16:30, 26 May 2000
I deeply regret the fact that the remarks I made the other day at the Council of the Shinto Political Federation of Diet Members meeting were not expressed in a manner which would have fully conveyed my intent, and that this caused misunderstanding among many people. For this I would like to offer my heartfelt apology to the people of Japan.
As the Prime Minister of Japan, it is a matter of course that I respect and uphold the sovereignty of the people and the freedom of religion as stipulated in the Constitution of Japan. The idea of reinstating Shinto as the state religion under imperial sovereignty such as existed in Japan before the end of the Second World War in no way corresponds to my own personal beliefs either.
I explained the meaning of my remarks the other day in the Plenary Sitting of the House of Councillors. Today, I would like to take this opportunity to once again frankly express my thoughts, this time directly to the people of Japan.
The phrase "Tenno o chushin to suru kami no kuni," [the nation with the Emperor at its heart in the land of deities] for which I was severely criticised, is something which I said in the context of describing the activities of the Council of the Shinto Political Federation of Diet Members. However, I deeply regret that my words were expressed in a way which caused misunderstanding. I did not mean to say that the Emperor is divine. Indeed, that would be absolutely contrary to my own personal beliefs.
As someone who was eight years old when the Second World War ended, I have spent most of my life being educated and growing up under the post-war Constitution of Japan. For me, the Emperor is the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan.
Needless to say, the position of the Emperor is derived from the will of the people of Japan with whom resides the sovereign power, and the meaning of my remarks was that the Emperor is the symbol of the unity of the people.
Furthermore, the expression "kami no kuni" [the land of deities] was not made in reference to any specific religion, but rather was meant to express the fact that in the course of history, the Japanese have seen in Nature - in the mountains, rivers and seas of their local communities - beings above and beyond humankind.
I believe that the Japanese have lived in the cultural tradition where we offer thanks to Nature for that which she bestows on us, such as food and other things, and respect Nature, filled with awe. That is what I meant to express, and in no way did I make the remarks to the effect that the Emperor is divine.
It is my belief that we must learn from past history, that that which must be regretted must indeed be regretted and changed, and that we must go forward to a better future.
After the Second World War, reflecting on the history, the people of Japan stipulated the sovereignty of the people and the freedom of religion in the Constitution of Japan. Right until this very day, these principles have been widely supported by the people, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure that they are firmly upheld into the future as well.
What I most intended to express in my statement at the Council of the Shinto Political Federation of Diet Members meeting was that, as we have seen again and again criminal cases committed by youths in which it is clear that they pay little regard to human life, we must educate our children to understand the invaluable importance of human life, while deepening their natural religiousness.
At the Council of the Shinto Political Federation of Diet Members, I stated that human life is certainly given by the parents, that, in other words, however, it can be said that life is given by divinity, and that life, which is the divine gift, must be treated correspondingly whether it is one's own or other's; you shall not kill. And that that must be the base for all. This is what I stressed in that speech.
In the days when I was young, we lived in local communities together with our grandfathers, grandmothers and with our parents. There was so much that we learned from them. It seems to me that in living our ordinary lives at home and in the local communities, without intentional efforts, we learned to thank and appreciate the blessings of nature, such as the food we ate and clean water we drank, and to venerate lives of humankind and living creatures.
For me, Japan is a nation which has a long history and culture with tradition, and it is also a land blessed with an abundance of nature. I believe that the Japanese people have held these things to be dear.
However, unfortunately in the process of the economic growth after the War, the people of Japan have been distracted by material wealth, and it seems to me that at times we have not paid enough attention to such spiritual values as the respect for life, consideration for others, and appreciation of the traditional culture of our nation. As we embark upon a constructive debate on education reform, I hope that the people of Japan kindly understand what I wanted to say in my statements, including the points I have just mentioned.
Today I have expressed myself frankly about the meaning of my words.
However, as I said at the outset, I deeply regret that my remarks caused misunderstanding among so many people, and for that I offer my sincere apology.
Humbly listening to the voices of the people, I respect and observe the provisions of the Constitution of Japan and devote my utmost to conducting affairs of state, and will realize my political goal of achieving a rebirth of Japan in response to the expectations of the people. In this I ask for the understanding of the people of Japan.