Education: Tanaka v. the Teachers

Japan's superb postwar school system has given the nation an enviable literacy rate of 99%, but its children are ignorant in other areas that are considered important by many conservative Japanese. Many of the children, for example, do not know the national anthem. The reason is simple: the powerful Japanese teachers' union (Nikkyoso)—whose 600,000 members include 70% of Japan's elementary and high school teachers—thinks that the anthem smacks of emperor worship and pre-World War II militarism. Thus it is rarely played in schools.

That fact has long incensed the right wing of Premier Kakuei Tanaka's conservative Liberal Democratic Party. Tanaka is faced...