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Politics & Security

What is the Obstacle in Amending Japan’s Constitution?

The Self-Defense Forces are relied upon by the people in times of national emergencies. It is time conservatives stop the talk and take real action to affirm their status by amending Japan’s constitution.

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The Constitution of Japan, written by Occupation forces governing Japan in the immediate post-war era. The 1947-era document has never been amended.

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Who, in the end, is preventing the amendment of the Constitution of Japan, especially the specifics related to the Self Defense Forces (SDF)? 

Former Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, who served as the Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, offered an interesting take on the internet program Toranomon News, which was streamed on November 10. He stated that the biggest obstacle to amendment is not the Japanese Communist Party or the Constitutional Democratic Party, but rather the complacent “things-are-okay-as-they-are conservatives”.

A Ground Self-Defense Force member rescuing a citizen following the Great East Japan Earthquake

“The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have already gained the trust of the people. So in their thinking, there is no pressing need. Why should we work to reform the constitution?” 

Kawano points out that these “don’t-rock-the-boat” conservatives are not few in number, and they are the reason that there is so little progress. 

This is reminiscent of the situation in Japan when the National Flag and Anthem Law was enacted in 1999. At the time there was a conspicuous passivity among conservatives. Their attitude was “It’s obvious that the Hinomaru is the national flag and Kimigayo is the national anthem, so why do we need to enact legislation?” 

Promises made to lead the debate on constitutional Reform in 2019 and 2020.

It turned out, however, that legislation had a large effect. Protests against the national flag and national anthem by groups such as the Japan Teachers Union lost their foundation and faded away. Adding the amendment to the constitution had great meaning.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed a strong desire to amend the constitution and instructed the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to “stimulate more national debate.” 

Such debates, however, have been held since the so-called Constitutional Convention in 1946. It’s already been 15 years since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during his first administration in 2006, declared he would be the first prime minister to “put the constitutional amendment on the political schedule.”

Hirofumi Yoshimura and Ichiro Matsui, Governor and Mayor of Osaka, leaders of the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin no Kai).

“The LDP has long repeated their slogan ‘Amend the Constitution,’ but it’s been so long that the motto has become something of an ‘all-talk-and-no-action’ deception,” said Hirofumi Yoshimura, Deputy Representative of the Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai, JIP), criticizing the LDP’s attitude on November 9. 

His choice of words may be harsh, but they are reasonable. Those who seek to amend the constitution should offer a conclusion to the problem rather than repeating their barren discussions with those that want it preserved forever in its current form.

Currently there has been some movement within the LDP to seek cooperation with the JIP and the Democratic Party for the People (Kokumin Minshuto) toward the goal of amending the constitution. This is an opportunity to move forward, leaving behind the complacent “status-quo” conservatives.  

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(Read the Sankei Shimbun column in Japanese at this link.)


Author: The Sankei Shimbun