TOKYO -- The education board of Tokyo encouraged all 255 metropolitan schools in the capital to hoist flags at half-staff to coincide with a private funeral and wake for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in spite of law requiring political neutrality of schools, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned from an inquiry to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Japan's Basic Act on Education bans schools from engaging in political activities or expressing support for or disapproval of specific political parties. The metropolitan education board explained, "We entrusted the decision to raise flags at half-staff to each school's principal. We had no intention of forcing schools to express their condolences."
According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education and the metro government's Bureau of General Affairs, the latter decided it was going to raise flags at half-staff at the metropolitan government headquarters following the national government's decision to do so on July 11 and 12. On July 11, the Bureau of General Affairs reportedly sent out emails to other metropolitan bureaus asking them to "take special consideration" at facilities under their jurisdiction. The Tokyo education board forwarded this message to metropolitan high schools, special needs schools, and other institutions on the same day. A civilian group that is against flying flags at half-staff said that flags were lowered to half-mast at multiple metropolitan schools.
The education board explained, "We merely forwarded the message while referring to the administrative notice, and left the decision on flying flags to each school."
A representative of the Tokyo government's General Affairs Bureau said, "In addition to the national government's decision to hoist flags at half-staff, former Prime Minister Abe contributed greatly to the administration of Tokyo, including the Tokyo Olympics. (The assassination) was an incident that shocked Tokyo residents, and we decided to fly flags at half-staff."
It has been revealed that similar requests were issued by the Obihiro Municipal Board of Education in Hokkaido and the Kawasaki City Board of Education in Kanagawa Prefecture.
(Japanese original by Asako Takeuchi, Tokyo City News Department)