Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

New Peace Constitution before the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
HANABUSA Masamichi  / Former Ambassador to Italy

December 19, 2014
In the latest snap general election, Prime Minister Abe scored an overwhelming victory, securing for himself another 4 years in power. Based on the new expression of popular support, Prime Minister Abe is expected to take positive actions towards steering the Japanese economy out of deflation and legislations to enable Japan to exercise limited use of the right of collective self-defence. Among other major political issues facing the Prime Minister is the amendment of the present Constitution.

The governing Liberal Democratic Party(LDP) has already made public its "Proposals for Constitutional Amendments." Throughout the election campaign, however, the LDP candidates argued that their party would “work towards presenting a draft for constitutional amendments to the Diet while seeking understanding among the people.” It appears that the LDP has somewhat softened its hard line stance early last year of insisting on its original Proposals into that of seeking a broad consensus among the people. In view of the concern that its advocacy to steamroll the change by starting with amending Article 96 on constitutional amendment procedure aroused even among those who support the constitutional change, the possible change of heart on the part of the LDP is welcome. At any rate, it is naturally important to seek a broad consensus throughout the nation on this important issue, as any proposal for the change of the present Constitution would come to naught if it failed to receive the approval of the majority of the Japanese people.

If we look back on the past seven post-war decades, Japan has surely succeeded in building a stable and prosperous nation. Successive Prime Ministers have said, "Japan shares with major nations such basic values as respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law." For these seven decades Japan has unfailingly promoted peaceful diplomacy based on international cooperation. This clearly demonstrates that the nation has lived up to the ideals of its Constitution. There does exist in Japan a strong and broad support for the continuation of this policy, and it is along these basic lines that Japan should embark upon the path of amending its Constitution to create a better nation. It would therefore be simply foolish to play into the political propaganda that as a result of Constitutional amendment, the "Peace Constitution" would turn into a "War Constitution." Unfortunately, thoughtless remarks by certain Japanese politicians suggesting that Japan is undergoing a "regime change" have given rise to an impression in neighboring China and ROK and even in some quarters in Japan’s ally, the United States, that the proposed Japanese constitutional change is intended to undo Japan's past positive achievements over the past seven decades. Both at home and abroad, there seem to be forces playing up overtly or covertly for political purposes the image of Japan “shifting to the right.”

Not to speak of the pro-Constitution political parties that would never countenance any constitutional change, the Democratic Party of Japan is unclear about the extent of the party's approval of the change. Likewise, the Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, has not clarified what it means by its advocacy of “adding to the present Constitution.” In a parliamentary democracy like Japan, there is no other way to ascertain people's intentions but to arrive at a conclusion in the Diet as a result of deliberations among the political parties conducted in a spirit of "open speech."

In 2020 Tokyo will host the Olympic/Paralympic Games. In 1964 the Tokyo Olympic Games was a proud moment for Japan to show to the world that the nation had been reconstructed from the war. If a referendum is to take place then for constitutional change, it will have the participation of most of the young people, with the voting age lowered to 18. It is my wish that the political parties of Japan will join together to forge a broad national consensus, so that we may be able to host with pride the 2020 Olympics/Paralympics as a genuine democratic nation with the New Peace Constitution approved by the nation's first referendum with the participation of the generations who will shoulder Japan’s future in the 21st century.

I am convinced that the Japanese are not so foolish as to deviate from the principal ideals of the present Constitution such as popular sovereignty, democracy, respect for fundamental human rights and dedication to peace. In that sense, the revised Constitution will still remain a "Peace Constitution." It is my fervent wish that the LDP, the principal government party, will not try to settle once and for all the issues which 70 years' domestic political battle have not been able to resolve, on the occasion of the first ever national referendum to take place in Japan's history. It is important to limit the constitutional change to the Preamble and those urgent issues on which a broad national consensus may be expected, while deferring the controversial Article 9 till later.

Would it not be possible for the LDP to show the political wisdom to strive to forge a broad national consensus to make a new Peace Constitution on the occasion of the first constitutional amendment under popular sovereignty in Japan’s history? If the LDP were reluctant to do so, why would not the Komeito or even the Democratic Party of Japan take the initiative to build the public opinion to support this idea?

The hosting of the Olympic/Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 provides a heaven-sent opportunity for Japan to amend its Constitution. Probably this would be the last opportunity for us to do so. Should we miss this opportunity, I fear that the present Constitution, made under the Allied Occupation of Japan, will remain to be "never worn thin." There is a “window of opportunity” starting from the next year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war until 2020. It is hoped that all political parties will take advantage of this opportunity to sort out their respective positions on the constitutional amendments, thrash out their views, and join forces to formulate out a proposal for constitutional amendments which can command the broad consensus of the Japanese people.

Masamichi Hanabusa is Chairman Emeritus of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐伊大使

2014年 12月 19日








 私は2020年のオリンピック/パラリンピック開催は、日本に訪れた絶好の憲法改正の機会であると思う。そして恐らくこれが最後の機会で、この好機を逸したら日本は、占領下に出来た現行憲法を今後 永きにわたり「不磨の憲法」としてしまうのではないかと危惧する。戦後70年の明年を切っ掛けに、2020年まで開いているこの「機会の窓」を生かして、諸政党がその立場を明らかにして、議論を尽くして、日本国民が大同団結できる内容の「新平和憲法案」を作り上げてもらいたい。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > New Peace Constitution before the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games