When the film “Eiga Chibi Maruko-chan: Itaria kara Kita Shonen” (Chibi Maruko-chan: A boy from Italy) was released in 2015, the education ministry endorsed it and distributed its poster to schools around the nation.
The film is about the eponymous protagonist’s friendship with a foreign child, and the poster’s caption proclaimed, “Friendship has no national boundaries!”
One lawmaker raised a stink over the caption.
“When I saw this poster, I almost flipped,” the politician wrote in his blog. “Japan would cease to exist as a nation if education administrators lacked a sense of nationhood.”
He went on to note that he had urged the education ministry department in charge to “do some serious soul-searching.”
His keen nose for a potential crisis in a “sense of nationhood” did not miss even an innocuous caption on a children’s movie poster.
This politician, Masaaki Akaike, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also acted swiftly when Kihei Maekawa, a former administrative vice education minister, gave a talk at a junior high school in Nagoya.
Akaike and another lawmaker contacted the education ministry, and the latter sent a letter to the Nagoya board of education. Its outrageous nature has been reported by the media.
“Please inform us specifically and in detail (about the decision to ask Maekawa to speak at the school),” said the letter, which also asked for submission of audio and other records of the speech.
The language was polite, but what it conveyed was anything but.
One particular line that caught my attention described school as a “place where moral education takes place.” This appears to be a convoluted way of branding Maekawa as a morally questionable character.
The letter mentioned Maekawa’s resignation from the ministry over an “amakudari” scandal. But I wonder if the apparent attempt to blacken his name had to do with the fact that he has become a vocal critic of the prime minister over the Kake Educational Institution scandal.
What outcome should we expect from the “tie-up” between lawmakers and the education ministry? I imagine this case will only drive a deeper wedge between the education ministry and at-work teachers and educators–not conducive to the sort of “without boundaries” relationship celebrated by the 2015 film’s poster.
–The Asahi Shimbun, March 23
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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.