Art9: About the Constitution

mmlung des Ökum. Rates der Kirchen, Pusan 2013
Workshop "Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution"   

Madang Workshop: Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution
November 7, 2013


About the Constitution of Japan

Rev.Fr Paul Kazuyoshi OKURA
Japanese Catholic Council for Justice and Peace

In Japan we have the expressions, "Senchū-ha" and "Sengo-ha." Senchū-ha refers to people who lived their youth during the 2 nd World War, and Sengo-ha are people who were born after the War.

I was born in 1934, so I spent my youth partly during the War and partly after. Japan staged the so-called Manchurian Incident in 1931 and, after this, initiated war against China, as well as the Asia-Pacific War. Until the war ended in 1945, we the people of Japan did not think that these were wars of aggression. We were taught that Japan was a divine nation under the Emperor system and that we would never be defeated, and this is what we believed. I heard the actual voice of the Emperor for the first time on August 15th 1945. I also learned that Japan was not a divine nation, that we invaded nations throughout the Asia-Pacific and killed several tens of millions of people there.

Regretting sincerely these terrible wrongs, the people of Japan promulgated a new Constitution in 1947 and, with it, Article 9, in which we vowed never to do war again, or to arm ourselves for this purpose.

On August 2nd of 1947, when I was in 1st year of junior high school, the ministry of Education issued a textbook titled, "Story of a New Constitution." In this textbook the following words were written about Article 9 of the Constitution and the "Renunciation of War.

“In the new Constitution the Japanese nation decided two things, so we would never again do war. The first was, we shall possess no soldiers, or battleships, or airplanes, or any instruments of war. From now on Japan will have no army, or navy, or air force. This is called renunciation of war. "Renunciation" means to "throwaway." But no one needs to feel helpless. Japan has done the right thing, before otJ:1er nations. Nothing in this world is as strong as the right thing."

Now this Constitution of Japan is facing a great challenge. Today, more than 50 years after the constitution was promulgated, there is a movement, unprecedented in both scale and power, to "reform" the Constitution and especially Article 9. Their aim is to transform Japan into "a country that does war." Toward this end they have embraced the "right of collective defense," dispatched Self Defense Force personnel to foreign lands and exercised military force. In other words they are acting unconstitutionally. Furthermore, our government is tolerating arms exports despite commitment to the "three non-nuclear principles," and promoting the export of nuclear power technology despite failure to end our own nuclear accident. In order to turn our children into soldiers for this "nation that does war," they have also changed the Basic Law of Education. All of this amounts to a fundamental change of course away from what the Constitution sought to realize, a nation that solves international disputes without resort to military power, and walks the path toward a nation that makes the military its priority.

Unless we remember the lessons of the 20th century, which we call" the Century of War," and make this 21st century a century of peace, in which all peoples can live in safety and security, this may well become the century in which humanity is destroyed.

"Article 9 is a treasure of the world." Our hope is that Japan will develop friendly and cooperative relations with the nations of Asia, replace the Japan-US Security Treaty with a peace treaty and demonstrate true autonomy through realistic engagement in the international community. Precisely because we are a nation. with Article 9 in our Constitution, we should be engaging in peaceful diplomacy, as well as economic, cultural, scientific and technological cooperation that demonstrates respect toward other nations. We who are struggling to keep Article 9 alive want to link hands with peace-loving citizens around the world, so that the spirit of Article 9 can shine ever brighter in this turbulent world. If instruments of war can be thrown away all around the world and we can build peace through dialogue and peace diplomacy, we can reach that day which Isaiah prophesied:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)