Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Unofficial Visit

Kyodo News reported this morning Tokyo time that Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko plan to visit Hawaii in July. Their stay is to be "unofficial" and may include a stop at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

In recent years, the Emperor appears to have tried to repair some of the damage done by his father. His statements on the pain caused by the Pacific War have been surprisingly inclusive and the Imperial Household has at timely moments "found" dairies and statements to release that try to discredit many of the claims of Rights and Conservatives. Some of his statements have been part of his annual New Year's messages.

After all, the Emperor is Japan's official head of state. The Prime Minister is not. In fact, the prime minister is not even the executive of Japan. That is the Cabinet.

But the Emperor is not supposed to be "political." Conservatives and liberals in Japan are both uncomfortable with his pubic statements.

Will the Emperor do what no Japanese politician dares do? This past September, Upper House Speaker Yohei Kono did visit Pearl Harbor. He was the highest ranking in-office politician to do so. At least this is what a few articles in the Japanese press reported. It was never reported in the Western press or even the Hawaiian press. And it was not clear if Mr. Kono visited simply the Punchbowl cemetery or the USS Arizona Memorial. It seems like it was just the cemetery. But written details are hard to find. The Speaker does not even mention his trip on his website.

The schedule for Hawaii is still being planned. I suspect today's mention of a Pearl Harbor visit is to measure public and political reaction. The Emperor cannot avoid the "political" and maybe he should not try. Too much caution has already kept this issue political.  And its politics is yet to reach the 21st Century.

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