Rising Nationalism Impacts Japanese Christians

Since the enthronement of the new emperor in 1990, nationalism reminiscent of the old style, pre-war militaristic Shintoism is on the rise in Japan. History books have been rewritten and the new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, a right-wing nationalist, is seeking to change the pacifist nature of Japan's 1946 post-WWII constitution.

The prime minister also planned to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine where Japan's war dead (including war-time Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo) are venerated as deities. In 1999, a bill was passed that officially recognized the Kimigayo' (the anthem honoring the emperor's rule) and the Hinomaru' (the flag honoring the sun goddess and emperor of the sun).

Local governments in Japan have tightened their demands for teachers and students to participate in flag and anthem ceremonies - something that amounts to idol worship for a Christian. Teachers refusing to co-operate have suffered pay cuts, been transferred to isolated locations, or fired. The lines between the Japanese state and the Shinto religion are becoming increasingly blurred.

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