Prince Akishino, in a news conference in late November, commented on the key ritual among the ceremonies involved in the upcoming succession to Japan’s Imperial Throne. The ritual, called the Daijosai rite, is scheduled to take place in November 2019.
The Prince, the younger brother of Crown Prince Naruhito, brought into question the wisdom of funding the ritual as a government expense under the budget category of “palace-related expenses.” This is the same budget used for disbursement of funds for the Imperial Family’s public activities.
In the Prince’s view the costs of the Daijosai should be paid from a budget used to finance the private activities of the Imperial Family.
The Prince noted that the Daijosai is a “highly religious” event. Apparently bearing in mind Japan’s constitutional principle that there should be a separation of religion and the state, he suggested that funding it as a general government expense “might not necessarily be considered appropriate.”
He add that performing the rite “in a manner well suited to today’s Imperial Family” would be “what the Imperial Family is supposed to be about.”
The government, for that matter, has decided the costs should be paid from the national treasury.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura on November 30 commented on Prince Akishino’s remarks, reiterating the government’s unchanged decision that state funds would be used for the upcoming ceremony. The same state budget was used to pay for the Daijosai ceremony held in 1990, marking the change of the era of Showa (1926-1989) to the current Heisei era, when Prince Akishino’s father, the present Emperor, ascended to the throne.
The new Emperor performs the rite of the Daijosai only once in his lifetime, at the start of his reign. The ceremony signifies the first of the annual rites of Niinamesai, the ceremonial prayer offerings by the Emperor for the peace and prosperity of the state and its citizens and for abundant harvests of the five primary cereals crops.
The event is a core ceremonial occasion in celebration of the enthronement of the new emperor and therefore its costs should be supported as a government expense.
Concerns about the use of government funds running contrary to the principle of separation of religion and the state under the Constitution are wide of the mark. Although several lawsuits were brought on this issue at the start of the Heisei era (1989-present), the Supreme Court settled the issue when it ruled that the Daijosai rite complies with the principle of the separation of politics and religion.
The constitutional principle of separation of politics and religion is aimed at separating political power and religion. The Emperor and other members of the Imperial Family are without any political power and they never support any specific religious groups.
Therefore, it is unnecessary to regard the Imperial succession ceremonies, including the Daijosai, as private religious acts or other general religious activities.
We take the remarks by Prince Akishino as an expression of his concern for saving money and simplifying the event’s burden on taxpayers.
Prayer is an essential, time-honored role of the Emperor. The Daijosai and other imperial rituals should be regarded as important public events for the country of Japan.
Looking back on Japan’s long history, in fact there were periods, including the Sengoku Era (Japan’s “Warring States” period, approximately 1467-1567), when the Daijosai and other imperial ceremonies could not take place. The ability to carry out the Daijosai without incident today is a testament to Japan’s prosperity.
The Japanese people observed the Daijosai rituals at the outset of the Heisei Era as a weighty occasion that accompanied the enthronement of the current Emperor. The same can be said about the Daijosai rituals that are to take place in 2019.
Concerning Prince Akishino’s remarks, some have suggested that the Emperor and other Imperial Family members should refrain from making such statements that may have a political connotation. This argument is misguided and irrelevant. It is only natural that the Emperor and other Imperial Family members express their own ideas about matters of high importance related to the activities of the Imperial Family. Their wishes to do so should not be hampered.
In the news conference, Prince Akishino said the Imperial Household Agency’s Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto “did not listen to me” when the Prince expressed his thoughts in person about financing of the Daijosai. In-depth and effective communication between the Imperial Family and the Imperial Household Agency also matters significantly.
(Click here to read the original editorial in Japanese.)
Author: The Sankei Shimbun
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