The Tokorozawa High School Entrance Ceremony Incident

by Robert William Aspinall

This report was writen by Robert William Aspinall

                   Robert William Aspinall

                       Visiting Lecturer, Department of English
                  Faculty of Language and Culture, Nagoya University

Field of Specialty

     Japanese Education System and Politics 

Contact Details

     Snail-mail: 464-01  Faculty of Language and Culture, Nagoya University,
                         Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan 
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--------------------------------------------------------------------------(01) Robert Aspinall The Tokorozawa High School Entrance Ceremony Incident Introduction For a short time in April 1998 events at one high school in Saitama prefecture caught the attention of Japan's national media. The student council at that school had decided to boycott the official entrance ceremony organised by the school principal, and organise a ceremony of their own. Why would such an apparently minor incident attract such a lot of attention? The purpose of this article is to explore the reasons why, not only the media, but also commentators on the Left and the Right of Japanese politics(*1) felt that events at Tokorozawa High Schools were so worthy of comment. Within any given education system there is no doubt that from time to time events at one particular school can assume a very symbolic purpose that can transcend purely local issues. The various pressure groups and political parties that are involved in a discourse about education at the national level can sometimes pick on the example of one individual school to illustrate the arguments they are trying to make. For the media, it is easier to tell a story about one school, with clearly identifiable teachers, parents and children (some of whom can be portrayed as heroes, victims or villains), than it is to discuss the education system as a whole. For example, it is difficult now for anyone to discuss the history of the education system in England in the 1970s without referring to the case of William Tyndale School. This London elementary school became the focus of a fierce row about the issue of 'progressive' teaching methods versus 'traditional' teaching methods.(*2) The teachers and pupils of this school became pawns in a national struggle over the values and purpose of the English education system as a whole. It is too early to say whether Tokorozawa High School will become as famous (or infamous) a case in Japan as William Tyndale School became in England. However, for a large Part of 1998 a significant amount of discourse on education in Japan made reference to it. The story of the entrance ceremony incident was used by both Left and Right for their own purposes. Before looking at these broader issues surrounding events at this school, however, it is first necessary to review the specific events themselves. Therefore the first section of this article will deal with the actual events at the school. Later sections will deal with the issues of the national flag and national anthem, and the debate about the meaning --------------------------------------------------------------------------(02) of controversial terms like 'freedom', 'independence', 'rights', and 'democratic education'. Finally the changing nature of conflict within the education system will be discussed. Events at Tokorozawa High School 1997-98 Tokorozawa High School is one of the better academic high schools in Saitama prefecture. It has a long history and a tradition of student activism and independence. Unlike the majority of high schools in Japan, Tokorozawa students do not wear uniforms and have quite relaxed regulations about hairstyle. On April lst 1997 a new principal arrived there. His name was Uchida Tatstuo, and he had the reputation of being one of the prefecture's top principals. Sources inside the prefectural board of education were reported as saying that his mission was to 'normalise' Tokorozawa High School.(*3) This begs the question of why the school, in the eyes of the Board of Education, needed 'normalising'. Subsequent events were to show that the main area of concern for the Board of Education was Tokorozawa's refusal to fly the national flag or sing the national anthem at school ceremonies. Since 1989 every Board of Education in Japan had been instructed by Mombusho to enforce The flying of the hinomaru and the singing of the kimigayo at school entrance and graduation ceremonies. By l998 Mombusho had achieved (at least on paper) a very high level of compliance to these instructions. Tokorozawa High School's continued, open refusal to follow suit was considered a challenge to the authority of Mombusho, to Saitama Board of Education and to the whole system of 'guidance' and regulation by which schools in Japan are governed. Principal Uchida decided to stamp his authority onto his new school from the moment he arrived there. His new tenure began on April 1st, 1997, and one of his first jobs was the supervision of the school entrance ceremony. At the teachers' meeting held on April 8th to discuss plans for this ceremony, Uchida announced that this year's ceremony would include singing the national anthem and flying the national flag. Representatives of the two teachers' unions objected saying that the plans for the ceremony had already been made before Uchida's arrival and that they should not be changed now. The new principal stuck to his guns however and there was a stalemate between the two sides. A further meeting was held the following day, the day of the ceremony itself, but there was no sign of an agreement being reached. According to accounts of the meeting from those who were there, Uchida abruptly walked out of the meeting taking a cassette tape of the national anthem, a tape-recorder, --------------------------------------------------------------------------(03) and the flag with him.(*4) He proceeded to the Sports Hall, the site of the ceremony, where parents and students had already been kept waiting for 30 minutes beyond the scheduled time for the opening of the ceremony. What followed was pure farce. The principal's first words to the assembled parents and children were lost because the power to the Public Address system had been cut, and then when he tried to play the cassette of the Kimigayo, he found that someone had taken the tape. General noise and confusion reigned. Even before Uchida had finished the opening address, homeroom teachers started to take new students to their classrooms. Soon the only people left in the sports hall were Uchida, the vice-principal (Mr Endoh) and the head of the school office (Mr Yarmazaki) - in other words the school' s senior management team. Undeterred, they continued the ceremony alone. Once the farce was over a joint committee of teachers and students demanded that the principal account for his 'reckless behaviour', Uchida replied that it was his job to manage the school in accordance with the course of study guidelines from Mombusho. The students put forward the argument that their opinions should be considered and that teachers and students should consult together on equal terms. Uchida replied to this by saying that students and teachers were certainly not equal: the former must be guided by the latter. At this point it seems that the student council decided that they were not going to get very far with Uchida through negotiation. Instead, they decided that future disagreements over the organisation of ceremonies would better be resolved by the students organising their own, alternative ceremonies, The first test of this new approach would come in March the following year with the school graduation ceremony. The student council started making plans in November, announcing that it would replace the usual graduation ceremony with a student-organised 'graduation memorial ceremony'. The teachers' meeting and the PTA both approved this plan. Faced with this ultimatum Uchida announced that he had no objection to a studernt-oganised ceremony per se, but that all the students must also attend the official ceremony which would contain the flag and the anthem. When the day of the two graduation ceremonies came attendance for the 'official' ceremony was poor while the unofficial ceremony was performed in front of a packed audience. At the end of his first year in the job Uchida had to face the fact that he had not yet stamped his authority on the school. In consultation with the Board of Education he began working on a strategy that would bring success in the coming year. In March 1998 Uchida and the Board of Education decided that the time had come to use threats to bring the recalcitrant students and teachers of Tokorozawa High School into line. First of all the teachers were informed --------------------------------------------------------------------------(04) that if they did not attend the next official ceremony (the entrance ceremony) their action would be regarded as an infringement of official orders, and they would be open to censure or punishment (this could take the form of a written censure or the withdrawal of pay). Then, on March 31st, a letter was sent by the Board of Education to the parents of all of the children who were due to enter the school the following month. The letter informed them that if they wanted to be sure of their child's entrance to the school they should make sure that they attend the official entrance ceremony. This letter referred to their children as 'candidates for entrance' thus implying that their acceptance by the school was not a foregone conclusion. It was very unusual for a phrase like this to be used at such a late stage in the entrance procedure. At the end of March, with only a few days to go before the start of the school year parents are normally certain about which school their children will attend. It seems that the Board of Education's choice of words here was unprecedented. On April 3rd, Uchida sent out a letter of his own to the parents of new students which repeated the threat to exclude them if they did not attend the official ceremony. Meanwhile relations between Uchida and the teachers deteriorated further. On March 28th, at a meeting for new students and their parents, one teacher, Takenaga Koichi, told the parents that it was the opinion of Tokorozawa High School teachers that only the unofficial ceremony should take place. For his pains Takenaga received a written warning from the Board of Education. He was not supposed to undermine the authority of the principal in public. This punishment caused outrage among the other teachers and on April 2nd a letter was delivered to the Board of Education demanding the recall of Uchida i.e. that he be sacked as principal of Tokorozawa High School. The PTA supported this demand, and on the following day presented a petition of their own calling for Uchida's transfer. It was at this point that outside forces began to get involved in the dispute. Nichibenren, the Japanese Lawyers Association, sent messages of encouragement to the student council and the PTA. The national media also started to notice that this had the making of a national new story. April 7th 1998 was the day of the two entrance ceremonies. The official ceremony was held first, to be followed shortly after by the unofficial 'celebrate entering school ceremony'. The media were present in force. Over 100 members of the press and TV companies were gathered outside the school. Also outside the school were a collection of right wing sound trucks which projected, at high volume, slogans like 'Close down Tokorozawa High School, the school that is opposed to the national flag and the national anthem!' In spite of threats to exclude them, about 40% of new students failed to attend the official ceremony, going only to the unofficial one. --------------------------------------------------------------------------(05) The other students attended both ceremonies. Therefore, as in the previous year, the unofficial ceremony had turned out to be more popular than the official one. The threats of Uchida and the Board of Education had not had the desired effect. Furthermore, all of the new students were able to enter the school. The threat to exclude those who failed to attend the official ceremony had proved to be a hollow one. The Issue of the Flag and the Anthem As far as their content is concerned, the only significant difference between the official and unofficial ceremonies held at Tokorozawa High School was that in the former the national symbols of the flag and the anthem were used and in the latter they were not. Why is the use of these symbols a cause of such controversy in Japan? It is to this issue that we must now turn. In order to understand this issue fully it is necessary to analyse the historical background to the controversy. Legally speaking Japan does not have a national flag or anthem. However the universal use of the Hinomaru flag and the Kimigayo anthem at the places and events where countries normally display their national symbols gives them a de facto official status. Controversy surrounds both symbols because of their association with wartime and prewar Japanese militarism and imperialism. Unlike its Axis allies, Germany and Italy, Japan did not change or modify its national symbols after the war. Critics on the left interpreted this as a failure to signal a clear break with the past. Actually, in October 1945 SCAP, as part of its program against militarism, had sent out orders forbidding the official raising of the Hinomaru, only to reverse the decision in 1949. hoping, rather optimistically, that from then on the unmodified flag would become a 'symbol of peace.'(*5) This failed to happen, and both the flag and the anthem have been controversial ever since. It was inevitable that the flag and the anthem would become a contentious issue between Left and Right within the Japanese education system. Ever since the Minister of Education, Amano Teiyu, announced, in 1950, that raising the flag and singing the anthem would be 'desirable' (nozomashii), the ministry and conservative politicians have consistently tried to extend recognition of these national symbols into schools. Their aim has been to instil patriotism into children. The Japan Teachers' Union, Nikkyoso, for its part, has been opposed to the re-introduction of the flag and the anthem into school life for two main reasons. Firstly, they share the opinion, outlined above, that the flag and the anthem are reminiscent of war and imperialism, and, secondly they are opposed, in principle, to the --------------------------------------------------------------------------(06) authorities giving orders to schools about how to conduct their affairs, in this case school ceremonies.(*6) The second objection came to the fore in the mid-1980s when Mombusho stepped up its efforts to increase recognition of the flag and anthem. The debate on education in the 1980s was dominated by Prime Minister Nakasone's Ad Hoc Council on Education, or Rinkyoshin. One of its proposals concerned the compulsory flying of the flag and singing of the anthem at school functions. The need for increased patriotism was justified by Japan's increasing internationalisation. It was argued that Japanese people could not properly learn to respect foreign cultures until they had learned to respect their own. (*7) Nikkyoso and other opponents saw this as merely the latest justification for a long established effort by conservative forces to turn the clock back to prewar style jingoism. The Ministry of Education responded to Rinkyoshin's call for greater recognition of the flag and anthem by including in its 1989 revision of the course of study guidelines (gakusyu shido yoryo) a change in the wording concerning regulations about the flag and the anthem. From now on flying the flag and singing the anthem at school ceremonies was no longer to be merely desirable (nozomashii), it was to be something that 'must be done' (suru mono to suru). (*8) Prior to 1989 over half of elementary and senior high schools had failed to comply with ministry wishes. The figure for junior high schools was a little over 60%.(*9) The ministry was now aiming for 100% compliance and was prepared to discipline principals who resisted. In every prefecture boards of education were instructed to compile lists of which schools did and which schools did not fly the flag and sing the anthem. In 1991 125 school principals (90% of whom were in Kochi prefecture) were disciplined, the first to be so punished under the new rules.(*10) In schools with strong union representation and a militant leadership the school principal now found him or herself in a difficult position. They would be punished by their superiors if they did not comply with the regulations, but they would meet with resistance and disruption if they did. In many cases the principal and vice-principal tried to find ways around this dilemma by obeying the letter of the law while appeasing opponents by enacting the regulations in meaningless or even farcical ways. There are reports of the vice-principal singing the anthem alone while playing the tune on a small cassette player, (*11) and of principals running the flag up a flag pole, leaving it there for a few seconds, and then pulling it down. (*12) Reports of flags being flown in inappropriate places, for example on the tops of buildings, in the corners of playing fields or amongst copses --------------------------------------------------------------------------(07) of trees, are even more numerous.(*13) On one occasion high school students chose to fly koinobori carp streamers from the flag-pole in place of the Hinomaru.(*14) In spite of continued resistance and disruption, there is evidence that, by the mid-1990s, Mombusho was beginning to consider the dispute to be over. In terms of the official statistics of compliance there is no doubt that it has achieved its aims. (*15) Thus, when Nikkyoso made its 1995 decision to omit any reference to the flag and the anthem in its campaign policy document, it looked like it was bringing an end to a lost battle. However, the minority left-wing teachers' union, Zenkyo has accused Nikkyoso of surrendering to the enemy by giving up this fight. The staff of Tokorozawa High School consists of members of both of these unions as well as teachers who are not members of any union. Whatever their personal feelings on the subject were, they found themselves in April 1998 plunged right back into conflict over the flag and anthem. Arguments over words: Tokorozawa students and the meaning of Freedom,Democracy and Right in the contemporary Japanese education system The way in which the two sides at Tokorozawa conducted their battle of words over the flag and the anthem was highly significant. They helped focus attention onto one of the key ideological areas of dispute between Left and Right in the contemporary Japanese education system. This was the dispute over the meaning and practical implications of the democratic terms and conditions that had been written into the defining documents of the postwar Japanese education system by the American occupiers and their center-left Japanese allies(**). Since the Occupation there has been continued disagreement over the meaning of 'freedom' and 'democracy' as well as related terms like 'democratic education' (the achievement of which was one of the main goals of the American Occupiers). Now, in the 1990s, the concept of 'children's rights' has been added to this controversial list. Japan's ratification of the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child provoked a national debate about the nature of children's rights in Japan. We will consider these terms one by one before discussing the overall significance of this controversy about meaning. What do Japanese people mean when they talk about 'freedom' in relation to the education of children? The most commonly used Japanese word for 'freedom' is jiyu and in the debate surrounding Tokorozawa High School this word was usually used in the phrase jiyu na Kofu or 'School Ethos of --------------------------------------------------------------------------(08) Freedom'. Supporters of the students used this Phrase in a positive way, and praised the students for standing up for freedom. Critics, on the other hand, claimed that the phrase was a sham that disguised the manipulation of the students by Communists. Another commonly used phrase in the debate was jishu-jiritsu, which means independence in the sense of standing on one's own two feet and making decisions for oneself. Tokorozawa students were also praised on the letter pages of the Asahi Shimbun for their shutaisei. This is another word for independence, and one that has been used often in the debate on education in Japan. It is something that the Left believes should be encouraged in schools and universities. Thus, when the Tokorozawa students claimed that they were standing up for the freedom and independence of school students, they immediately immersed themselves into a much broader discourse on the aims and values of the education system. In 1991 the student council had drawn up a 'Bill of Rights' to codify exactly what they were striving to achieve. (This Bill of Rights is reproduced in full as an appendix to this article.) The students' concept of freedom included freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and the freedom to organise their own school activities: in other words, the freedom to act as an individual and to organise things independently of adult authority. As it stands, the Bill of Rights is hardly a revolutionary document. It does not include anything about student participation in the design of the school curriculum for example. Up until the 1998 incident the only outward way in which Tokorozawa High School was different from other Japanese high schools was in its lack of school uniform (including its lack of strict regulations about hairstyles). Nevertheless, it only took a few gestures for Tokorozawa High School to get itself involved in a larger ideological struggle between Left and Right. Documents published by the two Saitama high school teacher unions that made reference to Tokorozawa's entrance ceremony included favorable references to the students' jishu-jiritsu, The teachers in the school consistently supported the students in their interpretation of the concepts of freedom and independence. Also, letter writers to the Asahi Shimbun and to other liberal or leftwing publications (for example the weekly magazine Shukan Kinyo) praised the students for standing up for these ideals. One letter made the point that by refusing to bow before the old imperialist symbols of the hinomaru and kimigayo, the students were striking a blow for student independence and autonomy. They were refusing to accept their place within the school and within society as mere 'subjects' (shinmin) of the emperor, but instead were asserting their own rights as citizens of a democracy. --------------------------------------------------------------------------(09) In other words the Left and the centre-left in Japan supported the Tokorozawa students' interpretation of 'freedom' and 'independence'. The Right, however, had a different view of the matter. On July 8th, l998 the Yomiuri Shimbun, a newspaper that is sometimes both mouthpiece and thinktank for the centre-right in Japan, ran an editorial about education reform. This editorial specifically singled out the Tokorozawa students and the teachers who supported them, for criticism. It accused them of 'misunderstanding' the concept of freedom. If teachers want to have more freedom, the editorial argued ,then they must "act with a strong sense of self-discipline and high moral standards. Their quest for freedom must be coupled with a sense of self-discipline." The Yomiuri is in favour of a certain amount of extra 'freedom' in the education system in the form of dereguration and decentralisation. In common with most organised business opinion in Japan, the Yomiuri recognises that the very rigid and centralised education system that helped Japan to 'catch up' with the West in economic development after the War is now in need of major overhaul. The business world is keen to see more flexibility and more choice in education, as well as the introduction of more business-style management into educational administration. (*16) The problem for the Right is how to achieve these ends without contributing to various, contemporary problems that are perceived to be the product of a break down of the traditional discipline and authority of Japanese schools.(*17) This explains the heavy stress the Yomiuri editorial placed on 'self-discipline' and 'moral standards'. The Right hopes that by emphasising these elements the education system can be made more flexible and 'freer' without the danger of an explosion of anarchy in the classroom. Furthermore, from the perspective of the Right, one of the key elements in any 'moral education' must always be 'patriotic education'. As was mentioned earlier this patriotic education necessarily involves respect for the national flag and the national anthem. This respect must be taught to all Japanese children. The Right does not believe that any 'flexibility' in the education system should include the option of doing without the flag and the anthem. By doing what they did in April 1998, therefore, the students of Tokorozawa High School posed a double threat to the Right's vision of the direction of education reform. By refusing to respect the flag and the anthem they posed a threat to 'patriotic education', and by disobeying the instructions of the principal they posed a threat to school discipline. For the Right, this is clearly a case of the abuse of 'freedom'. During the Occupation the concept of 'democratic education' gained favour in Japan. Today it is unthinkable or a mainstream politician or education expert to speak out against the idea of democracy in education. --------------------------------------------------------------------------(10) Instead, and predictably, disagreement between Left and Right has been about the meaning of these terms. Basically, both sides defined the terms to suit their own political purpose. When the Occupation was over, the Right was dominant in national politics, and with the unification of the Liberal and the Democratic parties to become the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955, they were able to stamp their authority on a period of unbroken rule that continued until 1989 (when the LDP lost its majority in the Upper House for the first time) It therefore suited the Right to have a fairly centralised definition of what democracy meant. In the case of the education system, they argued that the Minister of Education had legitimate authority over the national education system. He (and in LDP administrations it always was a he) was the representative of the democratically elected government, a government that served the interests of the whole nation, not just a part. It was his duty to consult with the various interest groups and regional groups that were involved with education, but after consultation his decision must be final. In this way a national education system that treated all Japanese children the same could be preserved. The Left had a different view about democracy and education. Until it split into two in 1989, the most powerful group on the Left in the area of education was always the Japan Teachers' Union, Nikkyoso. At its height, this union represented the vast majority of school teachers in Japan. However, in Japanese law it was not recognised as their national spokesperson. For example, because teachers' wages were set at the national level the union could not take part in meaningful wage negotiations. At the prefectural level however the teachers union was recognised as the legal representative of its members. It therefore suited the union to push for more decentralisation of the education system. If more power were handed over from Tokyo to the prefectures then the influence of the union would be increased. The union also did not like the way in which prefectural superintendents of education were always appointed rather than elected. Furthermore their appointment had to be approved by the Ministry of Education. Nikkyoso pressed for the introduction of elections to decide the superintendent of education and the Board of Education. Briefly, during the American occupation these posts had been elected. However, the Americans soon reversed their decision when they found that election campaigns for Boards of Education turned out to be highly politicized. Nikkyoso was in favour of a return to this kind of election for both ideological reasons and for practical reasons of increasing its own influence and reducing the power of Mombusho. --------------------------------------------------------------------------(11) Disputes between the right and left over the meaning of 'democracy' and 'freedom' have gone on for the entire postwar period. More recently a new dispute has come about concerned with the notion of 'rights' and specifically 'the rights of the child'. Japan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995. All sides in Japan said they supported this convention. However, as with the argument over the meaning of 'freedom' and 'democracy', dispute and ideological disagreement revolved around the meaning and implications of the words contained in the convention. This disagreement was heightened by the fact that, unlike the constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was not written up in a Japanese language version that everyone could agree on. Japanese is not one of the official languages of the UN and therefore it was up to each concerned Japanese group to come up with their own translation. It should not be surprising that the translations that each side came up with were one that suited their own ideological and political purposes. Thus Mombusho offered a translation and an interpretation of that translation that enabled them to submit a report to the UN saying that Japan was complying with all of the main articles of the convention. Nichibenren, the lawyers' organization, arrived at a translation and an interpretation that was far less flattering to the Japanese education system. The teachers unions agreed with the lawyers' version of the convention. For both the Right and the Left the acceptance of the language of 'rights' marked a key change of direction in the ideological discourse on education. Previously, the Right had been mainly concerned with fostering patriotism and conservative social and moral values within the nation's young, while the Left had been concerned with promoting pacifist and anti-imperialist education. Both sides had agreed that equality was important, i.e. that educational provision should be more or less the same across the whole nation and for all social groups. By shifting the debate into the area of human rights, however, both sides have introduced an inevitable individualism into the debate. Both sides would argue, of course, that they have always been interested in the individual, or, more specifically, in education that aims at developing each person's individual personality. However, up until very recently, this concern with the individual had always been expressed in terms of the individual as part of a group. From his or her earliest days each Japanese child has been trained in how to be the member of a group. Teachers regard it as one of their main tasks to foster this ability to co-operate with other people, and scholars of comparative education have remarked that this is one of the key areas where Japanese schools (especially elementary schools) differ from those in the West.(*18) Both the Japanese Left and Right --------------------------------------------------------------------------(12) agreed with this function of the education system. (Where they differed was on the content of the curriculum.) However, by shifting the focus of attention onto individual human rights both sides will now have to face up to the possibility of the weakening of group-centred education. With more choice given to children and their parents about what subject to study and what school to go to, the tendency of Japanese students to stay with the same group of classmates (their homeroom) for most of their time in one school will be diminished. More choice and variety will inevitably undermine the egalitarian consensus that so characterized the postwar education system. Individualism will begin to assert itself in various ways. In the case of the Tokorozawa incident the most notable feature that emphasised this new development was the students' reliance on lawyers to protect themselves when they were threatened with exclusion by the principal and the Board of Education. This is one of the features that marks the Tokorozawa dispute out as a new kind of conflict within the education system. It is to this aspect that we now turn. New Patterns of Conflict Within the Education System Some aspects of the Tokorozawa conflict look familiar to students of conflict within the Japanese education system. The issue of the flag and the anthem is not a new issue. The tendency for right wing sound trucks to be attracted to the site of conflict is depressingly familiar. Furthermore, this is not the first time that a principal has overruled the wishes of a majority of his staff tried to impose his decision on them. What are the features of the Totorozawa conflict, therefore, that mark it out as being worthy of special attention? What are the features that may make it the harbinger of a new type of conflict in Japan's school system? The main difference between the Tokorozawa conflict and previous types of conflict at Japanese schools is the fact that, at Tokorozawa, the challenge to the Right was led by school students whose main slogans involved the language of freedom and rights. In previous conflicts, the opposition to right-wing management had been led and organised by the teachers' unions, and the slogans they had used had invoked leftwing or trade unionist ideals. At its height, Nikkyoso had seen itself, with some justification, as the central pillar of the Left in Japan, not just in the education system, but in the country at large. It was one of the main supporters of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP), which for most of the postwar period provided the main political opposition to the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), between 1955 and 1993 the perpetual party of government. Also, Nikkyoso was usually --------------------------------------------------------------------------(13) the most powerful union within Sohyo, the giant federation of public sector unions, most of which had a left or centre-left slant. By 1998, however, this political situation had changed beyond recognition. Between 1992 and 1998 the JSP was reduced from being the main opposition party in the Diet to a mere rump. In 1989 the public sector union federation, Sohyo, merged with the private sector federation, Domei to form Rengo, an organisation that pursued a conciliatory line toward management and government. Lastly, also in 1989, Nikkyoso split into two, following internal wrangling about affiliation with Rengo. It seemed that in a few short years the entire edifice of the Japanese Left had crumbled away. Only the Japan Communist Party (JCP) emerged from this period stronger than before, (In part it capitalised on the misfortunes of the other organisations of the Left.) Before 1989, most of the conflict between management and teachers that occurred in schools was part of a wider picture of conflict between Nikkyoso and the government. This does not mean that the pattern of conflict, nor its intensity, was the same in every school in Japan - far from it. American anthropologist, Thomas Rohlen has shown how the conflict varied from prefecture to prefecture and from individual school to individual school depending on local circumstances.(*19) However, he also showed how some of the most bitter conflict within schools was brought about by developments at the national level. When Nikkyoso split into two, the more moderate of the resulting parts (the one that retained the name Nikkyoso) opted for a more conciliatory policy toward Mombusho and the government. The other part, which adopted the name Zenkyo, decided to continue the struggle, but because its membership comprised only about 10% of Japan's school teachers, its influence was clearly less than that of the old, united union, which in its heyday had had a membership rate of over 90%. Many commentators believed that the above developments would herald the end of conflict within the Japanese education system. The interesting thing about events at Tokorozawa High School in April 1998 is that they illustrate a pattern of conflict different from that which bad gone before. It is true that the origin of the conflict was the national campaign to enforce the flying of the national flag and the singing of the national anthem. However, in their act of defiance against the principal and the Board of Education, the students of Tokorozawa High School did not see themselves in taking part in any national campaign. Instead they regarded themselves as standing up for their own rights as individuals and members of an individual school. They received messages of support from other schools, and help and advice from outside (as well as a huge amount of media attention), but their campaign --------------------------------------------------------------------------(14) to run their own school ceremonies was primarily a localised affair. If any of the students had been punished for their actions they would have defended themselves as individuals with rights rather than members of a group. It is this stress on human rights and individualism that marks the Tokorozawa dispute out as a new type of conflict within the Japanese education system. Conclusion: The Significance of the Tokorozawa Incident When the leaders of Tokorozawa High School student council decided to organise their own entrance ceremony for April 9th, 1998 they probably had no idea of the size of the controversy that would ensue. What they could not possibly have known was how well their actions, and the actions of the principal, would suit the purposes of both Left and Right in Japan as they engaged in their neverending ideological war of words. The fact was that the conflict between students and principal at Tokorozawa High School took place on the fault line that runs right through the middle of the Japanese education system. On one side stood those in favour of more freedom, autonomy and independence for students and teachers. On the other stood those in favour of responsibility, moral education and patriotism. Both sides believed that their agenda would cure the ills afflicting schools in contemporary Japan. Furthermore, each side blamed the other for (willingly or unwillingly) promoting policies that were detrimental to children and to society as a whole. Up until the late 1980s, conflict between Left and Right was centred around the long-running conflict between government and teachers' unions. Changes within the unions and the national political parties in the 1990s have made this picture much more complex than it used to be. However, the Tokorozawa High School incident can be viewed as a reminder that the basic ideological differences between Left and Right have not gone away. It is the way in which these differences are manifested in actual conflict that has changed. Appendix Tokorozawa High School Student Council Bill of Rights Preamble --------------------------------------------------------------------------(15) People have the right to live freely. The right to freely organise student activities is a universal request of Tokorozawa High School students. Various rights are necessary for this purpose. In the past the repeated efforts of large numbers of Tokorozawa High School students has achieved this aim. Furthermore, during the past various rights were protected. Many of these rights were achieved within the context of a relationship of trust between students and staff. To preserve the freedom won it is necessary to achieve self-government for ourselves. The break down of this self-government will bring about a loss of rights. In the case of threat that this self-government will be destroyed, this must be prevented at all costs. Here we enact the "Student Council Bill of Rights" and recognise the value and meaning of the right to freedom. 1. A school is made up of students and staff. The individuality of all of these people is recognised and the claims of these people should be respected. 2. In order to improve school life the freedom of self-governed, democratic school activity is guaranteed. 3. Freedom of expression, including clothes and hair styles, is guaranteed. 4. Freedom of conscience is guaranteed. These freedoms are valid so long as they do not violate another person's rights. No one should forget that these freedoms are always accompanied by responsibilities. Because the ideal of freedom does not involve damage to the rights of others, it follows that, whatever the situation, rights must always be guaranteed.. 22nd February, 1990 Students' General Meeting (**) The postwar constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education (both 1947) (*1) Neither the 'left' nor the 'Right' in Japan is a monolithic entity of course. However, for the purposes of this article I will often refer to the opinions or the motives of one or the other as if it were a unified whole. This is justified by the fact that the controversies discussed here are mostly those that divided people clearly into members of one camp or the other. (*2) See Gratton and Jackson (1976) (*3) Yamazaki (1998) p.194. The Japanese word used was seijoka. (*4) Yamazaki (1998) p.195. --------------------------------------------------------------------------(16) (*5) Cripps (1996), p.81 (*6) Interview with Yoneura Tadashi, secretary of Saikokyo (Saitama High School Teachers' Union), 22 March 1996 (*7) gakko un'eikenkyu (Journal of Education Management Research) March 1995 Special edition on the Hinomaru and Kimigayo. (*8) Cripps (1996), p.83 (*9) Cripps (1996), p.84 (*10) Asahi Shimbun 25 July 1991 They were reprimanded or warned (*11) Cripps (1996), p.86 (*12) Interview with union members at Urawa Commercial High School, Saitama, 20th September 1995 (*13) Cripps (1996), p.90 and the author's own experience at high schools in Saitama 1989-1992 (*14) 1990 graduation ceremony, Kumagaya High School Saitama. Interestingly, this is another Saitama high school with a long history and a good academic reputation. (*15) On 17th October 1998 the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that a Mombusho survey had found that the national flag was flown at 98% of ceremonies held in primary, junior high and senior high schools in March and April of that year. The figure for singing the anthem was 80%. (*16) See Keidanren (1996) fir a summary of the business world's proposals for education reform. (*17) These problems include bullying and school violence, as well as an increase in truancy. There is also a new category of problem referred to as gakkyu hokai or 'classroom breakdown' i.e. the breakdown of the teacher's authority within the classroom. (*18) See White (1987) for a standard work on this subject (*19) Rohlen (1984)

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