By Linda Sieg
TOKYO, June 15 (Reuters) A Japanese lobby group which backs traditional values, seeks to rewrite the U.S-drafted constitution and wants schools to teach patriotism is winning growing support for its agenda from both ruling and opposition party politicians.
Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference) is also keen for the prime minister to visit a shrine for war dead on the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War Two -- an emotive date in Asia -- and preserve an ancient tradition of males-only imperial succession.
''We are dedicated to our conservative cause. We are monarchists. We are for revising the constitution. We are for the glory of the nation,'' commentator Hideaki Kase, a member of the group told Reuters in an interview.
''We represent Japan's 'red' prefectures,'' added Kase, comparing supporters of Nippon Kaigi -- founded almost a decade ago -- to the conservative voters who helped to elect U.S. President George W. Bush.
Central to Nippon Kaigi's platform is a desire to restore values such as group harmony, or ''wa'', and devotion to the public good -- a moral code they say was eroded when U.S. Occupation authorities gave pride of place to individualism in an effort to root out militarism after Japan's 1945 defeat.
A lack of such values, supporters argue, fosters violent juvenile crime, classroom chaos and corporate scandals.
''Of course, it is important to respect autonomy, but people do not live on their own,'' Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker Hakubun Shimomura, told Reuters in an interview.
''We need to rear children who have a spirit of contributing to society,'' added Shimomura, secretary-general of a 246-member group of MPs with close ties to Nippon Kaigi.
''We want to preserve Japan's national character. I don't think that is 'nationalism','' he said.
LOYAL FOLLOWERS Nippon Kaigi has long urged Japanese prime ministers to visit the Yasukuni shrine, where World War Two leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honoured along with fallen soldiers, on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan's 1945 defeat.
Japan's ties with China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Tokyo's military aggression run deep, have chilled since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi began annual visits to Yasukuni in 2001, though he has avoided the emotive Aug. 15 date.
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