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Using 'tradition' as an excuse against things one disagrees with

Hosei University President Yuko Tanaka (Mainichi)

The reason that was given by Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) General Council Chairman Wataru Takeshita when asked why he opposed the invitation of same-sex partners to banquets hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko was this: "It doesn't fit with Japan's traditions."

I wonder how he defines the word "tradition." It's likely that he has little knowledge of Japanese culture but believes that he does, and defines tradition as things that match his own views.

Back in the day, there was no other country as unprejudiced toward homosexuals as Japan. This lack of prejudice began in ancient times, and was passed down as a beautiful part of the culture among aristocrats, monks and warriors, ultimately spreading among commoners in the Edo period. There's no reason that such a cultural legacy wouldn't "fit" with a traditional Japanese banquet.

There's another example in which "tradition" is often brought up as the rationale behind an argument, and that's the issue of elective dual surnames. Married Japanese couples today are required by law to both take either the husband or the wife's surname. But it was only in 1898 that married Japanese couples began to do so. And then, too, there was opposition to the move, saying that married couples choosing one surname didn't "fit" with Japanese tradition. This illustrates that whether something does or doesn't "fit" with Japanese tradition is an argument commonly used by those who actually mean that it just doesn't match their own views.

Is it not embarrassing for a politician to be so ignorant about Japan in this day and age?

Another point is that most countries and states or provinces in North America and Europe allow married couples the choice to take the same surname or keep their own. In addition, the only country among Group of Seven states that does not offer legal rights to same-sex couples is Japan.

The situation is even direr than it may seem. When criticized for his remark, Takeshita apparently said, "I shouldn't have said that," not "I was out of my depth." This politician does not understand the meaning of human rights and diversity, which concern the very foundations of a democratic state.

Hosei University, where I am president, champions and promotes diversity. And we cannot promote diversity without furthering our awareness of human rights. As LGBT individuals become increasingly established as members of the general population, the university's role is to provide an environment in which anybody can learn without fear of discrimination.

Soon, we will welcome a female professor from the U.K. for a symposium, and she will be accompanied on the visit by her same-sex partner. I can't help but be embarrassed by Japan. (By Yuko Tanaka, Hosei University president)

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