An episode concerning Britain’s Princess Margaret (1930-2002) makes me chuckle. When she married 52 years ago, television showed close-up footage of the royal newlyweds waving at well-wishers from a palace balcony.
A few days later, a London newspaper ran a letter to the editor. While calling the wedding a truly felicitous occasion for the nation, the letter claimed the couple lacked decorum because they were saying to each other that they were getting tired of waving, but had to put up with it for a while.
The writer of the letter happened to be a lip reader.
This column noted back then that the “candid couple got caught.”
Unlike this British episode, there is nothing humorous about the recent Osaka cases of lip reading public school teachers during the singing of “Kimigayo” at graduation ceremonies.
This act of watching the lips of teachers closely to catch anyone who refused to sing the national anthem has come under criticism as “excessive and bizarre.” It comes down to using “Kimigayo” as a tool of thought control.
There is no question that these incidents have clouded “Kimigayo” with an oppressive image. This must be affecting schools around the nation that are now holding entrance ceremonies. I wonder how students feel about their teachers and parents being self-conscious about the movement of their own lips and surreptitiously watching those of others.
“Good wine speaks for itself,” goes an old saying. The same applies to song--if a song is good, people naturally join in a chorus. A good example would be the popular classic “Furusato” (Hometown). Using the authority of law to pry open people’s lips can only demean the song itself.
The distance between lip reading and thought control is not that great. Whether to sing “Kimigayo” must be left to each person’s conscience. Oppressive school ceremonies are unacceptable.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 6
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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