[JURIST] The Tokyo District Court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit [Japan Times report] filed by 172 teachers and school personnel who were punished for refusing to sing the national anthem and salute the flag at school events. The school staff argued that the punishments, ranging from suspensions and salary reductions to "special retraining" [NYT report], violated their freedom of thought guaranteed under the Japanese constitution [text]. The District Court has issued mixed rulings since new rules [Japan Times report] were issued altering how the flag is to be flown and how the national anthem, "Kimigayo," is to be sung, as well as mandating punishment for violations of the rules, with a number of those rulings currently under review by the Tokyo High Court.
The controversial statute is just one of many examples of a resurgence of Japanese nationalism and desire for Japan to have a greater presence on the world stage. Over the past decade, Japan has made numerous attempts to amend its "pacifist" constitution [JURIST news archive], particularly Article 9, which includes, "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." In January, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada authorized the Japanese navy to engage pirates [JURIST report] off of the coast of Somalia, in possible violation of the constitution. In May 2008, Japanese lawmakers passed a bill [JURIST report] authorizing the use of the country's space program for defense purposes. In November 2007, The Sapporo District Court rejected a claim [JURIST report] that the presence of Japanese troops in Iraq violated the constitution, and in January of that year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe elevated the Defense Agency [speech text] to the Ministry of Defense, a cabinet-level Ministry with an increased budget.