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Essay and Opinion

"Spiritual Adventure of Article 9" to be appreciated by many people
-"Freshness of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - Discussion among Japanese and German students"

May 19, 2008

Hitoshi Sakurai (Former Executive Director of the NHK)

On April 29, 2008, JICL had a seminar entitled "Inspecting Germany and Japan from the Constitution's view point" on the occasion of the publication of "Freshness of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - Discussion among Japanese and German students." Below is the speech made by its editor Hitoshi Sakurai in that seminar.

Mr. Shuichi Kato, a critique, says that people are mentally imprisoned after graduating from schools until they get old enough to retire. He means to say that we are usually chained to companies or something which we work for. Students and old people have always been free. Forty years ago, in 1968, students freely spoke a lot about social issues. It was the time of disputes in many universities. Today's students are generally tamed. Mr. Kato says that it is possible to prevent the revision of the Article 9 of our Constitution, if students work together with old people who take part in Article 9 Association and other movements.
I was a student of a university in 1968, when students' unrest was taking place all around me. Then I worked for the NHK for about 40 years. During that time, I was mentally imprisoned.
Shuichi Kato said in one occasion that "Article 9 is a theme of spiritual adventure for the Japanese people." I would like to tell you how I interpret this phrase and why I titled the new book of German students' essays about Japan's Constitution Article 9 "Freshness of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - Discussion among Japanese and German students."
Japanese people are usually good at adjusting to the prevailing atmosphere. We usually leave everything to the majority. However, many Japanese people become determined to guard the Article 9 when they are enticed to give it up. It is quite unusual for Japanese people to continue this kind of spiritual adventure for more than a half century.
The Article 9 has experienced a long adventure, traveling against the wind across rough oceans. Recently, Japan has almost committed itself to collective self-defense operations with the USA in their horrible war against terrorism. Therefore, we need, not only to protect the Article 9, but also to activate and utilize it to stop the war. I believe that such actions comprise Mr. Shuichi Kato's idea of "spiritual adventure."
The Article 9 continues its adventure while we struggle to protect it and utilize it. Our next step is going to be propagating its idea all over the world. When the Article 9 is put into global context, Japanese people will see its importance and proudly renew their resolution to protect it. This kind of effect is one of the important things we hope to create when we try to put the Article 9 on the global stage.
Some people from countries troubled by civil wars respond without hesitation, "That is what we have wanted!" when they see the Article 9. Japanese people must have welcomed it in the same manner soon after the defeat in the war.
On the other hand, we hear a different reaction that "Japan does not observe its Constitution's Article 9, which prohibits military forces, at all. It has military forces that are dispatched abroad." Such voices are often raised by those who come from the countries that possess military forces while severely restricting their use and actions, such as Germany. We need to examine how we are treating the Article 9, before thinking about the delivery method and the contents of our message to the world. Before recommending the Article 9 to the others, we need to see if we are really protecting, appreciating and utilizing it. It is another aspect of the "spiritual adventure" that we learn other people's points of view when we promote the Article 9 abroad.
We can read essays by Japanese students who died as soldiers in Asia and the Pacific during the World War II, in a book titled "Kike Wadatsumi no Koe (Last Friends)." In Germany, a book of letters from student-soldiers who died in the World War I has been published. These books write about different times and locations. However, they both are records of voices of students who went to war and died. These voices inspired me to edit "Freshness of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - Discussion among Japanese and German students." I am sure that Mr. Shuichi Kato desires to prevent the war by protecting and utilizing the spirit of the Article 9, rather than reading after the war what the victims said.
We decided to write this book in both Japanese and German, in order to promote discussion among Japanese and German students about the spirit of the Article 9, and to further test it in a different country with different social and cultural background. We tried not only to express the idea of Article 9, but also to reconsider its conditions with a lot more people.
The Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War is taking place in Makuhari Messe in Chiba from the 4th to the 6th of May. (editor's note: More than 20,000 people including 150 guests from 31 foreign countries took part.) That is going to be another stage for the Article 9's adventure. Japan and the world will benefit from globalization of the Article 9. I hope that this book "Freshness of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - Discussion among Japanese and German students" will be the starting point of such a trend.
The Article 9 continues its adventure in Japan. It has met some challenges. When constitutional rights of individuals are threatened, the Article 9 steps in and tries to restore the rights. There are over 7000 groups of Article 9 Association in Japan, some of whose names are "Article 9 Association of the Handicapped and the Patients" or "Minamata Article 9 Association." In order to find out the nature of the problem, we can ask ourselves the following questions. What do the handicapped, the sick and the Article 9 have in common? What do Minamata and the Article 9 have in common? One possible answer may be that tanks and wheelchairs can not go together well. Then we notice that vitalizing the Article 9 possibly helps to protect the rights of the handicapped and the sick and to change "handicapped person independence support law." In other words, the Article 9 exists like our bulwark. It protects our constitutional rights and freedom. Therefore, it should be maintained strong enough to fully protect our rights and freedom.
Social gap has been widening, and threats have been growing against people's rights and freedom. On the other hand, people's networks are growing across borders beyond our expectations. It may be possible for the Article 9 supporters to form "multitude," or the majority with different characters who are joined in a network. We need to continue the Adventure of the Article 9 by recruiting more participants domestically and internationally.
I've just grown old enough to retire. I have more freedom. Now, I am in a good position to coordinate the working people and the retired people. I hope that more people will join the spiritual adventure of the Article 9.