Friday, April 20, 2007

Arrived at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office at 8:00am. Handed out a leaflet to those who worked there, and, using a microphone, appealed to them for support of our cause. 14 of us all together, including young people for whom it was their first time to hand out a leaflet of any kind. We made speeches with a microphone at two different places, which contributed to making the whole thing rather an enjoyable occasion.

Following that, we headed to the Department of Education and Information of the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. We were going to submit more signed petitions "An appeal for no unwarranted measures against teachers who choose not to stand up for the Kimigayo song at the school entrance and graduation ceremonies," although the measure of suspending us from teaching has already been taken. We still wanted to communicate the support of those who had signed the petition from all over Japan.

The 30th floor where the Department of Education and Information is located was under the special security operation. As usual, that security operation was directed only toward us, which consisted of tightly closed doors and two clerks with an armband that read "Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education" obstructing our way. They claimed that they had to block our way"because a group of people had come all at once." We saw a few security guards placed on the floor as well.

We were not allowed in even though we had asked to see the person in charge. After a while, an individual who introduced himself as a section chief of the Department came out, and he saw us outside the doors. We learned that this person had replaced the previous section chief. The previous one had been sent to another department after one year's appointment at this Department. One year would have just flown by him while he was trying to learn the job. One year is by no means long enough for anyone to do any job that may have vision and continuity and may attain the quality of benefiting the residents of Tokyo. Ever since Ishihara took the office of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, clerks of the Board of Education as well as the Municipal Government have been increasingly moved around with much shorter time spent in one department, and we hear many of the clerks themselves find it undesirable. I wish Ishihara stopped making sport of governing Tokyo as well as of Tokyo’s educational administration, basing them on his idiosyncrasy.

We made an appointment to see the person in charge next week. We rounded up our conversation by saying that the time and the place for the meeting would be confirmed through our fax communication. In the afternoon, I attended a farewell ceremony at Tsurukawa Daini Junior High School. Student representatives gave "words of thanks" to each of the departing teachers, and proceeded to give a bouquet of flowers to each of us. I, too, received the "words of thanks" that I felt to be more than I deserved, and I felt blessed and grateful.

My departing comments were the product of a few days of thinking and pondering. I had decided to respond to the students’long-standing questions: Why do I not stand up when the Kimigayo song is being played? Why do I not follow rules/conventions? I prefaced my speech by saying "Even though I am approaching my sixties, it still requires me to muster a lot of courage to say something different from what most other departing teachers would say. And so, I am very nervous and my heart is pounding right now."

The following is the rest of my speech.

"It is not because I do not like Kimigayo that I do not stand up for the song. It is because I believe the schools are doing what they ought not to do that I feel compelled to sit while Kimigayo is being played. That is, the schools demand their students to blindly stand up and to sing it without allowing them to know and to think. Do you all know the meanings of the Kimigayo words and the history that accompanies the song? Do you all know why the Board of Education wants you to sing it? Have you ever thought about these issues?

Before we sing Kimigayo in unison, we ought to learn about the song and think about it by exchanging our views and ideas. I believe that is what the schools ought to be doing. And"think before acting" applies not only to Kimigayo but also to many other issues. For more than thirty years as a teacher, I have been telling my students, "Let us think first and then take an action. It should not be because everyone else is doing it or someone has told you to do it that you are doing it. Let us think with our own heads and then take an action." I myself have tried to demonstrate such a way of being. It has been said that man is a thinking reed. Humans are humans because they think. I sincerely hope that you all use your own heads to think and to act.

The same applies to so-called "common sense." Instead of dismissing an issue by saying "it is common sense," please continue to question and to think. Common sense changes over time and from society to society. Let me give you an example. When we now say "no wars," everyone would agree. But sixty some years ago, those who said that were put into prison.

I hope you will not blindly go along with the current. Please use your own heads to think and to act. In so doing, please live yourself fully. Thank you very much for the lovely year. Please take good care of yourselves.