JIN-393 -- Septuagenarians for Constitutional Revision

The J@pan Inc. Newsletter

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
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Issue No. 393
Friday November 17, 2006 TOKYO

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CONTENTS:
@@ VIEWPOINT: Septuagenarians for Constitutional Revision

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Septuagenarians for Constitutional Revision

Prime Minister Abe has declared revision of the Constitution
a goal of his administration. He and like-minded
conservatives believe the present Constitution, drafted by
Americans at the behest of the Supreme Commander of the
Allied Powers after the Second World War, bears the stamp of
a foreign power and is not Japanese in spirit.

Just what are the chances he will succeed? I asked three
septuageneraian friends--a doctor, a retired company
president, and a former shipping executive--with whom I
meet once a month for a far-ranging discussion in
English.

The retired president, Mr. Uruma, opined that 70 to 80
percent of Japanese believe the constitution to be an
American document. Sumio, the ex-shipping exec, said the
Japanese Government had no choice but to accept the
Constitution. It was part and parcel of the surrender. Japan
had changed, and needed a new Constitution. However, having
been reduced to a state verging on chaos, the country had
no choice but to accept the US-drafted document. Whether or
not it was Japanese in spirit was irrelevant.

"Drafted in a week in GHQ," spat out the sardonic Dr. Saito.
"More than 80 percent of it is American in feeling and
content."

Is revision of the Constitution necessary?

"Yes," averred Mr. Uruma. "The government must restore
to the Constitution articles dealing with morals--such
things as respect for the family and nation. The
Constitution should foster patriotism. And Article 9 [by
which Japan renounces armed aggression] should be
eliminated. It's very noble-minded, but
overdone."

"Circumstances have changed," said Sumio, his face as red
as the Hi-no-maru from the wine we were drinking. "North
Korea is a threat. We can't rely on Americans--not
entirely."

"Your suggesting Japan should foster self-reliance," I say,
bemused by the loss of trust in my homeland.

Dr. Saito, the most liberal of the three, describes Prime
Minister Abe's response to a question from the Minshuto, the
main opposition party, during a Diet session. The PM gave
three reasons for revision. It was drafted by GHQ, it is
already 60 years old, and world conditions have changed.
The doctor was of the opinion that much of the constitution
can remain, and that the focus of revision should be Article
9, which is vague. I thought that a peculiar charge for a
member of a nation whose tongue is notorious for vagueness.

Is revision practical?

The threesome agrees revision of the Constitution would be
a daunting task. Prime Minister Abe has said he would like to
accomplish the revision within six years. Mr. Uruma scoffs
at that. "It will take ten years; there will be terrific opposition
from the parties out of power." Sumio says 8 to 10 years.
Dr. Saito believes it could be accomplished within 3, since
eighty to ninety percent of the Constitution is okay as is.

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I was surprised by the unanimous agreement that the
Constitution should be revised. After listening to these
three men in their 70s, I realized it will be. The present
Constitution with its famous war-renouncing clause was
adopted in reaction to the disaster of WWII. These three men
had grown up in war-ravished Japan under victors' occupation.
They as much as anyone keenly felt the consequences of
military adventurism. Yet they are in favor of revision.

With Kim Jong-Il's recent explosion of a nuclear device,
a preemptive strike against North Korea might become a
real policy option in the future. Indeed the world has
become a more dangerous place in the last 60 years.

-- Burritt Sabin
The J at pan Inc. Newsletter

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