The Emperor - Volume 05

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Perhaps the direct reference to "Japanese Imperial Forces," Akihito's father's army, as the perpetrator of the "heinous acts" at Memorare-Manila was too inconvenient for the Japanese government which was intent on keeping the former emperor's war responsibility as vague as possible. The discrepancy between Akihito's word that extended his remorse for the innocent victims of the war and the fact that he and his wife only visited war memorials for the fallen soldiers is another indication that any focus on the civilian casualties of war would be inconvenient to the true purpose of this trip for the two governments: to solidify and advance the bilateral military alliance.

To reinforce that point, even though the Japanese media labelled this trip as " irei no tabi," a trip for irei , and the imperial couple appeared to have embraced that purpose throughout the trip, the Imperial Household Agency's official definition of the trip 23 does not mention it, whereas that for the previous trips to Saipan 24 and Palau 25 clearly stated that purpose. The highlight of Akihito and Michiko's trip, at least as shown in its extensive coverage in the Japanese media, was their visit on January 29 to the Japanese Memorial Garden at Cavinti township of Laguna province, built by the Japanese government in for irei of the approximately , soldiers who died in the Philippines, one of the biggest Japanese military casualties in all the Asia-Pacific battlefields.

Though the practice of treating the emperor as a god was halted at the end of WWII as the emperor became only "human" and was redefined as a "symbol" of the nation in the post-war constitution, the fact that many Japanese still revere the emperor was clear in the emotional welcome of Akihito and Michiko by the families of the war dead and those of Japanese descent living in the Philippines. The Inquirer published a report on this event titled, "Demigod image of Japanese emperor remains among followers.

They were among the half million Japanese men, the majority of whom died of starvation and disease. After the ceremony, Akihito and Michiko spoke to the families of the war dead, offering words of consolation like, "You must have gone through a lot of hardship. Japanese public broadcaster NHK aired the whole event live, as a special program, making it the main event of their visit to the Philippines.

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The visit was supposed to be about "friendship and goodwill," but the emperor's central message was presented as irei of the fallen Japanese soldiers. There was another group of people who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Akihito and Michiko, whether they noticed them or not.

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They were a group of Filipinas who were "comfort women" victims of the Japanese military sex slavery system, and their supporters, about three hundred in all. On January 27, while the pair was visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the military cemetery, the lolas grandmothers belonging to the group Lila Pilipina and their supporters stood at Chino Roces Bridge in Manila for an hour under blistering sun, "urging President Aquino to tell Emperor Akihito to issue a public apology and give reparation to all 'comfort women.

Women's group Gabriela's protest in Manila, January Lila Pilipina was joined by a women's group and political party Gabriela, whose representative Luzviminda Ilagan expressed frustration over President Aquino's neglect of this issue during the emperor's state visit, creating "an image in media and academe about his pacifism and 'deep remorse. Worse, it could all be a publicity stunt to mask moves by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe abetted by US President Barack Obama to remove Japan's anti-war constitutional provision and boost military missions abroad.

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Filipinos should be wary and oppose being dragged into another bloody war and another generation of comfort women. On January 29, eight women who are members of another survivors' group Malaya Lolas gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila and lit candles, while Akihito and Michiko were visiting the memorial for fallen Japanese soldiers. Did Akihito and Michiko know about this rally for the former "comfort women"?

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If they spent so much time in meeting with, and giving "kind words" to the families of the Japanese military members and Japanese Filipinos, should they have not also met with and listened to the voices of those "comfort women" survivors, who were victimized by Japan, and still waiting for the government's unequivocal apology, state compensation, and inclusion, instead of exclusion, of the history in Japanese school textbooks?

Eight "comfort women" survivors light candles during a protest at the Japanese Embassy in Manila, January For the generation of Filipinos who witnessed and lived through the atrocities of World War II, the Japanese Emperor's visit to the Philippines this week is bound to summon painful memories that make forgiveness extremely difficult. The voices of the surviving Filipino "comfort women" who were captured and turned into sex slaves for Japanese soldiers may have been the most persistent. But they are not alone in asking: Is there an obligation to forgive and to forget?

Almost none of these emotions were reported in the mainstream Japanese media, which are known for their adulatory coverage of all matters related to the imperial family. Bataan Peninsula is just about the same distance from Manila as Caliraya is, where the emperor and empress lay flowers at the monument to remember the Japanese war dead.

This is where the "Bataan Death March," which is central to the Filipino collective war memory, took place. On April 9, , the Japanese Army conquered Bataan, and forced about 76, prisoners of war 66, Americans, 10, Filipinos to march from the southern tip of Bataan Peninsula to Camp O'Donnell, 11 km west of Capas, about km, for days partly also traveling by rail, in "cramped and unsanitary boxcars" , during which captives were "beaten, shot, bayoneted, and in many cases, beheaded.

The Bataan Death March, in violation of international law concerning treatment of POWs, is notorious as one of the events symbolic of Japanese military's atrocities. For the people of the Philippines, this history is not something that is in the past and forgotten. Was this just a coincidence?

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There are many monuments along the route of the Bataan Death March to commemorate the suffering and perseverance of the POWs. If the Japanese emperor and empress's intent was to " irei also for the Filipino war victims," not just Japanese war dead, should they have not also gone to Bataan and presented flowers for the victims of the deadly march well-known in the Philippines and internationally? And what about the American POWs?

In fact, after a brief mention of the loss of American lives in his speech at Haneda Airport upon embarkation, Akihito did not acknowledge the American casualties or the abuse of POWs at all for the entire stay in the Philippines.

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Another form of selectivity in his irei was total exclusion of the thousands of Filipino resistance guerilla fighters who fought the Japanese Army throughout the occupation period. Akihito's emphasis in his referral to the Filipino casualties were the "innocent civilians.

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There is a commonality between the sexual slavery survivors, whom Akihito and Michiko did not meet, and the memorials of "Bataan" and the "Battle of Manila" that the pair did not visit. It lies in the fact that they are symbolic of the war atrocities committed by the Empire of Japan. Would it be too much to suggest that the intent behind the emperor and empress' trip was to evade Japan's war responsibilities rather than face them? How did the Japanese media report this trip?

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The newspapers quoted words of yearning from the war bereaved, former Japanese soldiers, and Japanese Filipinos. The media reports also stressed the "words of consideration" from the couple toward those from Japan and of Japanese descent. The politically moderate Asahi Shimbun editorial of January 29 noted, "The royal couple went all the way to the sites where fierce battles took place to show their wish for peace. We would like to share their feelings and thoughts.

Bataan Death March 95km marker, Bacolor, Pampamga. A common feature of these commentaries across the political spectrum is a new kind of nationalism that attempts to mobilize Japanese nationals kokumin under the imperial couple — a nationalism that hides Japan's responsibility for its aggressive war and aims to unite Japanese nationals under such a distorted "history.

Emperor and empress's " irei trip" is a forerunner for Abe-led constitutional revision. Prime Minister Abe made clear that he would make constitutional revision a main issue in the upcoming Upper House election July and seek to amend the Constitution following the election. In short, the imperial couple's trip to the Philippines for irei of the war dead was a forerunner of constitutional revision. The "imperial diplomacy" by the emperor and the empress is not included in the "acts in matters of state" allowed for the emperor in the current constitution.

In the absence of any constitutional stipulation for such acts, an attempt was clearly being made to expand the emperor's authority. The Liberal Democratic Party thus attempts to add a clause to the current Article 7 of the constitution that stipulates "acts in matters of state.

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However, the current constitution has no provision for such public acts by the Emperor. This was why it was deemed necessary to have clear constitutional stipulation for such public acts. This article has shown that acts of irei for the war dead have strong religious connotations.

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This means that irei trips by the emperor and the empress may infringe Clause 3, Article 20 of the current constitution, "The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity. In this visit, the Japanese emperor and empress were "state guests," and the emperor even reviewed the Philippines' guard of honour with President Aquino, in the state-sponsored welcome ceremony on January This is also exactly how the LDP envisions the new role of the emperor, by defining him as "Head of State" in its constitutional revision draft, a fundamental change from the "symbol of the State and of the unity of the People" in the current post-war constitution.

The current definition was a departure from the constitution of the Empire of Japan the Meiji Constitution that defined the Emperor as "the head of the Empire," "sacred and inviolable. Akihito reviews an honour guard at the welcome ceremony at Malacanang Palace, January This is how the emperor and the empress' irei trip plays a political role in Abe's and the LDP's planned constitutional revision.

It is all the more important that political use of the emperor in coordination with the move for constitutional revision be critically examined, particularly given the Japanese media's virtual gag order on any matter related to the imperial family. Some liberal-minded Japanese pundits praise the "peace-loving" emperor to counteract Abe's warmongering and undemocratic policymaking, but this is also a dangerous utilization of the person who is a mere "symbol", someone who is constitutionally barred from being given any authority over the people of Japan, in whom sovereignty resides.

Satoko Oka Norimatsu translated, and expanded Kihara Satoru's four-part article on the Japanese imperial couple's visit to the Philippines in collaboration with Kihara. For example, in Mainichi Shimbun 's "Emperor's wishes to mourn war dead behind swift reciprocal visit to Philippines," January 27, Shintani Takanori, "Minzoku gaku kara miru irei to tsuito," Meiji Shotoku kinen gakkai kiyo , vol. Translator was unable to find the original source.

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