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Another Japanese Court Rules Koizumi’s Yasukuni Shrine Visits Unconstitutional

Another Japanese Court Rules Koizumi’s Yasukuni Shrine Visits Unconstitutional

Posted October. 01, 2005 07:43,   


The Osaka High Court has ruled that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the Yashkuni Shrine violate the country’s constitution, which stipulates separation of religion and state.

The court said that the visits constitute “official worship” in the capacity of the prime minister.

It is the second time that a Japanese court has ruled the prime minister’s visits to the shrine unconstitutional, after the ruling by the Fukuoka District Court in April last year. Although the prime minister still insists on another visit within this year, not only the opposition camp, but also the New Komeito Party, which is a ruling coalition party, is pressuring him after the ruling by the High Court to refrain from visit.

On September 30, in an appeal trial over damages that 188 people, including the bereaved families of Taiwanese who died after being recruited into the Japanese military during the Second World War filed against the Japanese government, the Osaka High Court said, “It is acknowledged that Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine was conducted as an official duty of prime minister,” ruling, “That is unconstitutional because that amounts to religious activities of government officials which the constitution bans.”

The court pointed out, “The prime minister gave the impression that the country offers support to the shrine by visiting it, despite harsh criticism from home and abroad,” adding, “As the relations between the two sides are beyond the boundaries of social acceptance, that goes against the constitution.”

Also, it also said, “As a government office holder, a prime minister should make it clear whether or not his or her visit an official act,” adding, “It is inevitable that the visits are recognized as official acts if he or she keeps them obscure.”

However, it dismissed the request that the government pay ¥10,000 per person in damages, saying, “It is hard to say that the prime minister’s visit to the shrine violated the rights of the plaintiffs.”

The prime minister complained in an answer to the House of Representatives that day, “It is hard to understand why my visit is unconstitutional, since that was not part of my official duties.” But he did not offer a clear answer as to another visit to the shrine within this year. He repeated his previous stance, saying, “I will make the appropriate decision.”

Seiji Maehara, leader of Democratic Party of Japan, which is the major opposition party, said, “We have repeatedly urged the prime minister not to pay visits to the shrine from a diplomatic perspective,” emphasizing, “It is all the more true that the prime minister should not visit the shrine, as it was ruled unconstitutional.”

Fuyushiba Tetsuzo, the secretary general of the New Komeito Party, also said, “We need to refrain from possibly unconstitutional conduct.”

The Mainichi Shimbun said, “Although there are increasing voices within the Liberal Democratic Party that the prime minister should respond carefully, taking into account public opinion and the relationship with Korea and China, the prevailing atmosphere is that the ruling party should directly contribute to the stopping of the prime minister’s visits to the shrine.” There have been 10 court rulings over the prime minister’s visits to the shrine since last year. But Japanese courts have made mixed decisions, with the Tokyo High Court ruling on September 29 that the visit is not an official act.

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com