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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #314: October 3, 2005

Japan PM's Shrine Visits Censured

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japan PM's Shrine Visits Censured


The article starts out by saying, "A Japanese court has ruled that Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to a controversial war shine violate the constitution."

Without getting into the grave issue of whether the Prime Minister - Koizumi or otherwise - should be allowed to or not visit the shrine, the state of the matter needs to be understood in clear perspective, and the article - along with many others - is rather misleading.

To begin with, the sequence of events is as follows:
The plaintiffs, consisting of 188 people including Japanese and Taiwanese families of the war dead, had filed a suit in Osaka District Court - in accordance with the stipulated judicial procedures - demanding compensation of 10,000 per person for mental pain they suffered as a result of Koizumi's shrine visits. In May last year, the District Court ruled against the plaintiffs, and they immediately appealed to the Osaka High Court.

The Osaka High Court last Friday upheld the decision by the District court, and ruled in favor of Prime Minister Koizumi and two other codefendants, the central government and Yasukuni Shrine, by dismissing an appeal filed for compensation by the plaintiffs.

That is all - in strict official terms. The defendants, Mr Koizumi, the government, and the shrine won, and the plaintiffs were denied of compensation. However, the devil was in the details. In the "reasons for decision" of the ruling provided by the judge - which itself is not considered as a part of the official "court decision" - it stated that the act of the Prime Minister's visits to the shrine were unconstitutional.

In fact, the plaintiffs were not really interested in money - 10,000 yen, or less than 100 US dollars, could not possibly be an allure for starting the lengthy and cumbersome judicial procedure. What they really wanted was a voice from a court - the Judicial Branch - that the Prime Minister's Shrine visit is unconstitutional.

Indeed, it seems the statement by the court was far more than the plaintiffs had dreamed of - the impeccably clear "reasons for decision" condemning that the visits were unconstitutional.

The problem, however, is that there is no way for the government - which has maintained that Mr Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine were "personal" acts within the realms of the freedom of religion provided in the Constitution - to appeal to the Supreme Court for its judgment, because the government has already "won" the case. Accordingly, it is up to the plaintiffs who have the right, since they "lost," to take the matter to the Supreme Court. But at the moment this is unlikely, as the plaintiffs are apparently enjoying a sense of euphoria, and are seemingly reluctant to see the issue go through another review by the higher court.

So, the verdict is still out - in accordance with the proper procedures stipulated in the Constitution.

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