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 ・To Japanese Nationalists, Only the Y Chromosome Counts(The NewYork Times)

Published: March 12, 2006

IT was one of the biggest rallies in support of Japan's imperial system since the end of World War II: Some 10,300 men and women gathered at the Budokan martial arts arena to protest a proposal that would let women become empresses and pass along title to the Chrysanthemum Throne. At the end, the throng stood and raised their arms in unison while shouting, "Long live the emperor!"

What could possibly stir so much passion about monarchy in the 21st century?

The question of admitting women to the line of imperial succession, often presented outside Japan as little more than a curious anachronism, has been growing in importance for the last six months. The issue has been promoted by Japan's nationalist movement, whose influence has risen along with the controversy.

The nationalists, who offer the public a version of Japan's past that is cleansed of remorse for World War II, are now putting the issue of imperial succession — and the imperial system itself — at the heart of their appeals.

"Search all over the world, but you won't find any other family besides the Japanese imperial family that has maintained an unbroken male line for 125 generations," Takeo Hiranuma, a former minister of economy, trade and industry, said at the rally, which was organized by Nippon Kaigi, one of Japan's largest nationalist groups. "In other words, it is the precious, precious treasure of the Japanese race, as well as a world treasure."

The object of the crowd's ire was a plan by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to revise the Imperial Household Law to allow a female line to hold the throne. Never mind that Mr. Koizumi has shelved the plan, after a rebellion by lawmakers in his center-right party and after an unexpected announcement last month by Emperor Akihito's second son and his wife that she was pregnant.

If the baby, due in September, is a boy, the problem will be moot for another generation, even if the emperor's first son, Crown Prince Naruhito, and his wife, Crown Princess Masako, never have their own son. The birth of a girl, however, would bring Japan back to square one. So until September, at least, there are likely to be more rallies as conservatives try to keep the issue alive.

The opposition to a female line is part of a larger nationalist movement that seeks a tougher stance against China and North Korea, presses aggressively for a revisionist history of Japan's wartime past, and pushes the myth of Japanese racial exceptionalism. Indeed, many at the rally are the same politicians, scholars and journalists who contend that the Nanking Massacre was vastly exaggerated, that Japan invaded continental Asia to liberate it and that Japan was tricked into war by the United States.

Historians trace the start of Japan's imperial system to the fourth or fifth century, though Japanese myth says the first emperor, Jimmu, a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, began his reign 2,665 years ago. Political heavyweights like Mr. Hiranuma are now stating the myth as fact. In addition, the foreign minister, Taro Aso, has said that because Japanese soldiers died for the emperor, the emperor should visit the Yasukuni Shrine, the memorial to Japan's war dead and 14 Class A war criminals.

What these comments have in common is the belief that the imperial system stands at the core of Japan, defines Japan — is, in fact, Japan. To conservatives in a country that has been transformed by outside forces in everything from its laws to its social mores, the imperial system is the one institution that has remained purely Japanese.

In the imperial system, only a male relative who was a direct descendant of the imperial line could become emperor — a rule designed to keep the male bloodline pure. Eight women were allowed to reign as empresses, but only because age or marital circumstances had made them unable to bear children, which eliminated the possibility that a man outside the imperial line would father a successor, said Takeshi Hara, a professor specializing in the monarchy at Meiji Gakuin University here. An empress "had to have a pure body," he said.

Until the 20th century, concubines ensured that a male heir was born, but that practice died with the advent of modern social mores in Japan.

Nobody, perhaps, has symbolized such changes more than Crown Princess Masako, the Harvard-educated, multilingual former diplomat who married the crown prince in 1993. Back then, she represented the new Japanese woman.

Once in the palace, however, she found that only one thing was expected of her: to produce a male heir. She gave birth to a girl in 2001, and sank into a long depression. The crown prince complained in 2004 that there had been a "move to deny Masako's career and personality."

Career? Personality? This outraged conservatives who thought any Japanese woman should devote herself to bearing and raising children. Princess Masako became the bête noire of the right wing and, especially in the last six months, the target of ceaseless attacks in the popular press.

Conservatives also oppose reforms that would promote gender equality — or what the Japanese call a "gender free" society. The result is that, compared to women in other advanced countries, Japanese women have little economic or political power.

They do, however, have power over childbearing. And Japan's plummeting birthrate suggests that many women are deciding not to have children, boy or girl.


 それは第二次世界大戦以降に日本の天皇制を支持する最も大きい集会のひとつでした。 およそ1万300人の男女が、女性が女帝になり皇位継承することに異議を申し立てて、武道館に集まりました。 最後に群衆は立って、「天皇陛下万歳!」と叫び一斉に万歳をしました。


日本の国外ではしばしば時代錯誤と思われている、女性を皇位継承の対象として認めようという問題はここ6カ月重みが増しています。 この問題は日本のナショナリストの運動として盛り上がりました。


「世界中を探しても、125代も男系を維持しているのは日本の皇室以外にいかなる王家もいないでしょう。」と、平沼赳夫(経済、通商、産業の元大臣)は日本会議(日本の最も大きいナショナリスト団体の1つ)主催の集会で述べました。 「言い換えれば、それは、大和民族の貴重で、貴重な宝物と同様に世界の宝物でもあるのです。」

群衆の怒りの対象は、皇室を維持するために女性天皇を許容する皇室典範改正を目指す小泉純一郎首相による計画でした。 その小泉氏は、自民党内の中道右派議員による反対と、明仁天皇陛下の次男夫妻による予想外の妊娠発表によって計画を取りやめました。


女系天皇への反対は、中国と北朝鮮に対してより厳しい姿勢を求め、日本の戦争中の過去に関して積極的に修正を求め、日本人の人種的例外に関する神話を強調する大きいナショナリストの運動の一部です。 集会における多くは、南京大虐殺が広大に誇張されて、日本がアジア大陸を解放するために侵攻したのであり、日本は米国にだまされて戦争に突入したと主張する政治家と、学者とジャーナリストたちです。

歴史家は4~5世紀まで日本の天皇制の始まりをたどりますが、日本の神話では初代天皇の神武天皇(太陽の女神アマテラスの子孫)は2,665年前に彼の治世を始めたと言っています。平沼氏のような有力な政治家は現在、事実として神話を述べています。 さらに麻生太郎外務大臣は、日本人の軍人が天皇陛下のために殉職したので天皇陛下が日本の戦死者と14人のA級戦犯を弔うために靖国神社を訪問するべきであると言いました。


天皇制では、男系維持の規則により皇統に男系で直結する男性の親類だけが天皇になることが出来ます。父系に皇統以外の男系が入ることを排除するため、年齢や結婚の事情などにより子供を作ることが出来ない8人の女性だけが女帝となることが出来ました。君主制を専攻しているTakeshi Hara明治学院教授は、女帝が「純粋な体を持たなければならない」と言いました。



しかしながら、かつて皇居で彼女は、自分にひとつだけ、男子を産むということ、しか期待されていないことに気付きました。 彼女は、2001年に女子を生んで、鬱状態になりました。 皇太子は、2004年に「雅子のキャリアと個性を否定する動き」があったと不満を言いました。

キャリア? 個性? これはどんな日本人女性も出産と育児に専念すべきと考えた保守的な人を憤慨させました。 雅子妃は右翼に嫌悪の対象になり、特にここ6カ月有力紙で絶えざる攻撃対象になりました。





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