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Nippon Kaigi calls for Constitution to define family, cites 'Sazae-san' as Japan ideal

Leaflets prepared by the Nippon Kaigi and an affiliated group call for constitutional amendment. (Mainichi)

Japanese conservative group Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference) is stepping up its campaign to change Article 24 of the Constitution -- the clause protecting gender equality and other individual rights in postwar Japan.

Apparently underlying the move is the group's moral sentiments regarding the traditional Japanese family as the ideal form of family. However, should an "ideal" family structure be defined by the Constitution?

An educational DVD prepared by a group related to the Nippon Kaigi says, "Why is Sazae-san still highly popular among the Japanese people?" The narrator goes on to state that Article 24 has caused the collapse of Japan's families, resulting in various social problems, and points to the fictional Sazae-san clan as the ideal family.

"Sazae-san" is a Japanese manga and anime series written and illustrated by Machiko Hasegawa. It depicts three generations living together under one roof and leading a "normal" Japanese family life.

Tetsuo Ito, a policy panel member of the Nippon Kaigi, said during a lecture in Saitama Prefecture in September, "The line of life handed down from our ancestors will be broken if there is only respect for individuals and equality between men and women, driving the Japanese race to extinction." In the lecture, he raised Article 24 as one of the themes for constitutional amendment. Ito, who serves as a strategist for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, emphasized, "Family relations should be addressed in the Constitution."

Such family values resonate with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s draft revision to the Constitution and the Abe administration. Abe said in the Diet on Oct. 5, "The family is the bedrock of society. How it should be positioned in the Constitution should be discussed."

Abe is aspiring to revise the Constitution, and the Nippon Kaigi is throwing its weight behind him. In response to Abe and the Nippon Kaigi's push to change Article 24, a civic movement called "24-jo kaesasenai campaign (Campaign to block efforts to change Article 24) was established in September. One of those involved in the campaign's launch, Tomomi Yamaguchi, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Montana State University, said, "Defining the family in the Constitution and including 'ideal' family values in laws could lead to denying diverse ways of life, such as those of unmarried people, people with no children and sexual minorities, and infringing on their human rights."

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