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Nationalist school operator in Osaka swung to right after founder's death

Children shout out the phrase, "Go for it, Prime Minister Abe!" during a sports event at Moritomo Gakuen's Tsukamoto Kindergarten in Osaka's Yodogawa Ward. (Photo partially modified, from video acquired by the Mainichi Shimbun)

OSAKA -- School operator Moritomo Gakuen which has stirred controversy by having pupils at its kindergarten shout out nationalist chants and recite offensive statements about Chinese and South Korean people, was not always this extreme, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

The institution apparently veered toward the far-right of the political spectrum following the death of Hiroshi Moritomo, its first president and the founder of Tsukamoto Kindergarten, in 1995. It was around this time that Moritomo's son-in-law Yasunori Kagoike took over as his successor.

According to Kagoike's past interviews, the kindergarten, founded in 1950, started making children recite the Imperial Rescript on Education, a militaristic educational edict issued by Emperor Meiji in 1890, in around 2000.

In recent years, the school operator's nationalist posture has triggered a great deal of discussion within politically conservative circles, and several prominent people such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie Abe have visited the kindergarten in Osaka's Yodogawa Ward.

At the same time, Moritomo Gakuen has also been criticized for making pupils sing war songs and for handing out hate-speech documents to guardians, with reference to "Korean nationals living in Japan and Shinajin (a discriminatory term used to refer to Chinese people) with wicked ideas."

Recent video footage of a sports event at Tsukamoto Kindergarten showed children shouting out chants such as, "Adults should protect the Senkaku Islands, Takeshima, and the Northern Territories so that Japan keeps winning. They should also work on changing the minds of China and South Korea, which treat Japan as a bad country, and tell them not to teach lies in their history textbooks," as well as, "Go for it, Prime Minister Abe! We're glad security bills passed the Diet."

Opposition political parties have been critical of this kind of activity, describing it as "a political movement within a school -- which is forbidden under the Basic Act on Education."

When asked whether the chants during the sports event violated the law, Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno replied, "It is up to the Osaka Prefectural Government to decide," adding that if the prefectural government's administrative procedures over the matter were inappropriate, the education ministry will demand that the prefectural government fix them.

Under the School Education Act, if a school is found to deliberately violate ordinances, then it is possible for the governor to request closure of that school. However, an education ministry official stated, "I have never heard of a closure order being issued. Authorities would demand improvements beforehand."

With regard to the use of the Imperial Rescript on Education at the kindergarten, the ministry sees that it's problematic to teach the militaristic edict as the only fundamental philosophy of Japan as done during the period before World War II.

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