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Letter to emperor incident sparking huge debate via The Asahi Shimbun

A rookie lawmaker has sparked a fierce debate over the simmering issue of politics and the emperor in Japan.

Independent Upper House member Taro Yamamoto was widely denounced for handing a personal letter to Emperor Akihito at an imperial garden party in Tokyo on Oct. 31.

The letter expressed Yamamoto’s concerns about the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, an action seen by many as breaking a longstanding taboo of including the emperor in a political agenda.

There were immediate calls for Yamamoto’s dismissal as a Diet member.

The chamber’s Committee on Rules and Administration summoned Yamamoto for immediate questioning ahead of deciding whether to impose disciplinary action.

State ministers and Diet members from both the ruling and opposition parties were up in arms, saying his action amounted to “political exploitation of the emperor.”

Yamamoto, a former actor who is well known for his anti-nuclear opinions, said he never had any intention of exploiting the emperor.

“I just wanted to convey my thoughts,” he said.

[...]

A different official of the agency said: “The Constitution says that the emperor does not have powers related to government. To the emperor, he (Yamamoto) tried to make a direct appeal about the current situation regarding the nuclear accident. It is an apparent political exploitation (of the emperor).”

The Imperial Household Agency itself is not squeaky clean in this regard, either.

After all, it gave approval for the emperor or other members of the imperial family to take part in the ceremony for the “Restoration of Sovereignty Day” in April and the IOC general assembly in September based on requests from the government.

With regard to Princess Hisako’s participation in the IOC general assembly, the agency’s Grand Steward Noriyuki Kazaoka said, “It was a tough decision.”

After receiving the letter from Yamamoto, the emperor handed it to the Grand Chamberlain, Yutaka Kawashima. The agency has refused to comment on what became of the letter.

Some 2,000 people are invited to each imperial garden party. The guest list includes lawmakers and those who have made contributions in various fields.

For the latest party, 107 Lower House members and 52 Upper House members were invited. The selection of members was left to the secretariats of each chamber.

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