Let’s have a war! The reincarnation of a war criminal, The LDP, and militarising Japan

The current Japanese government put out a comic book encouraging their platform for revising Japan’s “Peace Constitution” but beneath the cuteness is a return to Japanese pre-war fascist ideology. This is a parody version of one scene from the actual manga. 😉

Rich Nation, Strong Army: Japanese Militarism Redux

War clouds threaten northeast Asia. One state within the region continues to raise its military spending to record levels over five consecutive years. It increases solid-fuel rocket testing under the guise of launching satellites into orbit and continues stockpiling vast reserves of plutonium that could potentially nuclear arm the nation. New domestic laws severely limit the media, and active discussion persists on bills that would crack down on socially unacceptable or controversial thinking—i.e., “thoughtcrime.” These ever-belligerent, destabilizing actions are not the actions of a rogue state. No, this isn’t about North Korea, Iran, or Russia for that matter, but the remilitarization of Japan.

The nationalist administration, led by the grandson of a war criminal, Shinzo Abe* (Liberal Democratic Party), uses recent activities in North Korea to its benefit, pounding war drums alongside most established media organizations, both on the left and the right, such as the Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri Shimbun newspapers. This “threat” from its mainland neighbor is forced down the throats of Japanese citizens daily. Tokyo rehashes wartime imperialist ideologies, senior cabinet ministers stating support for using the Imperial Rescript of Education by schools—a text promulgated in 1890 in the name of Emperor Meiji that placed utmost importance in reverence and loyalty to the crown—as a means to foster the administration’s values in today’s youth. (It was also to justify the use of kamikaze, suicide missions in mini-submarines, and the forced suicide of thousands of Okinawans.)

In May 2017, the Abe administration made its position known regarding the ban of wartime imperialist military flags in international soccer matches, expressing that imperial regalia does not necessarily connote imperialism and discriminatory opinions against neighboring nations—something akin to if Angela Merkel condoned the use of the Nazi Hakenkreuz for supporting the German national sports team as completely acceptable and lacking negative effect on spectators.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has produced manga booklets to promote constitutional revisionism—for Japan to become a “normal country” as party members call it. Proponents of wholehearted constitutional revisionism claim that Japan is not a “normal country” due to the postwar U.S. occupation forcing the current national constitution upon the Japan. The Japanese establishment wields this tried-and-true tactic of using pop culture to foster understanding of its agenda among the public across many domains. The civilian nuclear energy programs of the 1950s were promoted through pop culture icons utilized by the then head of the Yomiuri Shimbun—and known CIA operative—Shoriki Matsutaro. This tactic continues to prop up the myth of nuclear safety in Japan, which played a disastrous role leading up to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011.

The combination of propaganda and the incessant war drumming appears to be working. Recent survey data from late April collected by the nonpartisan Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed that 48% of respondents agree to the proposed constitutional revisionism, whereas those against it consisted of only 33%. The numbers have steadily risen since the ruling party began openly discussing constitutional revision.

Abe’s party and the Cabinet Legislative Bureau reinterpreted Article 9—the peace clause of Japan’s constitution that renounces war—to allow for collective self-defense in 2015. This move was a sharp reversal from the policy of individual self-defense and the constitutional interpretation that all previous administrations used to justify a reliance on the U.S. military as their defense policy and their relative reluctance toward international military cooperation.

Whereas the aforementioned survey data claimed that 46% of respondents were against amending Article 9, one can but wonder whether the respondents based their responses on the current interpretation of the article, which justifies a self-defense force with tanks, aircraft carriers, and other offensive weaponry along with participating in foreign wars with the United States. The nationalists in the Japanese government had claimed for the last seventy-odd years that they needed to revise the constitution, as it did not allow them to have a full-fledged military. And yet ironically in the last two years, the government and media have promulgated a new claim that the renunciation of war in Article 9 does not prohibit the use of military force by Japan. If political actors can reinterpret long-standing constitutional interpretation on a whim like this, then wouldn’t it affect the perception of formally revising Article 9?

“Rich nation, strong army” (fukoku-kyohei) was the nineteenth-century slogan the ruling elite used to rapidly industrialize in the advent of the Meiji period to protect national interests against Western colonial powers. It was also the slogan that led Japan to bolster its military and eventually steer the nation toward colonial expansion into Korea, China, and other neighboring nations. Fomented by both the international and domestic media, we are too often conditioned to pay attention to the most fashionable international threat of the week and yet are blind to actions occurring right before our eyes. Recent developments led by Abe’s administration eerily echo the prewar slogan, and we as members of the international community should view these events with extreme caution, as for all we know history may repeat itself.

 

*Editor’s note:  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2012-) had a grandfather was a war criminal, and served as Minister of Munitions during World War II–Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi raised Abe like his own son, and Abe’s stated desire to fulfil his grandfather’s dreams of dismantling the post-war constitution and restoring a State Shinto controlled Imperial government probably owes much to his childhood. But his childhood dreams could be a nightmare for a democratic Japan.

Douglas Miller is a PhD Candidate at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. His primary focuses are political theory and Japanese history.

 

Japan’s Peace Constitution, Article 9, And Why Abe Wants To Dismantle It: A short primer

Here is a one minute piece about how Japan became a pacifist nation, its constitution, and Article 9 in that document that has kept it a long-time peaceful nation. Take a minute and learn a lot about Japan. Japan’S Pacifist Constitution Explained. (originally published May 3rd 2015)

It was produced by AJ+,  Al Jazeera’s new digital channel, geared towards millennials.

Japan’s Peace Constitution was a great achievement in its time. However, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushing for constitutional reform, a reinterpretation of Article 9 under the broad idea of collective self-defense, and seemingly gung ho to drag Japan into war so it flex its military might —that pacifist era and constitution may disappear. Even Japan’s beloved pacifist pear fairy mascot, Funassyi seems concerned about the direction the nation is heading.

"Funassyi-chan, How do you feel about getting rid of Japan's peace constitution? Funassyi: "That's a really difficult question and I don't want to answer...but in all things I desire peace." Later appears to flash the peace sign. Hard to tell because pear fairies don't have fingers.
“Funassyi-chan, How do you feel about getting rid of Japan’s peace constitution?
Funassyi: “That’s a really difficult question and I don’t want to answer…but in all things I desire peace.”
Later appears to flash the peace sign. Hard to tell because pear fairies don’t have fingers.

Prime Minister Abe has made the remilitarisation of Japan and the scrapping of Article 9 and “America’s imposed democratic constitution” a part of his political agenda for a long. While it’s clear that GHQ had a heavy hand in drafting Japan’s constitution, it was not done without the aid and input of the Japanese people and the Japanese government. The creation of Japan’s modern constitution was more of a collaborative effort than was believed. 

Judging from Shinzo Abe’s writings and hand-selected ministers, he feels that Japan lost a just war, and can only regain its dignity by throwing off all the progress made since the post-war days and returning to an Imperial Constitution. Abe wants a return to a time when the chosen elite, like himself and his friends, run the country with no dissent and the racial and  cultural  superiority of the Japanese people is loudly proclaimed. 

His grandfather, whom Abe greatly admires, the yakuza linked and ‘incredibly corrupt’ former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, was arrested as a war criminal after the war, but never put on trial. Kishi  was Japan’s Minister of Munitions during the Second World War. Abe has allowed Japan to make and export arms again under his regime as well.

Japan's Peace Constitution Explained
Japan’s Peace Constitution Explained

 

For reference here is the English text of Article 9:

RENUNCIATION OF WAR

Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

 

 

The First Victim of War is The Truth: Japan’s Journalists Protest The Secrets Law

The First Victim of War is The Truth

Tokyo Shimbun’s National News Chief (12/10/2014)

A few days after Japan lost the war, thick clouds of smoke spewed from government and military facilities as mass amounts of documents were burned. It was an organized cover-up to thwart investigations by the allied forces. Because of this more than half of Japan’s secret documents were lost, we lost our chance to get a handle on the full scope of the war. It’s a classic example of how the bureaucracy has no vision for making information public.

Politicians aren’t much different. When Prime Minister Eisaku Sato achieved the return of Okinawa, his profession of the three basic principles of non-nuclear arms won him the nobel peace prize. In the background, was a secret treaty that the Prime Minister had made with President Nixon. The former Prime Minister never informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about these secret negotiations and even kept the records of the agreement meeting hidden in his own home.

There’s an old Chinese saying, “It’s enough to make the people obey the law, there’s no need for them to understand it.” —That kind of though definitely permeates and is carried over into the State Secrets Act. There is no punishment for bureaucrats or politicians that unjustly hide information. There is no fair and balanced third party oversight group to check whether the release of information is justified or not. The only thing to determine what is a secret is the capricious decisions of the administration.

In the ever growing number of secrets, the truth will be sucked up. From the bottom of our hearts we should fear the arrival of such a rigid and crushing society. Seven months after the State Secrets Act was passed, the Abe Cabinet approved the collective self-defense interpretation of the constitution.

The path to deboning Japan’s constitution of Article 9 (which prohibits war) and allows the self-defense forces to fight overseas with the US has been cleared. The more a wartime regime moves forward, the more powerful a weapon the State Secrets law will become for the Japanese government

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, “If there is an example of reporting being suppressed, I’ll resign.”

However, if any reporter seeks to clarify the discussion around sending Japanese troops to war, or any other state secret, they must be ready for a merciless investigation to descend upon them. All journalists know the saying, “The first victim of war is the truth.”

The Manchurian Incident began with a Japanese Army plot. The Japanese people were only told the truth during the Tokyo War Crimes trials. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself. Against this evil law, we must not remain silent and we must continue to raise our voices in protest.

the scream

****

Tanaka Minoru, the journalist who almost sued into silence for pointing out past ties to organized crime in relation to Japan’s nuclear industry shadow shogun and ‘fixer), Shiro Shirakwa, summarizes the problems with law succinctly.

“The top of any government organization can determine special secrets in four areas. The top secret classification period can be stretched from 5 to 60 years. The violators of the law who can be punished for leaks are not just federal or prefectural employees, or those working in the defense industry. If citizens or journalists, gain knowledge of such secrets by ‘improper’ methods or plot to obtain those methods or encourage others to share secrets, they can be punished. The longest punishment is 10 years. The ‘Suitability Tests’ that will now be conducted on government workers who may handle state secrets is invasive and said to violate basic human rights.”

The Prime Minister, The Past, The War, The Shrine and What Is Said In The Unsaid

xxx
Staging Showa Era soldiers at Yasukuni Shrine this year, on August 15th

Under the bright and sweltering sun in Japan yesterday (August 15th), the controversial shrine of Yasukuni in Tokyo again received nonstop ordinary citizens’ visits from morning until sunset to mark the 68th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. Also, as every year, not far from the shrine, an estimated 200 political activists from the Far Left group Han Tennosei Undo Renraku-kai, (反天皇制運動連絡会) or the “Anti-Emperor of Japan activists,” who believe that Japan’s surrender should have been the fall of its emperor, participated to a protest march in the streets of Tokyo protested by approximatively  40 to 100 Japanese nationalists who may have been from the Zaitoku-kai, (在日特権を許さない市民の会) or the “Citizens’ Group Opposed to Special Privileges given to the Zainichi (Koreans),” (long-term Korean or North Korean residents in Japan,) dispersed and potentially disguised under a group they called the “Rekishi Kenkyu-kai,” (歴史研究会) or the “History Investigation Group.” The Japanese police PR office could not release the exact number of elite police forces present at today’s  Anti-Emperor demo, but it was believed that  more than a thousand of super-well-equipped police officers were running around to protect the demonstrators from the pro-emperor activists.

August 15th 1945 was Japan’s official surrender. Six days after American aircrafts had dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6th) and on Nagasaki (August 9th), Emperor Hirohito announced over the radio that the country would lay down its arms and accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration unconditionally. Over 2 million Japanese including civilians died during World War II and over 10 million  Chinese people are estimated to have lost their lives during the same period.

For some Japanese people this day marks the the beginning of peace, and for others it marks the humiliation of losing the war against the western allies.

“Today is the day the Japanese people suffered the humiliation of losing the war against the western allies. It’s the anniversary of the end the war,” A former yakuza boss said as he woke up yesterday morning. “Let’s pray for those who fought to protect the Japanese nation.” He added.

xxx
Anti-Japanese Emperor activists carry the image of the Japanese emperor with a skeleton body.

Since the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party of Japan) came back to power last year under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is trying to change the current pacifist Constitution in order to empower Japan’s defense military forces, a shift to the right by the new Cabinet is increasingly raising fears among Japan’s neighbors. It’s “a dangerous revival of its military past,” the Chinese media reported.

IMG_5754
Japanese Nationalists’ expressing hostility towards the anti-Imperial left wing protestors

“If Japan had to go on war, I would fight it to protect my country with no hesitation,” Keinosuke Nakai, 42, a member of the Hinomaru Tomo no Kai, a Japanese nationalist group, told JSRC at a meeting held at the Daisuisendo Kaikan bld’s 4th floor, two steps away from the ultra leftist group’s meeting room filled with about 200 activists, where no photos and no footages of the meeting was allowed to be taken. The tension was palpable. In the room on the right side on the same floor, a man who appeared to be a leader said, “Today is the commemoration of Japan’s loss of the war. But remember, next time Japan will win the war.”  He was applauded by his audience of about 30 nationalists.

The Far Left Group and the Nationalists met in the same building in the same floor!
The Far Left Group on the left and the Nationalists on the right, they met in the same building on the same floor!

In Seoul on Thursday, the South Korean President Park Geun Hye urged Japanese politicians to show “brave leadership” in “healing wounds of the past,” at a speech she gave during a ceremony marking the Korean National Liberation Day, as Japan’s 35-years occupation period from 1910 to 1945 ended.

In Tokyo the same morning, Internal Affairs and Communication Minister Yoshitaka Shindo and state Minister in charge of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, reportedly visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for the 68th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in WW II.

Instead of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly visited the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo, where he laid flowers for unidentified Japanese people who died overseas during WWII. He also met with the visiting chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Mendez, and agreed with him that Japan and the United States should strengthen bilateral ties as China increases its presence in the South China and East China seas.

Although Prime Minister Abe did not go to the controversial shrine in person this year to avoid further issues with China and South Korea, Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news agency reported that this morning’s visits by the two Cabinet ministers will “further harm mutual trust between Japan and its neighbors.” The Chinese view is that Japan should/must reflect upon its history of aggression, and sincerely apologize to the victims of its military past. Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to about 2.5 million Japanese people, mostly soldiers killed in past wars, (not only WW II), is viewed by neighboring Asian countries as a symbol of Japanese militarism. Fourteen Convicted Class-A war criminals are also enshrined there. But the Japanese people who pay a visit to the war dead do not necessarily honor war criminals. They might pray for one or two of their ancestors who died at war. But in a statement released by China’s Foreign Ministry, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Japanese Ambassador to China, Masato Kitera, strongly protested the visits to the controversial shrine in Tokyo by the two Cabinet ministers. China holds that “no matter in what form or capacity Japanese leaders visit the war-linked shrine, it is essentially an attempt to deny Japan’s history of militarism and invasion of its Asian neighbors.” The statement said.

xxx
The Japanese police force trying to maintain order during the Anti-Emperor demo.

For experts on the matter, the problem is the shrine. The first Japanese Prime Minister who visited Yasukuni was PM Takeo Miki, on the anniversary of WW II, in 1975. On October 17, 1978, Yasukuni began to honor the wartime Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo and 13 other Class-A war criminals. The first Premier who made an official visit since the end of WW II was Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, on August 15th, 1985. One of the most controversial PM who systematically visited the shrine was Junichiro Koizumi, from 2001 to 2006. Author and Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, Jeffrey Kingston, writing about the annual visits noted, “The only way to end the controversy is to impose a moratorium on visits to Yasukuni by any serving Cabinet ministers. Officials should honor Japan’s war dead at the official cemetery at Chidorigafuchi, not at a privately run propaganda center.”

xxx
The police squad reached a huge number.

This also marked the first year in over a decade that the current Prime Minister did not apologize for Japan’s aggression in Asia nor solemnly swear that Japan would never wage war again. As often is the case in Japan, it’s in what is unsaid that speaks the loudest.

Jake Adelstein contributed to this article