Shinzo Abe

Schoolchildren’s cheers were inappropriate, Japan’s Shinzo Abe says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 11:15pm

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday it was inappropriate that a kindergarten in Osaka run by a controversial school operator made children cheer for him during a sports event.

“I have no intention whatsoever of making a kindergarten say [such a thing]. I think it is inappropriate,” Abe told a parliamentary session, referring to an incident at the event in Tsukamoto Kindergarten operated by Moritomo Gakuen, where four preschoolers raised their right hands and shouted twice, “Go fight, Prime Minister Abe.”

Video footage showed the children also saying, “Adults should protect the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima. Chinese and South Korean people who treat Japan as a bad [country] should amend their minds.” They also said, “The passage through the Diet of the security legislation was good.”

The Japanese-administered Senkakus in the East China Sea are a source of friction with China, which claims the islands, calling them Diaoyu. The South Korean-controlled Takeshima islets in the Sea of

Japan, meanwhile, are also a politically sensitive subject, with Tokyo claiming sovereignty over them.

Education minister Hirokazu Matsuno said the government is “closely watching” how the Osaka prefectural government will deal with the matter, including determining whether making children take such actions constitute political activities at schools banned under the education law.

The Basic Act on Education says that “schools prescribed by law shall refrain from political education in favour of or against any specific political party, and from other political activities.”

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The kindergarten in Yodogawa Ward of Osaka, western Japan, has also been criticised for distributing material including disparaging statements against Korean residents of Japan and Chinese people.

The kindergarten also makes its pupils memorise Japan’s Imperial Rescript on Education – an 1890 edict that was used to promote emperor-oriented and militaristic education before and during the second world war.

Abe has been under fire in connection with the operator Moritomo Gakuen’s purchase of a 8,770-square-metre state-owned lot in neighbouring Toyonaka for 134 million yen (US$1.18 million), only about 14 per cent of its appraised value, in June last year, as land for a soon-to-open elementary school.

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Abe reiterated during Monday’s House of Representatives Budget Committee session that neither he nor his wife Akie, who served and later reigned as the elementary school’s honorary principal, was involved in the land deal.

Kensuke Onishi, a lawmaker from the main opposition Democratic Party, requested testimony from Yasunori Kagoike, administrator of Moritomo Gakuen, as an unsworn witness in the Diet.

“If [Abe] has a guilty conscience, an investigating committee involving participation of a third party should be set up. There should also be a concentrated deliberation [on the matter],” Onishi said.