Sing up or face the music

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
When was the last time you had your end-of-term musical judged by government spies? It sounds implausible, but it's not far removed from the situation in Japan, where thousands of teachers are having their singing prowess assessed by state spooks.

Not only has Shinzo Abe, the right-wing Prime Minister, made it an offence not to stand and sing the national anthem in class on ceremonial occasions, he has dispatched inspectors to check schools are performing to the required standard.

Armed with tape recorders, representatives of the Wakayama government have vetted 400 schools in the Tokyo area and so far judged the majority to be "poor".

Failing to stand for the national anthem could see teachers dragged off to court and lose their jobs.

Mr Abe, who took office in September, is not known for touchy-feely liberalism. In a best-seller published last year, he caused a stir by denying Japanese war criminals were guilty under domestic law, concluding history would judge.

Teachers are getting their revenge by altering the words of the national anthem ("May the Emperor's reign continue for a thousand, nay 8,000 generations") to a cod-English parody sneering at Japanese wartime aggression.

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