Japan’s top court ruled Tuesday that schools have the right to order teachers to perform the national anthem, which liberals associate with World War II militarism.
It was the Supreme Court’s first ruling on government orders for schools to respect the national anthem and flag, which have led to a civil disobedience campaign by liberal teachers.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a lawsuit by a music teacher who refused to play the anthem at an elementary school ceremony in 1999, a court spokesman said.
“I can’t play due to my philosophy and belief,” the 53-year-old teacher had said during the trial, as quoted by Jiji Press.
She had demanded a retraction of a reprimand from her superiors, arguing that it violated her constitutional guarantee of freedom of conscience.
The anthem “Kimigayo” (“His Majesty’s Reign”) praises the emperor. Critics say it harks back to the nation’s militarism under late Emperor Hirohito, who was considered divine during World War II.
Japan has gradually been adopting symbols of patriotism it shunned after the war.
Tokyo’s local government, led by outspoken nationalist Governor Shintaro Ishihara, began in 2003 to require the display of the flag and the singing of the anthem in ceremonies at state-run schools.
Hundreds of teachers in Tokyo and other parts of Japan have been reprimanded for refusing to comply.
In December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative government passed a controversial bill requiring schools to teach patriotism, a taboo since the war.