The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas


November 24, 2005

The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas
The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas

The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas

By Yoshikazu SAKAMOTO

The Abandoned People and the Right of Individual Self-Determination

The phrase ‘sixty years of the post-war’ is often used to mean ‘60 years since the end of the war’ or ‘these past sixty years’. However, the term ‘post-war’ itself is premised on a ‘pre-war’ and a ‘wartime’. In other words, prior to the sixty years of post-war, there is the disjuncture between ‘post-war’, on the one hand, and ‘pre-war’ and ‘wartime’ on the other. For me, it is this experience of disjuncture that is the starting point of ‘post-war’.

Understandings of this disjuncture are etched into the diverse biographies of each individual. Although all these understandings cannot be lumped together and conceptualised in any simplistic way, they contain one important difference: the difference between the generation that lived through the war who more or less consciously viewed the war from some sort of social science perspective, on the one hand, and the generation that was not baptised into social science, on the other. The former were people who, for example, understood the perspective of Marxism or liberalism.

There are more than a few among this generation prior to mine who were capable of looking at the ‘Emperor’ from an intellectual, if not critical, viewpoint. For the later generation, myself included, however, the emperor was an object of worship as the living god. At least it was self-evident that the emperor should be an object of worship. I was not a ‘militarist youth’ and had some personal doubts about belief in the emperor; but I believed that I should believe in the emperor. And I believed that there was something in ‘Japanese tradition’ worth defending to the death.

There is a considerable gap between these two generations or, more accurately, these two mindsets. And letters such as those contained in Kike wadatsumi no koe (Listen to the Voices From the Sea: Writings of the Fallen Japanese Students) overflow with the agony of soul within a person ripped apart by these two mindsets. In this regard, people like me who did not see things through the lens of social science were probably in a position to die less painfully thanks to intellectual euthanasia.

As part of that generation, the break caused by the end of the war made me acutely aware of two things. The first was the experience of the abandonment of people. In the autumn of 1945 I was to reach the age of conscription, readying myself for the imminent decisive battle for the homeland. I resolved to blow myself up in front of the enemy’s tanks and die an honourable death. I had convinced myself that this was the only meaningful action left for me to take.

However, with the end of the war, I came to realize that, in fact, to die in this way would have been nothing but a meaningless sacrifice. Then, after the end of the war, there was a time when the state did not provide even the minimum rations needed to sustain the starving masses, and I myself had to cultivate a vacant plot and somehow eke out an existence as an incompetent farmer.

Thus, the state that had pressed the war abandoned the people in the ‘postwar’ just as it had in ‘wartime’. I had believed, or believed that I believed, that my raison d’être was to go to the front in order to ‘protect the country’ and ‘protect the family’. But with the state’s betrayal and collapse, I fell into a state of aimlessness that at the time was described as ‘kyodatsu’ [exhaustion and despair] . At the time, I still did not know in detail but had begun to suspect that what the Imperial Headquarters had called the ‘honourable death to the last man’ in the islands of the Pacific, including Okinawa, must have been the massive abandonment of the soldiers and people on those islands. I also saw the countless ‘abandoned’ people who had been burned out of their homes in the air raids.

Out of this was born in me a bone searing distrust for state authority and the ruling class that deceived the people through the manipulation of false myths.

Another conclusion that I drew from my experience of those days was that it was not for the state but for the individual to decide how an individual should live and die, which was intrinsically a matter of individual self-determination. In the second half of 1945, radio programmes and newspapers began disclosing official lies about the ‘truth’ of the war, which further strengthened my conviction about the people’s right of self-determination. My rejection of the state authority that had sacrificed the people was close to hatred.

This was my ‘postwar starting point’. At the time this experience was shared by many people who had sustained injuries beyond description and far deeper than mine. My experience is not worthy of particular mention. But I want to recount it again for the following reason.

The new Constitution was proclaimed barely one year after the end of the war. This lent language in the form of legal norms to my raw experience that was the point of departure of my life in the postwar era. That is, the denial of the state’s wartime abandonment of its people came to be articulated as ‘pacifism’; and the people’s right of individual self-determination as ‘democracy’.

This was indeed an impressive conceptualization; but for me the Constitution was not the starting point of the postwar. On the contrary, the terms of the Constitution confirmed and reinforced my postwar starting point. Of course, as a set of rules by which the people could make state power accountable, the Constitution was of paramount importance. Yet, for me, the ‘start of the postwar’ not only preceded the Constitution in time, but it was also more fundamental as a philosophy and as an existential experience that breathed life into the Constitution.

Therefore, I have hardly ever used the phrase ‘defend the constitution’. Rather, unlike the ‘pacifism’ that emerged in the West, which was characterized by the intense conflict with the dominant social and political system, Japan’s constitutional protection movement is problematic in its tendency to depend on the Constitution which professes to represent the principles embodied in the dominant system. [1]

On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the postwar, I would like to make the following observations from the critical perspective anchored in my experience outlined above.

The Double Standard and the Problem of Thought Avoidance

In the early postwar period up to 1947, Occupation policy, the Constitution and the postwar foundational experiences coincided. For those who had been abandoned and discriminated against, especially workers, peasants and women, defeat and occupation meant liberation.

However, from 1948, the intensifying Cold War spread to Japan and the phrase ‘make Japan a bulwark against Communism’ began to be used publicly by the Occupation authorities. Instead of democratisation and demilitarisation, anti-Communism and economic reconstruction came to be emphasized. Occupation policy began to take a ‘reverse course’, of which the extension was the formation of the US-Japan security system. Thus intense conflict emerged between Occupation policy, on the one hand, and the Constitution and the postwar starting point, on the other. This conflict surfaced around the issue of the peace treaty in the early 1950s.

Broad opposition to the ‘reverse course’ and the US-Japan security system arose in the form of a movement insisting upon peace and neutrality in opposition to rearmament and US military bases. A spontaneous movement arose aimed at building, through its autonomous struggle from below, a peace-oriented democracy rooted in Japanese soil, by resisting the demilitarisation and democratisation that America had initiated as the ‘Occupation demilitarisation and democratisation’. The convoluted process by which American ideology in the early Occupation period was indigenised through resistance to later American policy in practice was an extremely important factor in the consolidation of Japan’s postwar reform.

The movement against the 1960 Security Treaty was a combination of the opposition to the US-Japan military alliance and the protest, grounded in the deep sense of crisis, against the anti-democratic stance taken by the Kishi Nobusuke administration. This was a period when the process whereby pacifism and democracy were mutually reinforced and took root in Japan reached a peak.

From the 1960s to the ‘70s and into the ‘80s, roughly speaking, while East-West peaceful co-existence was somehow strengthened internationally, Japan experienced a high-rate of economic growth domestically. While tensions eased with détente, political tensions that had polarised conservatives and progressives also eased at home as economic life improved.

There were two strands of experience underlying these developments. The first was the initial postwar existential experience. This was the root of postwar pacifism. But the number of people with this experience gradually declined, or memory of it weakened, and inevitably they began to carry decreasing weight. As a result, even though ‘defence of the constitution’ slowed the drift towards constitutional revision, it gradually became harder to sustain.

Moreover, this pacifism was aimed at rebuilding and developing Japan by non-military means; but ‘non-military development’ was in fact equated with economic development. Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru was the first of many to speak of ‘putting public welfare before military affairs’. But the insistence on ‘prioritising public welfare’ was for all practical purposes merged into ‘prioritising economic growth’. In this sense, precisely because it reinforced the ideology of economic growth which provided a rationale for becoming an economic big power, pacifism tended to lose its effectiveness as a source of viable policy alternative. In this respect, too, it became difficult for it to function as anything other than a passive brake.

On the other hand, the postwar generation, having no direct knowledge of the catastrophic disjuncture of the immediate postwar, went through the unprecedented experience of high-speed growth. Since high economic growth was the uninterrupted process in which people felt that life was continuously getting better over time, this generation was alien to the idea that ‘at some point in time a collapse or rupture in history was possible’. The awareness of the unanticipated breakdown of history was prone to diminish. Thus, they tended to be content with the maintenance of the existing system that guaranteed individuals’ private interests. In a similar vein, a state of affairs emerged in which, ‘constitutional protection’ amounted to nothing more than passive non-support for constitutional revision.

This sort of ‘passive brake’ and ‘passive non-support’ for substantive revision of the Constitution continued in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the severe tension between Article 9 of the Constitution and reality slackened. This situation eventually gave way to support for so-called ‘constitutional revision through interpretation’. Within this, there emerged a double standard regarding Article 9 and, in a large part of the population, what can be described as ‘a suspension of thought’ to avoid having carefully to scrutinise this double standard.

First, Article 9 of the Constitution was originally intended to mean ‘non armament’; but before long an attitude supportive of ‘both the Constitution and the Self-Defence Forces’ became widespread.

In an opinion poll conducted by the Asahi newspaper three months after the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, 54% of respondents endorsed the ‘creation of an army’ and 28% opposed. It is likely that this result related to the shock of the Korean War; but regardless, it is far removed from the principles of Article 9.

An Asahi opinion poll conducted immediately following the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in September 1951 found that 71% of respondents favoured the formation of an army. At the time, the view that ‘when Japan becomes independent it will be only proper for it to possess an army’ was circulating, which probably explains this result.

However, when the Hatoyama Ichiro Cabinet was formed in 1955 and set forth its platform for ‘constitutional revision’ and ‘independent Constitution-making’, the proportion of ‘opposed’ began to increase. An Asahi opinion poll showed 42% of respondents ‘opposed to the revision of Article 9’ and 37% ‘in favour’ – suggesting an increase in the number of people who perceived ‘the emergence of an administration that had a serious intention to change the Constitution’. Thereafter, as high growth accelerated, respondents to an Asahi opinion poll held under the Ikeda Hayato Cabinet in August 1962 ‘opposed to constitutional revision to permit an army’ constituted 61%, compared to 26% ‘in favour’. In other words, ‘constitutional protection’ regained a majority.

What is of concern is the trend after this. Sato Eisaku formed a cabinet in autumn ’64, and an Asahi poll at the end of ’68 showed 64% of people opposed to constitutional revision and 19% in favour. However, at the same time, 64% of the respondents thought that ‘military force was necessary’. Moreover, 19% indicated that ‘the Self-Defence Forces should be strengthened’, 55% that the ‘present force level is acceptable’, representing a total of 74%. Up to 40% of respondents thought that ‘the Self-Defence Forces are not unconstitutional’ and only 17% thought they were ‘unconstitutional’. In other words, the idea that the Constitution and the Self-Defence Forces were compatible began to be widely accepted, and continued to gain support steadily thereafter.

When debate over Article 9 of the Constitution emerged, the cardinal point of contention was ‘whether or not the Self-Defence Forces were unconstitutional’, and most of the constitutional lawyers including academics stressed that the Self-Defence Forces were unconstitutional. Today, however, there are no longer many professionals for whom the constitutionality of the Self-Defence Forces constitutes the primary focus of their opposition to constitutional revision. This is probably a reflection of the above-mentioned changes in public opinion. In addition, the focus of recent argument for ‘upholding the Constitution’ is no longer opposition to the Self-Defence Forces; it has shifted to opposition to Japan becoming a ‘country that can wage war’.

Moreover, it is sometimes asserted that ‘Article 9 of the Constitution is something that Japan can be proud of and that the rest of the world should emulate’. However, not a few foreigners respond to this by raising questions about the relationship between Article 9 and Japan’s military expenditure which is the fourth largest in the world after the US, Britain and France. They question the persuasive power of this assertion in defence of Article 9 in the absence of large-scale reduction of Japan’s armament. The people of Japan must come up with a clear and credible answer to this question.

Second, a similar problem pertains to the relationship between Article 9 and the Security Treaty. In 1959, the Tokyo District Court’s ‘Date Judgement’ declared that the stationing in Japan of American troops in accordance with the Security Treaty was unconstitutional in the light of Article 9. Then, in January 1960, the ‘year of Ampo, the US-Japan SecurityTreaty, the greatest response to the question ‘which is the best way to maintain Japan’s security’ was ‘for Japan to be a neutral country’ (35%). The second highest was ‘to depend upon the UN’ (24%), a combined figure of 59%. ‘To depend upon America’ amounted to a mere 14% of responses.

However as the era of high growth continued, this pattern changed. In June 1970, when the extension of the Security Treaty was being debated, 37% of people surveyed responded to the question of extending the Treaty that ‘Japan benefits from the Security Treaty’, while 14% responded that it ‘does not’. In the same Asahi poll, 55% of people were ‘opposed to revision of the Constitution’ and 27% in favour, a likely reflection of the supportive climate towards ‘the Security Treaty and the Constitution’.

Third, the abolition of nuclear weapons was an extremely important task for postwar Japan. In particular, ‘anti-nuclear’ public opinion drew strong support from the poignant appeals of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors. Reflecting this, the government did advocate the ‘abolition of nuclear weapons’ at the UN, invoking Japan’s status as ‘the only country on which atomic bombs have been used’. Yet, Japan also accepted the ‘nuclear umbrella’ of the United States. This was best exemplified by Prime Minister Sato Eisaku, who publicly declared in the Diet that his government would preserve ‘the three non-nuclear principles’, and was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But his statement in the Diet was followed by the remark that ‘we will preserve the three non-nuclear principles but rely on the power of America’s nuclear deterrent’.

In 1975, those of the opinion that ‘the nuclear umbrella is necessary’ gradually increased to close to 30%, and in 1985, to 34%. Opposition to ‘nuclear carrying-in’ in the form of the entry into Japanese ports of American nuclear-powered carriers and submarines continued; but as a result of the US-Soviet détente, questions about ‘the nuclear umbrella’ gradually fell away even from the media.

When India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in ‘98, Japan expressed its opposition by imposing economic sanctions. In response India countered ‘Is Japan not under America’s nuclear umbrella?’ and argued that, as India had no such umbrella protection, it had the right to possess its own nuclear arms. The Japanese government opposes ‘nuclear proliferation’ but it has no effective counter argument to India when it comes to the nuclear umbrella, and public opinion has not been articulate in this respect.

Fourth, since the time of the Peace Treaty, and again following the 1960 Security Treaty, opposition to military bases has gained strength. However, although opposition to military bases on the mainland undoubtedly had some results, the concentration of bases on Okinawa came to be tacitly accepted. Underlying this double standard is the ongoing discriminatory mentality that treats Okinawa as ‘abandoned people’, just as Okinawa was sacrificed during the Pacific war.

If people who ‘defend the constitution’ seek to take steps toward the removal of the US bases and nuclear umbrella, they should grapple more seriously with a concrete alternative to the government policy that persistently constructs an imaginary enemy country in East Asia, and should aim to reduce tensions and armaments in the region, with the view to building an East Asian ‘security community’. Preservation of the Constitution is of course important, but ‘defence of the constitution’ alone is not enough.

Fifth, ‘UN-centrism’, along with co-operation with America and friendship with Asia, has been presented as one of the three official pillars of Japan’s postwar foreign policy. But what is Japan’s real stance towards the UN?

Immediately before the Gulf War, in 1991, the PKO (UN Peace Keeping Operations) Bill was put before the Diet. In the end, while its status remained controversial, a contingent of the Self-Defence Forces was sent to Cambodia on PKO. At the time, 141 Socialist Party members of the House of Representatives announced their intention to resign if the Bill passed. However, although the Self-Defence Forces participated in PKO, they stayed on as Diet members. In other words, Self-Defence Force’ participation in PKO somehow became compatible with Article 9.

Later, it became unmistakably apparent that Japan’s ‘international contribution’ is not so much co-operation with the UN as with the U.S., and it is well-known that Japan was quick to support America’s Iraq War, which did not have Security Council approval. In contrast, even without Article 9, France and Germany rejected co-operation in the Iraq War. Recently Japan has been busy gathering support for its bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council, but I suspect that rather than ‘UN-centrism’ this is a reflection of Japan’s aspirations to acquire the status of a great power.

‘From the Constitution’ or ‘From the Start of the Postwar’?

Thus, Japanese pacifism based on the Constitution contains a double standard, and the actual state of the Constitution is one of thought suspension by which this contradiction, far from being squarely faced, is left ambiguous. This must be clearly acknowledged.

This double standard reflects more than the manifest conflict between the conservative administration and the socialist opposition parties or the ‘constitutional protection’ movement. Rather the double standards of ‘Constitution and Self-Defence Forces’, ‘Constitution and the US-Japan Security Treaty’, and ‘anti-nuclearism and nuclear umbrella’ have permeated the consciousness of much of the population. It is not correct to call this a gap between professed intention and real intention. There are more than a few people for whom both standards represent real intention. That is why this is such a profound dilemma, and explains the tendency to avoid thinking about it. At the same time, it should also be noted that precisely because it is not mere professed intention but real intention that pacifism continues to have considerable internalized potential up to the present.

The problem is therefore not the Constitution per se. It is not unusual that there be a gap between the prescribed standard and reality. Faced with the reality that the Constitution has been affected by the double standard, the most important problem concerns the fact that the call to ‘defend the constitution’ has often been made without any positive, concrete program on how to change the current situation in order to overcome this double standard and to fill the gap. For example, regarding Japan’s security, if both the Self-Defence Forces and the US-Japan Security Treaty are un-constitutional and impermissible, there must be clear and careful consideration of alternative options. To leave the problem unresolved by avoiding thinking about it in effect results in acceptance of the double standard by which the Self-Defence Forces and the US-Japan Security Treaty exist in tandem.

My feeling that the way supporters of ‘constitutional protection’ assert ‘unarmed neutrality’ is a touch dangerous inspired me to write an essay the year before the 1960 revision of the Security Treaty. [2] I suggested that the Self-defence Forces be placed under the UN command and be transformed into a UN police force stationed in Japan; if need be, a section of it could be authorised to participate in UN peace-keeping operatons. A further proposal was made in 1982. [3] It outlined a ‘three-layered defense’ plan whereby the Self-Defence Forces would be reorganised into a coastal and air territorial defence force for armed operations solely within Japanese territorial water and air space. Its functions would be limited to providing a barrier against attack. In addition, a UN standby force would be constituted through voluntary enlistment of individuals and participation in UN peace-keeping operations. Further, programs for civilian non-violent resistance would be prepared.

In principle I recognise the right of self-defence. The right of self-defence is a corollary to the right of self-determination . The right to decide one’s way of life and death naturally includes the right to resist in the event of unlawful aggression. This is a ‘natural right ’ that takes precedence over the Constitution or any positive law. What I have suggested above is an attempt to institutionalize the combination of the three levels of citizens’ right of self-defence. I am not saying that this is the best option. What I would like to stress concerns the fact that there has been too little of this debate. [4]

What seem to be more important than the appropriateness of various concrete suggestions for alternative security systems are the three principles underlying my argument. First, if one defends one’s own right of self-determination and self-defence, one should not infringe upon the rights of self-determination and self-defence of others; in other words, not posing a threat to other countries, not being aggressive or offensive in any sense whatsoever, and not triggering an arms race. It must be noted in this context that nuclear weapons are inherently aggressive in that they are never intended to be used within one’s own country but only against ‘enemy ’ countries; and missile defences which will ultimately aim for the earliest possible assured destruction of enemy missiles will have the same capability as a missile offence targeted to an enemy military base.

Second, such a defence system should contribute, not to single state-oriented defense, but to building peaceful world order through the promotion of arms control and disarmament . That is why I have said for some time that Japan should co-operate and participate in UN peace-keeping operations.

Third, defence organisations should never take action or adopt strategies that produce ‘abandoned people ’ and accordingly they should, as a matter of principle, abolish ground combat units premised on turning Japanese soil into a battlefield. (In this context, there is a serious problem in the ‘National Protection Law (2004)’ that ignores the danger of the abandonment of non-combatants.)

Having advocated ‘constitutional protection’ and ‘unarmed neutrality’ without probing this sort of defence scheme and its principles, the Socialist Party Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi, after forming his Cabinet in ’94, abruptly switched to supporting the Self-Defence Forces and the US-Japan Security Treaty. It was no accident that the rationale behind this change remained unclear to the end. Put another way, this showed the importance of envisioning an alternative policy to overcome the double standard.

In contrast, the incumbent conservative forces, in a final recognition of the double standard, calls for constitutional revision in the form of a return to ‘a normal state’. As stated previously, my scheme does not necessitate ‘constitutional revision’; but setting this aside, there is probably a limit to the power of resistance to this sort of ‘constitutional revision’ trend that can be expected from the status quo-oriented ‘constitutional protection’ movements, which have thus far tended to fail to squarely confront the problem of double standard.

Without articulating a solution to this double standard, there will be no effective counter to LDP moves intended to inculcate the revisionist mood among the media and the public. This is why I think that the ‘starting point of the postwar’ should be alive now more than ever. The starting point requires setting forth of a practical program to change step by step the system of politics, economy, society and education so as to eradicate the abandonment of people who have been discriminated against and marginalized, with the view to maximizing the individual self-determination of the people. What we now must change first is not the Constitution but contemporary realities. In this sense, my position is, if anything, ‘activate the Constitution’.

For me, the starting point of the postwar is not what took place 60 years ago; it is the act of questioning thoroughly the ways of the Japanese state and deciding for oneself an alternative direction to take for the future. It is the ever present point of departure, including that of our times.

As stated at the outset, for me, the Constitution is not the starting point. Our present task is not to defend the Constitution on the basis of its own provisions, but to interpret the postwar history of the Constitution and envisage the future from a starting point that precedes the Constitution, and breathes life into it in terms of the people’s experience and thought.

Insensitivity Towards Asia’s Democratisation

These problems are not only important to us Japanese, they also relate to Japan’s response to international voices.

One of these is the distrust and protest of Asian peoples towards Japan’s ‘regression to state nationalism and its attempt to become ‘a normal country’. Their misgiving is expressed in the questions: ‘What does Japan think about its war responsibility?’ and ‘How does it understand history?’

At the start of the postwar, I felt strongly that the responsibility of the Japanese leadership, which caused the war and sacrificed millions of abandoned people, should be rigorously pursued. But I thought of this ‘responsibility’ as responsibility only towards the Japanese people, including myself.

Accusations of responsibility towards people other than the Japanese did not come from the Japanese, but from the Tokyo International Military Tribunal. After the conclusion of the Peace Treaty, Japan did pay reparations to Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. However, these reparations were principally reparations to states, and in fact served to support the oligarchic or dictatorial rule that existed at the time. While called ‘reparations’, Japan used it to secure its market in Southeast Asia. In the case of South Korea in 1965, Japan paid five hundred million dollars in grants, loans in the form of ‘economic cooperation’ with the military regime of Park Chunghee .

As a result of the end of the Cold War and the concomitant progress of democratisation in various Asian countries, the problem of how to deal with responsibility towards those Asian people who had been ignored and abandoned by Japan came to be taken up by the very victims of Japanese militarist brutalities who had been silenced under these dictatorial regimes. This is the problem of compensation for,among others, the ‘comfort women’ and the victims of forced labour.

In response, Japan’s conservative administration and a considerable section of the media did not always offer sensitive responses to the voices of Asia’s abandoned people. Why was Japan so insensitive? For example, even when the women who had been forced to become ‘comfort women’ continued weekly demonstrations over several years in Korea and brought court cases in Japan, not many people shared their suffering.

Does a culture exist in Japan that recognizes universal norms, rules, or laws beyond the state by which individual human conscience is bound? The idea of universal norm akin to natural law in the West is barely apparent in Japanese tradition. At the core of Japanese people’s traditional political ethos was loyalty to the emperor, the lord and the head of the family. That is perhaps why there is no culture beyond that of the state to support a sense of responsibility towards individuals and others whom the Japanese state had turned into ‘abandoned people’. Without going into a comparison with postwar Germany, we must admit that this is our problem as human beings.

A further problem is the extreme insensitivity on the Japanese side to the fact that Asian people’s renewed emphasis on Japan’s historical responsibility has been arisen in connection with Asia’s democratisation. Especially in the case of South Korea, the gap between those people who were the activists in the democratisation movement and then came to power, on the one hand, and the Japanese conservative government, on the other, is hard to bridge when it comes to the issue of historical responsibility.

In Japan, there are people who regard this as the fault of Korean nationalism and ‘anti-Japanese education’. In my opinion, however, this interpretation is incorrect. As part of its efforts to further democratisation, the current South Korean government is attempting to cleanse its own national history. It is closely examining ‘pro-Japanese unpatriotic conduct’, but it is also scrutinizing the actions of its own autocratic administration and military regime. Criticism of Japan has emerged as one part of the self-investigation of the wrongdoings and mistakes committed by Koreans including the ‘pro-Japanese collaborators’. Because postwar Japan has not engaged in self-examination of its war responsibility, it does not understand the meaning of South Korea’s behaviour. Thus, the Japanese tend to turn the issue into ‘nationalism’, ‘anti-Japaneseness’ and ‘Takeshima’ (Tokdo), with little empathy towards South Korea’s independent, even agonizing, efforts to democratise.

Moreover, although some aspects of the anti-Japanese demonstrations that occurred in China in the spring of 2005 remain unclear, basically these were not demonstrations orchestrated by the government. It was probably the first time since the formation of the PRC in 1949 that spontaneous demonstrations, not mobilized by the government, occurred in various regions on such a wide scale.

As a sign of China’s future democratisation these demonstrations were extremely significant. No doubt, there was some violence which was regrettable; but when Japan protested that ‘responsibility must be taken for the violence of the anti-Japanese demonstrations’, the Chinese government, in turn, suppressed the demonstrations as a whole. Japanese companies were thus able to continue their business as usual. In other words, the Japanese became the beneficiaries of the Chinese government’s suppression of the demonstrations. At the time of the ‘89 Tiananmen Incident, many Japanese expressed outrage at the ‘injustice of the suppression of student demonstration’. Now they say ‘suppress the demonstrations!’ When ‘liberal democrats’ critical of China’s one-party rule system is confronted with the ‘anti-Japanese’ aspect of the democratisation process, they stand on the side of nipping the bud of democratisation.

Here is a problem of how seriously we take the issue of the democratisation of Asia – an issue which is closely connected to how seriously we reflect on the task of Japan’s own continued democratisation.

In other words, there is a growing tendency to forget and to neglect Japan’s historical responsibility for its invasion and colonial rule of Asia, which turned the Asian victims into abandoned people, who were deprived of the right of self-determination. Is this not a manifestation of postwar Japan’s own lack of self-scrutiny and the shallowness of its democratisation?


The American Occupation authorities drafted Japan’s Constitution, and built a system designed to reflect the will of the Japanese people. However, America today ignores the UN Charter and, through its unilateralist policy, goes against the institutionalisation of multilateralist world order. In other words, it is turning its back on the creation of institutions that create consensus based upon the spontaneous exercise of the right of self-determination of the people of the world. In this regard, we are under what may be called ‘America’s world occupation’ far beyond the scale of the ‘American Occupation of Japan’, and our task in the 21st century is to struggle for democratization on a global scale in order to fulfill the right of self-determination of the people, particularly the abandoned people, in any society of the world.

This is not an easy task. But it is exactly the ‘starting point of the postwar’ which is still very much alive today.


[1] I have outlined this misgiving in ‘The psychology and theory of the peace movement’, Sekai (August 1962), included in Sakamoto Yoshikazu Senshu, vol. 3.

[2] ‘Churitsu Nihon no boei koso’ (Ideas For Defending a Neutral Japan), Sekai (August 1959); Sakamoto Yoshikazu Senshu, vol. 3.

[3] ‘Nihon no gunjika ni kawaru mono’ (An Alternative to the Militarization of Japan). See my 1982 Gunshuku no seijigaku (The Politics of Disarmament, Iwanami shinsho, Sakamoto Yoshikazu Senshu, vol. 4).

[4] A rare exception is Koseki Shoichi et al.’s recent ‘Kenpo 9 jo iji no moto de, ikanaru anzen hosho ga kano ka’ (What sort of national security system is possible under Article 9 of the Constitution?), Sekai (June 2005).

Yoshikazu SAKAMOTO (b. 1927) is professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, specialising in international politics and peace research. His writings have recently been published in a six-volume collection by Iwanami Shoten. This article was contributed to a symposium on the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of Sekai and published in the September 2005 issue of Sekai . It is published in slightly abbreviated form by Japan Focus.

Translated for Japan Focus by Vanessa B Ward, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Vanessa Ward recently completed a doctoral dissertation on “Intellectuals and Publishing: Communicating Ideas in Post-war Japan”) at the Australian National University. Posted at Japan Focus, November 10, 2005.

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