国民栄誉賞受賞者のほとんどがスポーツ選手と芸能人

[From June Issue 2013]

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On May 5, Prime Minister ABE Shinzou presented the People’s Honor Award to baseball superstars NAGASHIMA Shigeo and MATSUI Hideki. This award is designed to honor individuals who are widely respected by citizens, and have made an outstanding contribution to society by lifting the spirits of the general public. This honorable award was established in 1977 and is presented by the prime minister.

The first recipient of this award was OH Sadaharu; just like this time, he is a professional baseball player. The award was founded when he set a world homerun record, and the then prime minister, FUKUDA Takeo, honored his achievement by presenting him with the award. Up to now 22 people and a team have received the award. This February former sumo grand champion TAIHO, who had the highest number of sumo tournament winnings, received the award. Most recipients are selected from the worlds of sports and entertainment.

The award tends to be given to athletes who have achieved outstanding results; for instance, marathon runner TAKAHASHI Naoko. At the Sydney Olympics she historically became the first Japanese woman to win a gold medal in track-and-field events. The team representing Japan (Nadeshiko Japan) who won the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011, also won the award for the same reason.

The award is also given to those who are recognized for their lifetime contribution to their particular field, especially in the entertainment field. Therefore, 12 people received the award posthumously. Taiho, who excelled in his sport before the award was founded, was honored after he had passed away. As a result, demands, that the award should be given during a person’s lifetime, have increased.

Nagashima was a heavy hitter who played alongside Oh, the first recipient of the award, and, with his overwhelming popularity, contributed greatly to the development of baseball. After performing exceptionally well in Japan, Matsui played for the Yankees in the major league (USA) and was selected as the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in the 2009 World Series. As Nagashima had not had a chance to receive the award, when Matsui retired this year, both Nagashima and Matsui received the award together taking into account their relationship as student and teacher.

Prime Minister’s Influence is Reflected in the Selection of Recipients

People have been critical of the fact that since there are no standard rules, the prime minister’s own tastes are reflected in the selection of recipients and that he is able to use the award to increase his own popularity with the public. For instance, it’s been pointed out that, TANI Ryoko is well qualified to receive the award for her achievements in women’s judo. She has won two gold, two silver and one bronze medals at five Olympics.

People have also highlighted the following personalities: KITAJIMA Kousuke, who won four gold medals in swimming; NOMO Hideo who with his excellent performance, paved the way for Japanese players to enter major league baseball in the USA; HARIMOTO Isao who holds the record for the most number of hits in Japanese baseball; and KITANO Takeshi who is a TV personality and film director.

Some have refused to receive the award. Though composer KOSEKI Yuji was nominated for the award after his death, his family refused to receive the award. FUKUMOTO Yutaka who set a world record for the highest number of bases stolen in baseball, turned it down, saying, “If I receive such an award. I would not be able to take a piss standing up.” Ichiro, who currently plays for the Yankees has declined twice, saying, “I am still active and developing as a player.”

[2013年6月号掲載記事]

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5月5日に、安倍晋三総理は野球界のスーパースターであった長嶋茂雄と松井秀喜に国民栄誉賞を贈りました。この賞は、「広く国民に敬愛され、社会に明るい希望を与えることに顕著な業績があった方に対して、その栄誉を讃えることを目的とする」としています。この名誉ある賞は1977年に創設された、総理大臣より表彰されます。

最初に受賞したのは王貞治、今回と同じくプロ野球選手です。賞はホームラン世界記録を達成したときに創設され、業績を称え当時の福田赳夫総理が表彰しました。これまで22人と1団体に贈られました。今年の2月には相撲の元横綱大鵬が受賞しました。最多優勝回数の記録を持っています。受賞者のほとんどがスポーツ及び芸能界から選ばれています。

賞は素晴らしい記録を残したスポーツ選手に贈られる傾向があります。たとえば、マラソン走者の高橋尚子。シドニーオリンピックの陸上競技で金メダルを獲得した、史上初めての日本人女子となりました。2011年FIFAサッカー女子ワールドカップ(W杯)ドイツ大会で優勝した日本代表チーム(なでしこジャパン)も同様の理由で受賞しました。

賞は、それぞれの分野、特に芸能の分野で長年の功績が認められた人にも贈られます。受賞者12人が亡くなった後に受賞しています。賞が創設される前に活躍した大鵬も死後に受賞しました。そのため、賞は生前に授与すべきだとの声が高まっていました。

長嶋は第1号受賞者の王と同時代に活躍した強打者で、その圧倒的な人気で野球の発展に大きな功績を残しました。松井は日本ですばらしい結果を残した後、大リーグ(アメリカ)のヤンキースで活躍し、2009年のワールドシリーズではMVPに選ばれました。長嶋は授与する機会がなかったため、今年松井が引退したのに伴い、師弟関係にある長嶋と松井が同時に受賞することになりました。

総理大臣の意向が反映される受賞者

賞に対しての基準が特にないために、時の総理大臣の好みが反映されたり、人気取りに利用されているとの批判もあります。たとえば、女子柔道の谷亮子も受賞する資格は十分あるとの声もあります。谷は5つのオリンピックで金2つ、銀2つ、銅1つのメダルを獲得しました。

国民の間では次の人たちの名前もあがっています。水泳で4つの金メダルを取った北島康介。日本人選手に大リーグへの道を開き、活躍した野茂秀雄。日本野球で最多安打記録をもつ張本勲、タレントで映画監督の北野武などです。

国民栄誉賞を辞退した人もいます。作曲家の古関裕而は亡くなった後に受賞が決まりましたが、親族が辞退しました。野球で盗塁世界記録をつくった福本豊は、「そんなんもろたら立ちションもでけへんようになる」と断りました。現在、ヤンキースで活躍中のイチローは、「まだ現役で発展途上の選手なので」と2度の授与の申し出を辞退しました。

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