matthew fuller on Thu, 5 Aug 1999 01:04:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> PACSF 'Hinomaru' (sun flag)' and 'Kimigayo (reign-of-the-Emperor)

This is an urgent appeal produced and circulated by the volunteers from
Pacific Asia Cultural Studies Forum (PACSF). 

Dear Friends,

In the afternoon of the 22nd July, the Japanese Diet passed the highly
controversial bill concerning the legalisation of 'Hinomaru' (sun flag)'
and 'Kimigayo (reign-of-the-Emperor) as the national anthem and the
national flag with an overwhelming majority (for 403, against 86). It is
quite likely that, the bill will be also passed in the Senate in a few
weeks time. 

Because of the delicate political nature of the bill, several
intellectuals, most of whom live and teach in Japan, have been trying to
organize a movement against the legislation, by issuing several
statements, with co-signatories of more than 500 academics and students,
and those who are not necessarily engaged with academic world, and by
collaborating with some opposition MPs to turn down the bill. However, in
terms of the political decision-making, this anti-legalisation movement
has so far failed to create a political consequence that it initially
aimed for. In this respect, we need to acknowledge that the anti-movement
was, at the moment, defeated as far as real political process is

One of the problems of this campaign, as we see it, is that it, targeting
at Japanese or non-Japanese academics who are committed to research about
'Japan' or 'Japanese cultures', has been conducted mainly in Japanese,
even though it was intended to be open to those whose nationality is not
Japanese.  The past three years' experiences of PACSF makes us believe
that this issue should be more recognisabley problematised beyond the
territorial sovereignty of the Japanese state, because the controversial
bill can be seen as an effort to legislate the symbol of Japanese imperial
aggression, "Hinomaru" and "Kimigayo." 

Ted Motohashi, one of the organizers of the anti-movement, summerises its
core points as follows: 

1) if we allow this to happen without any substantial protest from us,
students and scholars, the distance between "common sense" of the general
public (which, according to the logic of the government, "already approve
the two signs as the national symbols of integration and harmony among the
Japanese) and the lessons of history of colonialism and imperialism (which
claim that those who do not learn from the past mistakes will never
develop fruitful relationships with their neighbours--other nations,
ethnicities and cultural minorities)  will be so wide that any attempt--be
it Cultural Studies or Postcolonial Studies--to learn and unlearn one's
identity and its location in a community one inhabits will be overwhelmed
by cynicism and egoism, which would regard knowledge only as a means to
maintain institutional hegemony; 

(2) the attempt of the government as a whole can be situated within the
recent conservative backlash against the "progressive" rewriting of
history, particularly upon such controversial issues as the Japanese
Emperor's war responsibilities, sexual slavery and other kinds of
atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War; 

(3) in the name of "breaking clean from the past at the onset of 21st
century", it aims to suppress all rational arguments about the memories of
oppression against ethnic and cultural minorities, which have been one of
the linchpins of the constructing the Japanese nation-state as an
homeogenised "imagined community". 

While we express our agreement to those points and to the original appeal
dispatched by the campaign organisers in 20th of June (this appeal has
already been delivered to some of our friends but still available by
request), we are not hesitant to say that, for the above reason, the
anti-movement would necessitate new directions, new vocabularies, and new
logic, all of which have to be radically different from a simple warming
of a repetition of the imperial, colonial and authoritarian histories. We,
as organising members of PACSF since its founding days in 1997, strongly
feel that we should not remain silent on this issue, exactly because the
issue is not only "national" but also "trans-national." This is the
primary reason why we are strongly against the recent rewriting of the
history from extremely nationalististic viewpoints, which has been
supported by some both within and outside Japan." 

Thus, we decided to raise our own voice, independently of the preceding
campaign. This is primarily because our fruitful experiences at PACSF for
the past three years have given us spatial, geopolitical and cultural
insights on the issue, which are very different from those who are
currently acting in Japan.  Therefore, we made our own short appeal
against the legalisation in the following. We would like you to spend a
few minutes reading it, and if you think that you share a concern with
those who are actively working for the campaign, (not only students,
teachers and scholars but also artists, activists, business men and women,
housewives, craftsmen and women, retired men and women, pensioners, and
other 'ordinary citizen', not only in Japan but worldwide, ) and that you
should raise your own voice against this dangerous move, please send your
full name and affiliation directly to : 

Shizen Ozawa ( or Hiroki Ogasawara

Also if you do have time to send a brief message of your own with your
signature, we would very deeply appreciate.  Every signature does count,
with no exception. We want to stress that we expect to have more lively
debates on this issue rather than to have more signatures. 

So far, some of our friends, who have been linked with the activities by
PACSF, have already expressed their support for the anti-movement
organised by Takeshi Ishida and co. in Japan. We would like to express our
gratitude to their quick and energetic responses. Although the final
responsibility for writing this appeal should be taken by the original
volunteers, we clarify our collective solidarity by showing their names ; 

Kiyoshi Abe, Yu wen Fu, Chris Thompson, Ken fang Lee, Hsing chi Hu, Iain
Chambers, Kaori Tsurumoto, Renate Dohmen


An Urgent Appeal  Against the Undemocratic Legalisation of 'Hinomaru'
and 'Kimigayo' As the National Flag and the National Anthem

During the campaign against the legislation of "Hinomaru" and "Kimigayo" 
since the end of June, we could not avoid a feeling that this issue should
not be exclusively 'nationalised', as what is at stake is the historically
intertwining and overlapping problems of the Japanese imperial and
colonial legacy, nationalism and civility. Also it is extremely
significant to address the irresistible trans-national nature of
'national' agenda. We said 'irresistible', because the diffusion, the
dispersion and the dislocation of a 'national' interests are made to be
explicit not only by the imperial and colonial legacy but also by the new
imperialism of cross-national capitalism and the military and political
re-configuration of the world. Moreover, we should not underestimate that
cultures always travel beyond national boundaries. 

The governmental intention of the legalisation caused the most critical
situation in the parliamentary democracy since 1945.  Even though this
problem is seemingly 'newly-set-political issue' it has been a site of
fundamental contention as to the Japanese imperial history, because the
"sun-flag" and "the reign-of-the-Emperor" were among the most effective
symbolic tools to impose the imagined community of the Japanese Empire on
the colonized. In addition, the parliamentary debate on, and public
campaign for, the legalisation have almost completely lacked the
discussion of its possible consequences for those who are residing in
Japan without Japanese nationality (for example, Korean residents in
Japan), as if such people are simply absent; the voices of those
'differences within' have been effectively oppressed through the
discourses of 'one nation' in which the pride and symbol of the 'Japanese
nation' has been roudly appreciated. 

It is mainly for this reason that we think that this issue should not be
'nationalised,' even though we are aware that that it is a double-edged
political agenda.  On the one hand, in the light of the principle of
national self-determination, the final decision as to the legalisation is
to be made by members of the Diet who are supposed to represent the people
with Japanese nationality.  On the other, however, the effect of this
legislation is expected to go beyond the national boundary of Japanese
state; the ex-colonised Asian countries and those who come from those
regions are already involved in the discursive regime of this political
process. Through the activities integrated around PACSF, we have learnt
that this 'double-edgeness' is one of the main reasons for the existence
of the forum itself. One of our main concerns has been how to overcome
tribalism, nationalism, 'ethnic absolutism' and non-westerner's
victimisation, which still prevent us from having a project similar to
PACSF in Asian cities like Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei etc. 

Having acknowledged many difficulties surrounding us, we still would like
to suggest that the double-edgedness of 'Hinomaru' and 'Kimigayo' issue
may be something to be broadly discussed with those who are involved in
the critical project of PACSF.  Therefore, we want to appeal, once again,
to all the people who have been working for PACSF in the previous three
years, committee members, guest speakers and conference/ seminar
participants, that it is time to raise our voices clearly against any
forms of enforcement and legalisation of the colonial imperial past,
whether it is symbolic or physical, and to seek for novelty of the

We are aware that this short appeal is insufficient to let you understand
the whole situation surrounding us. We are, therefore, prepared to answer
any questions and quires concerning 'Hinomaru' and 'Kimigayo' as long as
our knowledge and capability can provide the answers. Please do feel free
to talk to us. 

Unfortunately, the situation is getting tougher and tougher for the
movement itself, epitomized by the fact that the project to publish an
anthology of essays on legalization issue already failed despite the
efforts of some members of this movement and people working in Japanese
publishing industry. This is because of the implicit censorship system
working in Japanese mass media and print industry. 

The situation is dismal, but we must act, and think profoundly.  We do
strongly believe that from our three years experiences with PACSF we have
learnt that despite some differences about political philosophy and
politics we can still share critical insights and critical ethics about
cultural, political and social conditions under which we live our
experiences, can create our positionalities and negotiate with those
conditions.  Now it is time to look for something to break through the
impasse we are facing. 

For your essential information, we are also ready to send you a message
from Naoki Sakai, entitled 'Is this a Japanese movement ?', by request, as
we believe that it would be best to co-operate with people like Naoki to
make trans-naional networks in the long prospect. 

Also you can access to ;
(Japanese and English)
(mainly Japanese) (mainly

for briefing the on-going discussion in Japan. 

Many thanks for your time and concern, and we are looking forward to
hearing from you all. 


Hiroshi Narumi (PACSF, Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Hiroki Ogasawara (PACSF, Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Shizen Ozawa (PACSF, University of Essex)

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