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Monday, March 24, 2008

Tokyo Teachers Sit For Peace at Graduation Ceremonies

A quick report from Tokyo -

(If you are not familiar with the Kimigayo/Hinomaru controversy and the fight by the Japanese teachers for stopping remilitarization of Japan and its education, see this Japan Times Article:

Yesterday morning (March 24), Kimiko Nezu and Junko Kawarai, sat through the singing of Kimigayo at the graduation ceremony at their schools, as they have always determined to do so. As expected, they were both interrogated by the education board authorities, then held a press conference in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No.1.

Also attended was Ms. Yoneyama, a teacher from Katsushika ward, who claims that she has NOT been punished even though she has sat for Kimigayo for 8 times, more than what Kawarai has done. Yoneyama argues there are discrepancies between the degrees of punitive measures that Tokyo teachers have been receiving in accordance with their frequencies of disobedience. (photo of the press conference - from left, Nezu, Kawarai, and Yoneyama)

After that Nezu, Kawarai and their supporters went to the 27th floor of the Met. Gov. Building - the reception of the Tokyo Met. Education Board,only to find themselves blocked by security guards and Ed. Board's employees. Tokyo Met. Gov. Buildings are normally open to all citizens of Tokyo, who have free access to the receptions of each department. Only when Nezu, Kawarai and their supporters visit, they place this barricade of red tapes (yes, literally!) and security guards so they cannot even get to the reception. People who come for other businesses are admitted to enter. Ironically, there was a notice on the wall with some warnings that included 'No one is supposed to block the hallway.' (see second photo)

They argued for an hour, and both sides were very careful not to touch each other or engage in any physical activity that could be interpreted by the other party as an act of violence. Then Nezu, Kawarai's party went downstairs and demonstrated in front of the Met. Gov. Building, as they have been doing almost every day of this month. Nezu invited me to speak so I spoke of the Canadian citizens' support, especially that from B.C. teachers. I read the Resolution 202 by BCTF, one that supports Japanese teachers under punishment.

Nezu is likely to receive a notice of dismissal on March 28, which, if it happens, will come into effect on March 31st. If this does not happen, it will be a victorious event for her and their supporters. It it happens, it will be the first dismissal of a teacher in Japan for not standing up for Kimigayo. In a country that is supposed to be free and democratic, a teacher is about to be fired for sitting for 40 seconds.

Scroll down to March 24th. Photos from yesterday and scanned copy of the BCTF resolution are uploaded on the supporters' blog, much of which have been translated by a group of volunteers based in Vancouver.

If you would like to help,

The on-line petition form in English is at:

The addresses to which the letters should be sent to are at:

Thanks to Kimiko Nezu, Junko Kawarai and their wonderful supporters for allowing me to be part of this special day.


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