Who wants to drive away the 300-year-old Confucian Temple in Okinawa?

The 7-year Confucius Temple unconstitutional case in Okinawa Prefecture was finally pronounced. Two days later, on February 26, Nobunaga Tokunaga, the lawyer of the first plaintiff who won the lawsuit, expressed his gratitude to the supporters on his Twitter account and claimed that he “will fight to demolish the Temple of Confucius next time”. In a message, Tokunaga replied: “Thank you for your support. Let us work together to clean up China’s aggressive base in Okinawa.”

China's aggressive base in Okinawa.

This is a lawsuit concerning Japan’s “separation of state and religion”. The focus of the dispute is whether this Confucian temple in Okinawa is a religious site, so it is judged whether it can be rent-free by the government. However, some right-wing people wanted to take the opportunity to completely drive the Confucian Temple out of Okinawa.

In 2013, the then Mayor of Naha, Onagayoshi, recognized that the Confucian Temple, Kume Zhishen Temple, built in the 17th century, was a public learning and sightseeing place, so according to the law, the annual land rent of 5.7 million yen was exempted.

Dacheng Hall, the main hall of the Zhisheng Temple. Photo: Wikipedia
But this caused strong opposition from some local residents.

In 2014, Teruko Kinjo, a citizen in her 80s, approached a lawyer to represent Tokunaga Nobun and filed a lawsuit with the court, arguing that the Most Holy Temple is a religious facility and that the city government’s rent-free practice violated the principle of separation of church and state in the Japanese Constitution.

After the lawsuit was exposed, it attracted the attention of Japanese right-wing media Channel Sakura and began to report on Jincheng.

But the litigation process is very long, after 7 years. Finally, on February 24, 2021, Jincheng won the case.

Since the end of World War II, there have also been two cases in Japan convicting Shintoism that violated the separation of state and religion, but this was the first time that the unconstitutional verdict against Confucianism.

Right-wing residents filed a lawsuit: it is Chinese religion, not local culture

Built between 1671 and 1675, the Jiumezhisheng Temple was a gift from Kangxi to the King Shangzhen of Ryukyu. The Confucian Temple was erected with statues of Confucius, Yan Hui, Zisi, Zengzi, and Mencius. It was once taught by the Ryukyu Kingdom to teach Confucianism. The most important place of thought.

During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the Most Holy Temple was destroyed by a US military plane and was rebuilt in 1975. In 2013, Zhisheng Temple moved to Songshan Park not far from the old site, covering an area of ​​1,335 square meters.

After the relocation, the then Mayor of Okinawa, Onagayoshi Ongashi, believed that a place of study and sightseeing for public welfare, according to the law, exempted its annual land rent of 5.7 million yen.

China's aggressive base in Okinawa.
A statue of Confucius at the original site of the Jiumezhisheng Temple, donated by Taiwan. Photo: Wikipedia
During the Meiji period, the central government provided free public land to religious organizations such as shrines. During World War II, Shintoism in Japan became the spiritual pillar of the emperor of Japan, and it was also one of the reasons why Japan launched the war. In order to avoid repeating the same mistakes, the separation of the state and Shintoism became the focus of the post-war Japanese constitution.

Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution stipulates: Religious groups shall not accept privileges granted by the state, and the state shall not engage in religious activities. Article 89 also prohibits the state from granting privileges to religious organizations, and prohibits the use of public funds to facilitate religious organizations. Therefore, after the war of separation of church and state, the government often chose to transfer land to religious organizations or collect land rent.

The law also stipulates that if religion has significance and value in terms of history, culture, tourism and international friendship, land rent can be exempted. But this judgment of meaning and value generally depends not only on experts, but also on the feelings of ordinary people. In the 2010 Sorachita Shrine lawsuit in Sunagawa City, Hokkaido, the court judged that it was unconstitutional for the city government to provide free land to Sorachita Shrine on the basis that “ordinary Japanese people in the area did not think the shrine was part of cultural life.”

Weng Changxiongzhi’s actions aroused opposition from the local right-wing residents, who believed that the Jiumi Zhisheng Temple was engaged in religious activities.

The 93-year-old Okinawa resident Teruko Kinjo is one of them. She is the first plaintiff in the unconstitutional case of the Most Holy Temple. As a representative of the Okinawa Women’s Peace Conference, Kinjo has been active at the grassroots level for many years. She strongly supports the emperor, the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. troops stationed in Japan. The far-right media Channel Sakura said that she has been fighting against the Okinawa left for many years and has always given her great support. Great support.

As a resident of Okinawa, Kinjo does not believe that Confucianism is the native culture of Okinawa.

“Priests wearing black sacrificial robes opened the door of Zhicheng, put incense, lighted candles, and offered offerings in front of the statue of Confucius. After sending away the spirit of Confucius with lanterns, they closed the door of Zhicheng, and finally extinguished the lanterns. The Jume Chongsheng Meeting performed these It is a ceremony with Chinese characteristics, not a custom in Okinawa, because we ordinary people in Okinawa are completely unfamiliar with these processes.” Jincheng said.

In the third court trial on December 25 last year, Jincheng emphasized that the Confucian Festival held in the Most Holy Temple every September is definitely a religious culture.

The Confucian Worship Ceremony at the Most Holy Temple Screenshot from YouTube
She has observed the expressions of people who go to the Most Holy Temple to worship: “I often see people sitting on cushions and praying wholeheartedly. They should come from mainland China or Taiwan. Judging from their ardent worship, these people are absolutely peaceful. Confucianism believers related to the Holy Temple.” In addition, she also mentioned that the “academic achievement” guards sold in the Holy Temple before seemed to be made of grateful “ash”, which is enough to prove the devotion of the “believers” to the Holy Temple.

So she decided to take the Naha City Government to court.

In April 2018, Kinjo sued the Naha government in the first instance. The Naha District Court ruled that the Naha government was unconstitutional and violated the principle of separation of church and state, and sentenced the Naha government to a fine of 1.81 million yen.

The lawsuit attracted the attention of Japanese ultra-right conservative media Channel Sakura, and Kinjo began to appear frequently in the media, trying to prove that he represented the public opinion of Okinawa. However, only some right-wing netizens who also follow Channel Sakura cheered for her in the comment area, and these people are not all Okinawa natives. On Twitter, supporters of the Jincheng lawsuit are rare.

Channel Sakura’s YouTube homepage is all related to the case. Picture screenshots from YouTube
However, the Naha government insisted that the most holy temple is only a scenic spot that spreads the history and culture of Okinawa and is not a religion, so it filed a second instance with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court.

In April 2019, the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court upheld the first-instance judgment but did not mention the fine. For this reason, the civic group filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court again in July 2020 on the issue of fines. On February 24, 2021, the Supreme Court of Japan avoided the judgment of whether Confucianism is a religion, but ruled on the grounds that “the Confucius Festival held every year in the Most Holy Temple has a strong religious flavor, is a religious facility, and is not applicable to exemption of land rent”. The Naha City Government is unconstitutional. The civic group won the case, but the penalty amount has not yet been announced.

On February 26 this year, Jin Cheng, who won the case, thanked Channel Sakura for helping her for many years on a show, and called it a “very helpful presence”.

Jincheng’s victory was inseparable from a key figure, her lawyer representing Tokunaga Shinichi.

Tokunaga has close contacts with the Japanese right-wing politician Hiroyuki Seto. In the case of Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in 2014 that he was unconstitutional, he served as a lawyer supporting the Yasukuni Shrine and even starred in related movies promoting the Yasukuni Shrine.

Tokunaga, who held the same xenophobic attitude towards Confucian culture, told the judge that the Confucian Temple was inherited by the descendants of the Chinese who came to Ryukyu during the Ming Dynasty. Not all people in Okinawa understand it and emphasized that it is a religion. Non-learned. He also recorded the oral narrations of the three court trials in detail on his personal blog.

Tokunaga Shinichi pointed out that the Confucian sacrifice can find religious significance in the sacrifices of the Qing Dynasty. The Chinese regard sacrifices to ancestors and sacrifice to Confucianism as a custom, but this is essentially a kind of religious worship. There are currently 6 well-known Confucian temples in Japan, only Okinawa is not a nationally designated historical and cultural relic, and the other 5 are all public organizations. Kume Takashokai has always emphasized that the ceremonies of worshipping Confucius at the Zhishen Temple are no different from those of other Confucian temples in Japan, but Tokunaga pointed out that the secular nature of the Zhisei Temple is clearly different from the publicity of other Confucian temples because it is not a public organization. , Belongs to religion.

A screenshot of Tokunaga Shinobu’s Twitter. He wrote in a reply, “Let’s clean up China’s aggressive base in Okinawa.”
In addition, Tokunaga also mentioned the priesthood of the Confucius Festival, “The priests of the Confucian Festival are only selected from the directors of the Kume Takasho Society, and the members of this organization have always been the’Kume Thirty-Six Surnames’ who came to Okinawa in the first place. For the descendants of Confucianism, Confucianism is a male-centered religion of filial piety, and Confucian sacrifices are also carried out by blood-related male groups, which has obvious religious overtones.”

Japanese Confucian Temples have similar functions

In Japan, Confucianism was introduced earlier than Buddhism, and most Confucian temples were built jointly with Confucian schools.

In 513 AD, a scholar carrying the Five Classics came to Japan from Baekje on the Korean Peninsula, and the spread of Confucianism in Japan began. At the beginning, the rulers highly praised Confucianism, and the architectural styles also imitated them vigorously. In the Asuka period, Emperor Qi Mingming (female) built the tomb of his late husband Qin Minghuang in an octagonal shape according to Confucianism.

However, it was not until the Edo period (1603-1868) that Confucianism gradually emerged as an independent discipline. The Tokugawa shogunate adopted Zhu Xi’s Confucianism as the official ruling ideology to ensure the loyalty of the samurai class. Schools in various domains began to rebuild Confucian temples. Today, the most famous Confucian temple in Japan, Yushima Shrine in Tokyo, is a Confucian school established during the Edo period. But unlike Buddhism and native Shintoism, Confucianism has never been widely spread to the common people.

In addition to Yushima Shrine, Japan also has 5 famous Confucian temples: Confucius Temple in Nagasaki Prefecture (Chinese Museum of Successive Dynasties), Ashikaga School in Tochigi Prefecture, Sakura School Shrine in Okayama Prefecture, Taku Shrine in Saga Prefecture, and The most holy temple in Okinawa Prefecture. These Confucian temples all have a statue of Confucius and a Dacheng Hall. The functions are also similar. They are places for sightseeing and learning of Confucianism. They accept all kinds of prayers. Confucius festivals are held regularly every year, and Confucianism lectures and local seasonal activities are held. Except for the most sacred temple in Okinawa, the other Confucian temples are listed as important national cultural properties of Japan and belong to regions or countries, and are only managed by public welfare consortia.

Nagasaki Confucian Temple Image: Wikipedia
From the historical perspective, the history of Confucianism and Confucian Temple in Okinawa is different from that of other parts of Japan. The appearance of Kume Zhisheng Temple is the result of the exchange between ancient China and the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom. At present, the management of the Zhisheng Temple belongs to the private group Jume Chongshenghui. The existence of Kume Chongshenghui has a history of one hundred years. Behind it is the Ming Dynasty immigrants dating back to the 14th century-the 36 surname of Kume. The ancestors of this Chinese group came to the Ryukyu Kingdom from China in the Ming Dynasty and took root in Kume Village, forming one of the four great Ryukyu gentry at the time-the Jume gentry, which exerted an important influence on the Ryukyu Kingdom at that time. Their fate is closely related to the exchanges between China and Japan for more than 600 years.

In fact, in addition to the Most Holy Temple, Jume Chongshenghui also manages the Tianfei Palace, Mingluntang and other traditional cultural institutions from China.

Right-wing carnival: driving the temple of Confucius out of Okinawa

As Japan’s third lawsuit concerning the separation of religion and state, the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional ruling has once again sparked discussions about the relationship between religious facilities and public institutions in various regions in Japan.

The Asahi Shimbun’s editorial pointed out that there are many forms of relations between the state and religion. Starting from the original intention of “protecting religious freedom”, it is not easy to divide the boundary between the state and religion. Many examples have shown that many religious facilities and activities have been integrated into the local society and become part of people’s daily lives, and the government has also participated in these activities. But this incident made people once again clear the meaning of the separation of church and state, that is, if the value of the majority is imposed on others, it will cause serious misunderstandings.

Among the 15 judges who participated in this judgment, Lin Jingyi is the only one who believes that the Naha City Government is constitutional. He pointed out that the main goal of Jume Chongshenghui was to promote Eastern culture including the Analects, not to spread Confucian beliefs. In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, he warned that if the scope of separation of church and state is too widened, it may have an adverse effect and hinder public support for historical research and cultural activities.

“Tokyo Shimbun” also agreed with Judge Lin Jingyi’s views, and his editorial pointed out that “The Analects” is a work loved by Japanese all the year round. The verdict also did not prove that the Most Holy Temple is expanding religious activities, which obviously expands the scope of the principle of separation of church and state. As far as the public is concerned, this judgment may not be reasonable. However, the unconstitutional verdict will definitely affect the management of Confucian temples in other parts of Japan. If it further causes the gradual shrinkage of cultural activities rooted in Japanese history, it would be very regrettable.

Past scenes of lectures at the Yushima Shrine in Japan. Picture: CFP
However, these warnings did not affect the carnival of right-wingers.

On February 26, Channel Sakura announced the victory in this case in the oil pipeline. Netizens expressed their congratulations in the comment area, saying that “Okinawa does not need a Confucian Temple”, “I hope to spread to the whole country as soon as possible”, and “We are proud of Teruko Kaneshiro’s seven years of hard work.”

Tokunaga Shinichi also shared his joy on Twitter. He wrote confidently: The Confucian Temple is an important symbol of the political and economic connection between Okinawa and China, and this judgment is a heavy blow to them. In the next step, we want to withdraw the Temple of Confucius from Okinawa.