`DIVINE' ROLE OF THE EMPEROR LIKELY WON'T BE RESURRECTED AFTER HIROHITO IS LAID TO REST
MOST JAPANESE VALUE RIGHTS OVER IMPERIAL RULER, BYU RESEARCHER SAYSAfter the Japanese people put Emperor Hirohito in his final resting place Friday, they are not likely to wish to return to a time when emperors were considered divine, a Brigham Young University political science professor says.
Lee W. Farnsworth, who taught at two Japanese universities and has done extensive research on Japanese politics, said that while older Japanese may still resent a post-war constitution that stripped the emperor of all but ceremonial powers, most are not willing to give up civil rights and economic prosperity gained while the document has been in place."The right wing would like to rewrite the constitution to give the emperor more respect in society. The average Japanese is opposed to that. They like the new-found freedoms after the war and I would think most Japanese would oppose strengthening of the imperial institution," he said.
The emperor throughout history has been manipulated by others to gain power. Although the emperors follow a bloodline of 124 rulers reaching back 2,600 years, during the most recent centuries that power has become symbolic as others controlled the emperor for their own purposes.
For example, the Shogun used the emperor's consent to establish his authority, and in the 19th century outside lords used the emperor to overthrow the Shogun. That behind-the-scenes control of the emperor eventually got out of hand in the 1930s. Such use of the emperor could happen again if the constitution was changed, but that's not likely to occur, Farnsworth said.
"The civil rights everybody loves and they are not about to give them up. They don't want any chance at all that it (those rights) would be revised. All of the opposition parties and the ruling party are saying, `Let's not mess with it. It is working well and let's not open it up in any way or to alter what's been successful economically, politically or socially.' Why should they change anything? Look at them go," Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth said that the 40-year symbolic status of the emperor will continue along with his purely ceremonial duties to install the nation's supreme court chief justice and prime minister as well as the opening of the Diet, Japan's legislative body. A history of apparent political neutrality is apt to be continued by Hirohito's son Akihito.
"He is absolutely neutral. The fact that you have had one party in power since World War II makes it very difficult to say he favors one party or the other, but there is no indication at all the emperor has ever taken any kind of political stand," said Farnsworth.
Attempts by the military, limited to a role of "self-defense forces" under the present constitution, to use the emperor to take political power remain relatively innocuous. Blind allegiance paid to the emperor by soldiers during World War II has disappeared among the new generations of military personnel.
"The military in Japan is very neutral politically. They are even reluctant to push for their own budget increases. Politicians, who are interested in a stronger military, do it, but very rarely do military leaders make statements about dissatisfaction with their budgets or ask for military operation increases to take a bigger role in the world."
While the emperor's leadership role will remain symbolic, Akihito is likely to become more active in Japanese society, taking on more of the status of English royalty. Such marks the difference between a time and age of Emperor Hirohito and his son. Hirohito, who was initially shielded from the public, remained shy and detached throughout post-war years.
"(Akihito) will go to public places and probably promote good causes. He is married to a commoner," Farnsworth said. "He is a very pleasant, common-type person."
Looking back at the question as to whether Hirohito should have been tried for war crimes, Farnsworth said that history has shown the world got a great "plea bargain" when American pressure forced Hirohito to renounce his divinity and gave him symbolic authority in return.
"You got all of those people pacified right off. The emperor said be peaceful and they're peaceful. I am not sure had the Japanese been left to their own what they would have done to the Emperor," Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth said the funeral of Hirohito marks the passing of an era in Japan - from a time when soldiers died in the name of the emperor to time when the young care little about the position.
"Hirohito was for half of the time a puppet - part of the time for a military dictatorship and part of the time for a civilian group - and the rest of the time he has been the symbol who had a few appointment ceremonies in the constitution," he said. "Now young people are not imbued with the feelings of (allegiance to the emperor) at all. They know nothing about the emperor."