, business is demanding patriotic education. Japan is always in competition with the United States. In the USA the military induces young people from low income families that if they apply for the Army to go to fight in Iraq they can advance to high studies and live a comfortable life. It is easy to figure out that this could also happen in Japan. As I mentioned above I really feel an imminent danger that Japanese schools are training soldiers. At least, I do not want to offer a hand to train soldiers. Kawarai and I cannot cooperate with that, to the point that I am prepared to be fired. This could be a good opportunity for all teachers to fight together, but there is a thick wall in front of us.

Answering Questions
One of the questions raised concerns the bad revision of new legislation on education that strengthens the power of the authorities in public and private schools. And as a consequence, the solidarity among all teachers is needed. I totally agree with it. There is a need for teachers to fight together. The sad reality is that teachers' unions do not have a concrete common strategy to fight together with regard to the issue of the national flag and anthem in school events. The fact that 381 teachers do not stand during the ceremonies is considered just a private choice. Even at the level of teachers unions of public schools there is no move to fight together.
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I believe that things would change if appeals could be made to guardians of the children. In their gatherings, public talks should deal with the educational environment that influences the attitudes of children, as it was done before. But if one tries to tackle this subject, she would be considered a "strange teacher" and nobody could guess the claims the Education Board will make against. Within such an atmosphere teachers control themselves afraid of saying anything. And this is the real problem. Although I would like to rise my voice, there is no opportunity to manifest my opinion. There are only two opportunities given to talk in public, when you are hired and when you quit school. After that, apart from the classes you teach there is no possibility to talk in public.
Many cannot sit down. I invited elder teachers to try to sit down once or twice, but the young ones do not dare to tell those with 10 or 20 years of school career to sit down. In spite of this, young teachers can propose everyone to teach in all classes about the national flag and anthem and to prepare together teaching materials on the matter. Senior teachers should be the ones to take the initiative but they cannot.
Somebody asked, "Is it not true that if, right after the war, the national anthem had changed the actual situation would have been different?" There were opinions concerning the change of national anthem, at the time, but they were smashed because the authorities disapproved them. People sometimes ask me whether I would sing the national anthem, in case the actual one had been changed. I say that I would maybe do it, but never if it was imposed on everyone. No matter how much I could like it there could be somebody who dislikes it and it could infringe on a person's rights, in case it were imposed to everyone. Then, I will certainly refuse.
Among the 388 teachers punished there was one that was retiring in March 2004 because he was 60 years old. For 38 years he stood at the national anthem. Then, in 2003 the public notice was released obliging people to stand or, if not, to be officially punished. He sat down, because he thought the coercion was strange. I also believe that to oblige everybody to stand is fascism.

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Another question was, "what does it make you, Nezu, so strong?" I know well that acting alone or together with Ms. Kawarai is not of much help. We want everybody to take action, but since that is impossible we think we should do it ourselves, so we do it. It is true that teachers are forming soldiers. We are not educating children to think by themselves, but children who follow orders and we cannot cooperate on that. Thinking of your own children, will you tacitly agree with such education? If your child is drowning you certainly will try to help him, no matter your life is in danger. Isn't? I have spent 30 years of my life as a teacher and have been greatly shaped by my teaching profession. If, at this time, because of being in danger to get punished I stand, then, I deny my own personality. And I could not do that.
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The following question is, "If teachers and parents were in good relationship they could have fought together. Under the actual circumstances, public education is totally taken in by the controlling power of the State and not much can be done." Since the beginning of the Meiji era, public education was located at the center, as the most important part of the government machinery and of the State's official propaganda. As a result, when public opposition is weak, public education exerts big influence. This is not only a problem of schools it also affects the views each one of us has with respect to politics.
How do parents and teachers relate mutually? Actually teachers that are released from class responsibilities are, most probably, the ones trusted by parents. Teachers that school authorities consider dangerous are not given class responsibility of any kind. My impression is that they are the ones to whom children consult their problems, because they listen to them, and parents consider suitable to talk to. When problems like bullying arise, children can most probably find faster advice talking to teachers released from class responsibilities that, in spite of being more advanced in age, are better prepared than principals, vice-principals or administrators and even class teachers.
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Education is under attack using expressions like "schools' collapse." About 20 years ago the National Railway Workers' Union was heavily criticized because "trade unionists did not perform their tasks" and the Union was dismantled. As a result, safety supervision became loose with an increase in the number of accidents. Similarly schools are criticized for low standards and a propaganda campaign blames the lack of leadership of teachers for the low educational standards of children. Everybody seemed to accept it and moved to extra private lessons (Juku). Even teachers afraid of losing their positions run for self-protection, but nobody dared to mention that it was strange.

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One of the questions dealt with the kind of relationship with international bodies, like ILO and other organizations. I think that only unions, not individuals, can appeal to ILO.
The reactions from abroad are strong. In South Korea also the imposition of the national flag is spreading. Although America has not yet a system of punishment there is increasing enforcement to show loyalty to the national flag. Besides that, teachers are sent to the Marines for training on "patriotism." Something similar is going on in Japan. The situation in Japan, South Korea and America has somehow common elements and Koreans as well as Americans let us know that the Japanese situation is especially strange and critical. Seemingly, many French citizens have watched our film.
For a long time Japan has put into practice an education that destroys the individual. People cannot express their opinions. I think that there is no other way but to get away from such system. Authorities in power are trying to use education. In fact, education is the way to change this terrible situation. Both sides can use education for their own purposes. I think that the way to build a democratic society where everyone can live happily is by bringing back to us an education that incites people to use their heads. It is late already but, unless we do that, there is no other possibility to build up a society where citizens become really independent.
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The next punishment waiting for me and Ms. Kawarai is "dismissal." Thus, I want to move actively starting summer vacations. Every Friday morning I distribute leaflets in front of Tokyo's municipal building and address by microphone the Education Board. From time to time, I go to the office of the Board and hand demands, asking for official answers to my list of questions. I want to make a great fight not to be fired.
I would like to ask all of you to raise your voices to the Education Board protesting the punishments, so that the opinions of Tokyo residents are properly represented. In concrete, during September and February I want to distribute leaflets for a full day at Shinjuku Station and in front of the Municipal building, together with many other people coming from all over Japan. I want to inform people that this is an issue that concerns everybody's children. The only way left after my dismissal next year is a court appeal. Japan Federation of Bar Associations and Dai-ni Tokyo Bar Association have sent a warning to the Education Board concerning my punishment but they don't give ear to it. Any way, I try all possible ways.
[Please take a look at her Web. http://www.din.or.jp/~okidentt/nezusan.htm]
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