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Japan’s imperial household minister comes under fire for his comments

Japan’s imperial household minister comes under fire for his comments

Posted June. 28, 2021 09:00,   

Updated June. 28, 2021 09:00


Since Japanese Imperial Household Minister Yasuhiko Nishimura said on Thursday that Japanese Emperor Naruhito showed COVID-19 concerns due to the Tokyo Olympic Games, he has still been at the center of controversy. The emperor has a commanding presence in Japan and the controversial comment by the emperor may be interpreted as political engagement, which is prohibited by the Japanese Constitution. Being an honorary president of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Emperor Naruhito will declare the opening of the Olympics at the opening ceremony on July 23.

The opposition argues that the emperor’s comment itself was an inappropriate act. Japanese Communist Party’s chairman Kazuo Shii said on Friday, “The Japanese Emperor is not allowed to engage politically according to the Constitution. He must make sure to observed it,” arguing that the emperor did a politically-intended act that may have negative impact on the opening of the Olympics at a time when the country is divided on the opening issue. “No one may believe that the statement was made by Minister Nishimura,” said Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, calling on the Japanese government to see the gravity of the comment and respond properly.

Some point out that Minister Nishimura acted carelessly. Hirohito Suzuki, a specialist in history at Tokyo University who released publications on the Japanese emperor, criticized in an editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun on Sunday. He argued hat the Imperial Household Ministry tells whatever it wants to express in reported speech, describing the comment as improper for a minister.  

With controversy only building up, the Japanese government has tried to cool it down. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday, “We take it as Mr. Nishimura’s personal opinion,” preventing against over-interpretation. How the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the Olympics is a main concern commonly shared by Japanese citizens and the emperor, a senior official at the Ministry of Imperial Household told the Tokyo Shimbun on Sunday. “It is not that he made it clear whether he is supported of the opening of the Olympics,” the official said.