Today I’ll be talking about Japanese politics! Ugh… (；￣Д￣）I don’t really have an interest in politics myself.
Let’s start with the national flag and anthem! I remember learning about this in elementary school. I know, I know. This should be in my first post about Japan in general information. Yurushite kure. (Forgive me.) m(._.)m
First of all, you may already know this. The Japanese flag is a red circle on a plain white background. The white signifies a clear field. It is called the “hinomaru”. It literally means “sun disc”. “Hi” means “sun”. “maru” means “circle” or “round”. The flag has been used since at least 17th century. It was officially designated as the national flag in August 1999. From the continental point of view, Japan is in the direction of the sunrise. Japan lies to the east of the Eurasian continent, and beyond Japan lies the Pacific Ocean. This is why the Japanese began to call their country Nihon or Nippon, literally meaning “source of the sun” and often translated into English as “land of the rising sun.” (Kids Web Japan, 2013)
Now you usually see two forms of the flag, don’t you? One is the flag image above. Another is the one below. Why is that? Well the one below is in use by the naval ensign. It does look pretty cool, doesn’t it?
The national anthem is called the “kimigayo” meaning “The Emperor’s Reign”. The lyrics and music were composed by Hiromori Hayashi. It was in use as an unofficial anthem since 1883. It was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1999. Apparently, they are the oldest anthem lyrics in the world dating to the 10th century or earlier. There’s some opposition to the anthem because of its association with militarism and worship of the emperor. (CIA World Factbook, 2013)
Please watch the above video for the national anthem.
“Politics” in Japanese is “seiji” (政治). The word has Chinese origins. “Sei” means “right/justice/lawful” and “ji” means “studies”. “Seiji” is also a name for a boy. The meaning of the name is “lawful” or “manages affairs of state”. Fitting isn’t it?
(Pictured above as you can see is the chrysanthemum on Japanese passport. If you want to obtain a Japanese passport, go to this link!
The imperial seal of Japan is a 16-petaled chrysanthemum. Technically, there is no “official” national flower. But, we mainly consider the cherry blossom as the “unofficial” national flower. The chrysanthemum is the symbol for the emperor.
Under the Meiji Constitution, no one was permitted to use the Imperial Seal except the Emperor of Japan, who used a 16 petal chrysanthemum with sixteen tips of another row of petals showing behind the first row. Therefore, each member of the Imperial family used a slightly modified version of the seal. Shinto shrines either displayed the imperial seal or incorporated elements of the seal into their own emblems.
Earlier in Japanese history, when Emperor Go-Daigo, who tried to break the power of the shogunate in 1333, was exiled, he adopted the seventeen petal chrysanthemum to differentiate himself from his successor, Emperor Kōgon, who kept the imperial 16 petal mon.
Other members of the Imperial Family use a version with 14 single petals, while a form with 16 single petals is used for Diet members’ pins, orders, passports, and other items that carry or represent the authority of the Emperor. (Wikipedia, 2013)
The national holiday is Emperor Akihito’s birthday, December 23, 1933.
There is an anime called “Hetalia” where the countries of the world are humanized and the way they interact with each other portrays world history and international relations. The personification of Japan is named Kiku Honda. Also to note is that his first name, “Kiku,” means “chrysanthemum” in Japanese. His last name “Honda” (本田), is written with the same kanji for “hon” (本) as in “Nihon” (日本), which means “Japan”. (MyAnimeList, 2013)
Well, watching the anime or reading the manga is a fun way to learn history. If you can understand English, well duh… If you’re reading this blog post, then obviously you can. Haha.
(ノ＞▽＜。)ノ I’d recommend watching the English dubbed anime episodes. In my opinion, this is one of the rare moments where the English dubbed episodes are better than the English subbed episodes. The voice actors (seiyu) know how to have fun with the characters and aren’t afraid to not take themselves seriously! You’ll be splitting your sides with laughter! It’s so different from the English subbed episodes.
You’ll notice in the english subbed clip, Germany (guy with blonde hair) says it’s strange how easily he slipped through the Italian border. In the english dubbed clip, he starts saying sorry to the stick for not feeding it.
To watch the English dubbed episodes of the first season, go here. http://www.watchcartoononline.com/anime/hetalia-axis-powers
If you still want to watch the English subbed episodes, go here. The first season is “Hetalia Axis Powers”. The second season is “Hetalia The Beautiful World”. “Hetalia Paint it White” is the movie and should be watched after the first and second season.
As well you can also go here for the English subbed episodes. But in my opinion, this is the best place to watch the latest episodes. Although, if you want to watch the English dubbed episodes, you have to pay for it and become a subscriber of funimation. T_T But, even so it’s not that expensive.
Warning: Although, as to the countries’ personifications and personalities… Once you watch the anime or start reading the manga, you may be thinking, “This is kind of offensive…” or “Those are just stereotypes!”. The mangaka did say that, one day he encountered an ethnic jokes website and that’s where he came up with the idea for the manga. Think of it as satire, and take it with a pinch of salt. It’s meant to be a joke and funny. It’s not meant to be a realistic portrayal of the people of the countries.
The traditional date of the founding of the nation was by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. On November 29, 1890, the Meiji constitution provided for a constitutional monarchy. The current constitution adopted is an amendment to the Meiji Constitution. Japan obtained independence on May 3, 1947.
Please take a look at the neat little chart down below for the structure of the political system of the Meiji constitution.
Today, Japan has a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy. Please take a look at the neat little chart below for a detailed explanation of the structure of today’s Japanese ruling system.
The current Japanese constitution was promulgated in the year 1946 during the occupation by the Allied powers:
The Japanese parliament is called the Diet. It consists of the House of Representatives (480 members) and the House of Councillors (242 members). The members of the Diet are elected by the Japanese people.
The cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister. The cabinet further consists of the ministers which are appointed by the prime minister and are usually members of the Diet. The prime minister is elected by the Diet.
The highest court is the Supreme Court. Other courts are district courts, high courts, family courts, and summary courts. Judges are appointed by the cabinet.
The minimum voting age is 20 years. Women received the right to vote with the postwar constitution. Elections for the House of Representatives are carried out every four years, and half of the House of Councillors is elected every three years. Beside the national elections there are prefectural and municipal elections.
The Emperor does not have any effective power but is only the symbol of the state.
(Japan Guide, 2013)
The legal system is a civil law system based on German model; system also reflects Anglo-American influence and Japanese traditions; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court.
1. Executive Branch: Emperor, Minister, Deputy Minister
(CIA World Factbook, 2013)
2. Legislative Branch: Diet (House of Councillors)
3. Judicial Branch: Supreme Court
Political Parties and Leaders
The current Japanese constitution was based on the U.S. constitution. There are three news articles below that portray the controversy in Japanese politics. They show that despite the amendment proclaiming freedom of the press, freelance journalists and foreign journalists are not allowed coverage of significant news.
Political Upheaval: Freedom of the Press – Obstruction against Freelance and Foreign Journalists
Japan is ranked 22nd of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
Japan has fallen to 53rd place of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index.
Quotes from news articles:
1) Article 1: Journalists Barred From Anti-Nuclear Protest Coverage
“This obstruction of freelancers’ work is arbitrary and illegal under Japanese law and violates the fundamental principle of freedom of the press,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The court will not provide legal cover for obstruction of access, especially given that the request for legal action comes from journalists themselves.” (Reporters Without Borders,2012)
“Freelance journalists are routinely discriminated against in Japan. Officials typically attempt to justify this policy on a variety of grounds: lack of space, lack of time, extra cost. Notably, these constraints apply only to freelancers – not to journalists employed by media companies.
Nuclear policy remains an extremely sensitive issue in Japan. Freelance journalist Minoru Tanakahas suffered systematic legal harassment since last May. He has been accused of libel as a result of his investigation of the disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant.
Reporters Without Borders has opposed for years the censorship exercised by the Kisha clubs and the danger to press freedom that they represent.”
(Reporters Without Borders,2012)
If you’ll look at the video, you can see the freelance photographers being rejected.
2) Article 2: Freelance Journalists Face Discrimination On Fukushima Plant Visit
Only two freelance reporters among the 40 reporters were allowed to cover the Fukushima Plant visit. There are unfair conditions forced upon freelance reporters compared to organization-affiliated reporters. Freelance reporters are not allowed to take necessary equipment with them such as still cameras or video equipment. Note that it was only the freelance reporters that weren’t allowed to take the equipment with them. As well, video images were checked before they were broadcast.
“Only two Japanese freelances will be included among 40 accredited to the third media visit on 26 May to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, badly damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Although some photographers and camera operators will be present, neither of the two freelances will be allowed to use still cameras or video equipment.
One of them, Hatakeyama Michiyoshi, told Reporters Without Borders that a quota of four video journalists and four photographers had been set for the visit but the two who were not affiliated to news organizations would not be allowed to take any equipment.
During the second media visit to the site in February this year, for foreign journalists not included in the first visit, the organizers insisted on checking video images before they were broadcast.”
(Reporters Without Borders, 2012)
-Used this website for creating the Youtube clips by shortening the original videos.