- Title: Japanese kindergarten teaches children pre-war values
- Date: 8th December 2016
- Summary: VARIOUS OF CHILDREN PLAYING MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
- Embargoed: 23rd December 2016 03:45
- Keywords: Japan kindergarten pre-war values Shinzo Abe wife
- Location: OSAKA AND TOKYO, JAPAN/NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- City: OSAKA AND TOKYO, JAPAN/NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- Country: Japan
- Reuters ID: LVA0025C0VOZP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:EDITORS NOTE: PART AUDIO AS INCOMING
At first glance Tsukamoto kindergarten looks just like any other nursery school in Japan. However, it has a very unique curriculum reminiscent of what was taught throughout pre-war Japan.
The walls of Tsukamoto kindergarten are lined with images of the imperial family that students are instructed to bow to throughout the day. The private school hopes to instill its young pupils with a sense of patriotism by pursuing a curriculum focused on Japanese traditions and culture.
Every morning at the kindergarten, where the atmosphere is more rigid than at many other pre-schools, children aged 3 to 5 years old sing the national anthem of Japan in front of the national flag and recite the pre-war Imperial Rescript on Education, which contains 12 commandments that were constructed in 1890 to form "ideal" citizens under Emperor Meiji.
The commandments contained a wide range of Confucian virtues, and demanded devotion to the emperor and personal sacrifice for the country.
After the war, the U.S. occupation authorities abolished the rescript, which many saw as sources of the blind obedience and moral certitude that helped fuel Japan's militarism. In 1947, the postwar government passed the Fundamental Law on Education, designed to bolster the liberal and democratic values of the postwar pacifist constitution.
However, this private kindergarten, which officially re-introduced the teachings of the rescript 15 years ago, says it is not into fostering nationalism.
"What we're aiming to foster in education is patriotism or 'Japanese-ism', expanding Japan's spirits all over the world, not the so-called nationalism. These are totally different," said principal of the kindergarten, Yasunori Kagoike.
Tsukamoto kindergarten has cultural activities, where students can learn Japanese traditional chess, musical instruments and martial arts. They also go on school trips to Self-Defense Forces bases as a part of their curriculum.
Kagoike hopes other schools in Japan will adopt their curriculum so children are ready to protect their nation when it faces threats from other countries.
"If such imperialist nation is trying to harm Japan, we need to fight against it. For that, revising the Article 9 of the Japan's Constitution is indeed necessary and should be carried out as soon as possible," said the principal.
Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution renounces war and, if read literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces, although Japan's military, called the Self-Defence Forces, has over 200,000 personnel and is equipped with high-tech weapons.
Revising the constitution is one of the key policy targets of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Currently about 200 children study at Tsukamoto kindergarten, and the number of enrolled students has been on the rise each year, according to the school.
One of the teachers, Chinami Kagoike, said parents who choose Tsukamoto kindergarten agree with their approach to teach children to be a responsible citizen who works for the great of the nation.
Using an analogy of stopping a burglar getting into the house, Kagoike teaches students it is necessary to fight against such threats in order to protect themselves and families.
"Strengthening Japan would be subject to severe criticism from various countries, especially China, South Korea and North Korea. But instead of pulling away from this, I teach children that the Japanese government has clearly demonstrated its will, so you also need to break silence and go forward and say that you want to protect your family," she said.
Tsukamoto Kindergarten will open a primary school next year so students are able to continue a further six year educational program. Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will be the honorary principal of the new establishment, according to the school's brochures.
Michael Cucek, adjunct professor of Japan studies at Temple University said Abe's wife of 29 years is often seen as someone acting as a proxy for Abe, visiting places like the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where the Prime Minister cannot physically go himself.
Known as an ardent advocate of patriotic education, Abe revised a key education law to put patriotism back in the school curriculum during his first term in 2007, while he in his second term since 2012 has been more careful to lead hard-line right-wing policies.
"Having Abe Akie as the honorary principal of this new school, which is going to be so authentically pre-1945, the building itself is going to look like it was made in the 1920s. This kind of recapturing or re-assimilation of the pre-war ideological world is something that is, for me, very surprising that Mr. Abe would be involved in it," said Cucek.
Principal Kagoike is head of the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), a 38,000 strong nationalists lobby group with close ties to Abe and many of his cabinet ministers.
Last month, Abe became the first foreign leader to meet U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, with whom he shares a stated desire to raise their countries' global standing and both have support from right-wing constituencies.
"Many people talk about their being in an alignment between the interests of Mr. Trump who wants to see a Japan that is more likely to be wanting to defend itself, and thus the United States would not have to have its forces there or at least not have them in numbers that exist here in Japan and Mr. Abe's own personal desire to have a strong Japan that is able to defend itself," said Cucek.
Since 2012, Abe has attempted to reinterpret Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that renounces any military actions of its troops, aiming at increasing the nation's military capabilities.
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