Akihito abdicated on April 30 and Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on May
1. Reiwa, a name of the subsequent imperial era following the Heisei, was
announced by the government on April 1. Commercial media are excited about
topics on the event. We need to understand correctly the status of Emperor in
the constitutional domain on this occasion.
USE OF EMPEROR CANNOT BE ACCEPTED
to a recent survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (dated April 19),
76% of the respondents ‘have friendly feeling toward the Imperial family’, the
rate being the record-highest. They replied to a question, ‘what do your expect
for the new Emperor?: ‘visits to disaster-hit areas’, ‘visits to foreign
countries and meetings with foreign dignitaries’, and ‘memorial visits for war
victims’ in the numerically ranked order.
survey shows a positive impression toward the outgoing Emperor in terms of his conducts
as ‘the symbol’ of the nation and of people. Don’t you find any problems?
status of Emperor
Constitution of Japan stipulates Emperor in the First Chapter, under which
eight Articles are set forth. Article One specifies Emperor as the symbol of
the State and of the unity of people, Article Two, dynastic succession and the
Imperial House Law, and Article Seven provides ten acts of the State on behalf
of the people.
of Emperor in the constitution is made in accordance with the revised version
of the Constitution of Meiji, the predecessor of the today’s supreme law.
Continuity of the emperor system since the pre-war era is not completely
removed (because the conservative forces of Japan sought unity of the state
under the imperial system and the then-US General Headquarters which occupied
the nation took advantage of it). The Imperial House Law deeply reflects
characteristics of the monarchist constitution.
law forbids female imperial family members from inheriting the throne, which violates
the present-day constitution which ensures the fundamental human rights. The
law should have been named, for instance, a law on the Emperor’s Family.
does the symbol mean?
of Emperor as the symbol are provided in an ambiguous manner, except for the
specified acts of the State. And therefore, behaviors of the Emperor are
regarded a public act, not a private act. Thus, public acts as the symbol of
the state and of the people are officially accepted and they are ‘regulated
within that boundary’. This notion is shared generally with people.
Akihito, now Emperor Emeritus, has visited many places across the country as a
duty of Emperor as the symbol, calling them ‘symbolic acts of Emperor’. He has
referred to peace many times, saying that ‘Japan
has not been inflicted by a war during the reign of Heisei’ (though Japan has deployed the Self Defense Forces (SDF)
troops to Iraq.
It is impossible to say that Japan
did not participate in a war).
these circumstances, today, when the Abe government plans to amend the
constitution so that it should legally send SDF troops abroad, an image is
generated that Emperor Emeritus is a pacifist. However, a problem emerges, if Emperor’s
acts are expanded politically from a viewpoint of the imperial family system ahead
of his private decisions.
response is crucial
by Emperor will be unnecessary to disaster-hit areas and places where war
victims are buried, if politicians fix difficulties rightly. In fact, however,
Emperor endeavors to engage in the unaccomplished tasks, representing lawmakers.
If such visits make people get awe-stricken in a similar way as the pre-war era
and they cannot discuss the hereditary monarchy in the sincere way, we will face
a serious situation, a crisis of democracy.
must keep in mind that sovereign people should take the initiative in solving political
issues, owing responsibilities. Meanwhile, the Abe government utilizes a chance
of Emperor’s succession through commercial media to the maximum extent in order
to heighten a support rate of the administration. A political use of Emperor
must not be allowed.