Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

The continuing struggle to guard the constitution

The Minoo-case, 1983

In February 1975, the war memorial in Minoo City came to the attention of the citizens when the city budget included en 86 million yen item for the removal of the war memorial from the grounds of an elementary school when the school needed land for a swimming pool. The removal and reconstruction of the monument started in October 1975.

On February 26, 1976, nine women in Minoo City filed suit against the city hall opposing the reconstruction of the war memorial. The case was filed on the grounds that it was unconstitutional for the Mayor and the Education Committee to provide public land and money for the reconstruction of the memorial.

"Chûkun-hi" (Loyal Spirit Memorial) was built right after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). During the Sino-Japanese War, the war veterans' group often built monuments on public land. In 1946, after World War II, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered the removal of monuments which encouraged Japanese militarism. However, from 1951 the War Bereaved Family Association rebuilt the monuments.

On March 24, 1982, in the Osaka District Court the decision handed down by Judge KOZAKI Yoshinaga favoured the citizen group, and Minoo City, which lost the case, appealed to a higher court immediately.

The population of Minoo City, a suburb of Osaka, is about 800,000. It is a well known fact among Minoo citizens that Sasakawa Ryoichi, a Class A war criminal and the president of the Japan Motorboat Racing Association, and the mayor of Minoo city are well acquainted, as the city receives a great deal of income from the proceeds of the motorboat races.

In the spring of 1976 and 1977, the mayor and city hall representatives attended the hour-long ceremony of the war memorial. In July 1977 six women and four of their husbands took the case to the Osaka District Court and fought the issue on the grounds of the separation of religion and state. These six women were among the nine women involved in the first court case, and they all shared the bitter memories of World War 2.

On March 1, 1983, the court decision ruled that the ceremony conducted at the war memorial violates the constitution, and Judge KOZAKI Yoshinaga ordered the six defendants to pay a total of Yen 15.318 to the city. In his statement Judge Kozaki said, "The ceremony was very religious and it cannot be said to be only a custom. If public workers attend the ceremony in an 'official' capacity, it is unconstitutional."

The same morning a Cessna airplane hired by a rightist group flew over the city with its loud speaker blaring, "How can a Christian judge rule against the Shinto religion? It is our responsibility to commemorate the war heroes."

The major Japanese newspapers picked up this news, putting it on their front page and discussing it in their editorials. Many pointed out that the court decision has an influence on "official visits" to Yasukuni Shrine by the prime minister and cabinet members. The Yomiuri Newspaper commented in their March 2nd edition that "Judge Kozaki presupposes that the ceremony is a dangerous religious activity for the promotion of militarization. We all know that the Japanese have a tradition of believing in many religions.... If we see only our own viewpoint we become blind to common sense."

"When people say, `There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape." I Thessalonians 5,3

Japan Christian Activity News 595, March 22, 1983

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