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Exploring the Global Meaning of Article 9:
What Article 9 Means to Us

A Dialogue Between
Shinagawa Masaji * and John Junkerman **

September 2007


Note: This dialogue appeared in the September 2007 issue of the Japanese magazine Sekai, as the first in a year-long series of international perspectives on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

The discussion was moderated by KAWASAKI Akira, a member of the executive committee of the NGO Peace Boat, author of Kaku Kakusan (Nuclear Proliferation) and an organizer for the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War. Translated by Meredith Joyce, Peace Boat.

* * * *

War, Asia, and Article 9

Kawasaki Akira:

For the first in our series “Exploring the Global Meaning of Article 9”, we are joined by Shinagawa Masaji and film director John Junkerman. Mr. Shinagawa has been outspoken within the business world about what it means to be a nation based on the principles of Article 9, while Mr. Junkerman has introduced views of the international community regarding Article 9 through his film, Japan’s Peace Constitution.

Shinagawa Masaji:

I am now 83 years old, and one of the few who fought on the front during the war who is still alive. As someone who knows the reality of the battlefield, I have the strong sense that “I have lived two lives in the one body,” in the words of Fukuzawa Yukichi. I lived under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan until the age of 22, and under the Constitution of Japan ever since. The Manchurian Incident took place the year I entered primary school; the Sino-Japanese War began while I was in junior high school, and then in senior high school the Pacific War began. This meant that during the entire time I was formulating my thoughts and conscience, Japan was at war. I was searching philosophically to understand how an individual should live during a war instigated by one’s state, and similarly, how one should die.

From my wartime experiences, I came to understand that war is not a natural disaster – it is caused by human beings. Who is working to cause war, and who is working to stop it? We must think deeply about this, especially in the current age. The opportunity to actually think about such things is lost once a war actually begins. If we seize the opportunity now, we should be able to understand explicitly who it is that is trying to turn Japan into a nation that can wage war. It is human beings who start wars. It is also humans who can stop them. “Which side are you on?'” – this question lies at the core of my beliefs.

Since we remained at the Chinese front after the war ended on August 15, 1945, we were caught up in the Chinese civil war and remained under arms until November. Later, while thousands of us were being held in a prisoner-of-war camp, a heated debate took place among the POWs. The debate was between officers who had graduated from the military academies, and soldiers who had been in units deployed at the front. The officers asserted that “Japan must restore its national power, and the Japanese race must vindicate itself of the humiliation of defeat.” They started a movement to send a petition written in blood to the government. A fervent backlash erupted against this, led by soldiers who had been at the front. So many soldiers had died, and such vast numbers of Chinese had been killed. How could we show our faces and continue to live within Asia? The officers contended that “it is cowardly to call it ‘the end of the war,’ we must call it ‘the defeat.’” But our view was that “calling it ‘the end of war’ is right – Japan will become a nation that will never again wage war.” This debate divided the camp in two, and even escalated into the actual spilling of blood.

In May of the following year, on board a ship taking us back to Japan from China, we first read the draft of the new Japanese Constitution. We all cried. It laid out a new path for Japan, boldly going so far as to deny even the right of belligerency and to renounce all war potential. We cried because we felt that we could now go on to live within Asia, and to work in normal jobs. From that time, my core belief has remained unchanged throughout my whole life.

Certainly, the “flag” of Article 9, especially the second paragraph, is in tatters today. The Self Defense Forces do exist, and Japan went so far as to dispatch troops to Iraq. However, I do not believe that provides reason to dispose of the entire “flagpole” of Article 9.

John Junkerman:

I do not have direct experience of war, but I do remember being awakened to the world around me during the Cuban missile crisis, when I was in elementary school. I was in junior high school when the Vietnam War intensified, and I knew that I would face the draft at some time in the future. So I was confronted, from childhood, with the question of whether I would go to Vietnam and kill people.

When I first came to Japan as a high school student in 1969, I learned that Japan had Article 9 and the Peace Constitution, and I met many people, like Mr. Shinagawa, who had experienced war and were strongly committed to never fighting a war again. I felt glad to have come to a country with a strong pacifist consciousness, and I felt at home here. Having experienced the worst horrors of war, to reject war entirely seemed very enlightened to me, and it still does.

My country was fighting in far-off Vietnam, causing the deaths of millions of Vietnamese and more than 50,000 US soldiers, in a pointless war from which it gained nothing. It was entirely meaningless. Having lost that war, I believed the US would never fight a war like that again, but the US is at war again today. The structure under which one segment of the population benefits from war was left in place. The US never underwent a fundamental self-examination after the Vietnam War. When Japan lost its war and instituted the Peace Constitution, it changed the character of the nation in a fundamental way. But the US did not engage in that process of reflection. Even after the end of the Cold War, there was no move toward demilitarization. The defense industry just continued to grow, and that path has led to the present war in Iraq.

The choice to invade weak countries and kill people is enabled by the fact that Americans still do not have a grasp of the reality of war. For some reason, they’re susceptible to the propaganda slogans used to justify war, that “America is fighting to defend liberty and democracy” and “America is fighting for peace.”

It is truly unfortunate that Japan has embarked on a process of reinterpreting the concept of collective self-defense to allow it to follow the United States into war. It would be a terrible waste to discard the Peace Constitution and once again make it possible to fight wars. The Peace Constitution is also a democratic constitution. In principle, the government’s policies should conform to the wishes of the citizens. But the government is taking the lead on revising Article 9, despite the fact that recent polls show that a large majority favors retaining the clause as it is. For the government to continue pursuing revision, despite this fact, raises troubling questions about the nature of Japanese democracy.

Though supporters of revision often claim the mantle of “realism,” the situation in the world today suggests that revising the constitution is not the realist choice. The Japanese government strongly supported the US war in Iraq from the beginning, but it is now clear that that war was launched under false premises. No one can deny that the war has begun a tragic failure. But the Japanese government still wants to change the constitution to allow Japan to participate in this kind of war. The move to change the constitution is based neither in democracy nor realism, but rather is motivated by the ideology of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. However, Japanese citizens base their judgments on their perception of reality, not on ideology. I think the reason support for revising the constitution has fallen, rather dramatically, is that people have watched the tragedy unfold in Iraq and decided that, if changing the constitution means Japan will go off to fight that kind of war alongside the US, then it’s better not to change the constitution at all.

True “international contributions”


One of the reasons public opinion shifted toward support of constitutional revision for a number of years was the equation of the concept of making an “international contribution” with dispatching troops overseas, especially after the first Gulf War. American officials bombarded us repeatedly with phrases like “boots on the ground” and “show the flag.” However, as Mr. Junkerman says, I feel that after witnessing the Iraq war, ordinary citizens are coming to recognize that international involvement does not necessarily mean sending troops to fight alongside the US. As illustrated through our work (at the International Development Center of Japan), international concerns such as the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of diseases such as AIDS simply cannot be addressed through the use of force.

An element that cannot be neglected when considering the US-Japan relationship is the value system of the US. The US must recognize that the lives of people anywhere in the world are of equal value to the lives of US citizens. Recognizing that the lives of those burdened by poverty, and the lives of refugees, are of equal value to all other lives necessarily leads to the question of whether trying to resolve problems through war is morally justifiable. Is it acceptable to kill someone else, anyone else, for the sake of your own country's defense? Even in the US, there are indications that this problem is starting to gain attention. An example of this is the concern expressed by families of 9.11 victims, who are questioning whether it is acceptable to continue to produce more victims like themselves in Iraq.

The numbers of those profiting from war have increased, and even corporations that are contracted to fight wars have begun to appear. I do not believe that conflict will ever disappear from the world. However, when conflicts escalate into wars, economic and political interests are always involved. Regions with resources such as oil are more likely to become the site of wars. The idea behind Article 9 is to prevent conflicts from turning into wars. Doesn’t this need to become the guiding principle for the world from now on? Historically, we conceived of Article 9 as a form of atonement by Japan to the people of Asia. But today, it is clear that Article 9 has a broader international significance.


Altering Article 9 would have implications not only for Japan and the Japan-US relationship, but also wider implications in the international arena, wouldn't it?


The revision of Article 9 is fundamentally an international problem. The essence of Article 9 is the renunciation of the right of belligerency, and removing this clause is the primary target of those who seek to change the constitution. This would fundamentally alter the way Japan interacts with other countries. Japan faces an historic choice. Should it center its global relationships on a military alliance with the US, or should it engage all the countries of the world, particularly the countries of Asia, on a footing of equality and peace? Will it build relationships based on confrontation, or based on harmony? These are the questions that come into play when one thinks about revising Article 9.

Japanese are, on the whole, kindhearted, so when the government talks about making “international contributions,” people tend to respond positively. But what the government means by this is actively participating in the US military alliance. There are many ways to make a contribution to the world, including UN peacekeeping operations and economic assistance to fight world poverty and conflict. It has been suggested that Japan has to revise Article 9 before it can be considered for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. But I think if Japan actually put its Peace Constitution into practice in its global relationships, it would have every right to take on a central role in the UN.


If Japan revised Article 9, what purpose would be served by giving Japan a permanent seat on the Security Council? We have to understand that the international community takes a jaundiced view of this: “That would only give the United States one more vote.” There are those who say the constitution should be revised to allow Japan’s participation in peacekeeping operations. But is the use of armed force on a battlefield to kill people the only way to make an international contribution? There are any number of other ways to do so. It’s important to disentangle the debate over peacekeeping operations from the debate over the constitution.

There were serious flaws in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs effort to win a permanent Security Council seat for Japan. They offered aid to those countries that gave their vote in support of Japan. But international assistance should not be provided on the basis of whether a country is in the “right” in international politics. If anything, it should be provided to those who suffer as a consequence of international politics. The US judges whether a country is right or wrong, and provides assistance on that basis, but we should not simply follow suit. Japan helps those governments that will vote for us. Those who are opposed, no matter how much in need their people may be, get no help. My organization helps those most in need first, and I believe that’s the right way to operate.

The nonsense of the “shared values” theory


Japanese people do not know the price of weapons. For example, other than gangsters, almost nobody knows how much a pistol costs. In contrast, 200 million guns are in circulation among citizens in the US. Even people doing the work I do have no idea about the market price of weapons. When Japanese land at the airport in certain countries, they are approached by people trying to sell them guns. Because it’s known that Japanese are unfamiliar with the price of weapons, the prices are raised exorbitantly. If you look at this another way, it’s evidence that Japan is internationally known as a country that does not possess weapons.

Although Japan does have an army, it has gone sixty years without killing a single human being. This is the result of having a constitution that does not recognize the right of belligerency of the state. Under this constitution, Japan has become the second greatest economic power in the world without killing a single person. There is no way that this path could have been the wrong one. We must be confident and proud of this fact.


It is possible, at times, to “resolve” a conflict through the use of arms. But this is not a resolution based on building a relationship of trust between the parties, but simply a resolution based on brute force. The US has made the preponderance of its military might the centerpiece of its global strategy, but this has earned it the enmity of much of the world. The US military now maintains over 700 bases in some 176 countries and territories throughout the world. This is the source of America’s political influence in the world, but it is not influence that is based on trust of the US. Conversely, it may be precisely because Japan does not have an aggressive military that its enjoys influence around the world. And this influence is based on trust.

But if Japan recognizes the right of collective self-defense, revises the constitution and integrates militarily with the US, it runs the risk of losing whatever influence it has in the world.


Lately, I think a great deal about the fact that Japan is a country that has declared that it renounces the state's right of belligerency, while the US is a country currently at war. The US is the only country that has used an atomic bomb on human beings, while Japan is the only country that has suffered an atomic bomb attack. Since the Koizumi administration, the Japanese government has strongly proclaimed that Japan shares the values of the US. Yet how can a country that renounces war share values with a country that is currently at war? Could these words be uttered in Okinawa? In Hiroshima? In Nagasaki? I believe they could not, and should not.


It is often said that Japan has enjoyed peace because of the US military bases here, but I don’t think that’s the case.


Yes, that is the fundamental issue. Some people say, well, Japan has signed the Japan-US Security Treaty, or that Japan can only retain Article 9 because it is protected by the US nuclear umbrella. I believe that this issue may be tested by, say, the North Korean problem even before the constitution is revised. Right now, the Japanese government is repeatedly provoking North Korea. How far into the corner will they drive the DPRK, a country with a GNP only 1/100th of Japan’s? There’s not even a grain of sympathy. How can we allow this to go on, and then proceed to talk about “peace in Asia”? If the DPRK ever took some kind of action against Japan, would we seek reprisals through our reliance on the American nuclear umbrella? Japan must state its opposition to a nuclear reprisal. I believe it is our job to make the Japanese government take this stance. And when this happens, it will be the first time that the second paragraph of Article 9 (which renounces the right of belligerency) truly comes to life.


In the last half of the 20th century, because of the experience of war, people throughout the world agreed that they would not engage in wars of aggression. Aside from a very small number of countries, they have observed this promise. There have been border disputes, but wars of aggression have largely been eliminated. The US is pretty much the only country today that affirms wars of aggression and is actually fighting one. It is indeed strange for Japan to declare that it shares that country’s values.

The US has named several countries to be members of the “axis of evil,” but are America’s enemies also Japan’s? Sharing values would imply that they are. But Japan has declared that it will not maintain hypothetical enemies, that it will trust in the “justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.” It would be best for Japan to clearly state that the US holds to a value system that is out of step with the rest of the world.

What can citizens do?


Both of you are co-initiators of the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War, to be held in May of 2008. Finally, I would like to ask you what you believe citizens can do?


Japan has Article 9. I believe we can utilize it as a cornerstone not only in terms of political issues, but also in our cultural and economic approach. However, the current administration is proceeding down the path not only of constitutional revision but also of extreme growth.

There is a strange contradiction in contemporary Japan. The majority of citizens do not want to ever fight another war, and yet the ruling party does not think that way at all. Rather, they are trying to make Japan a “normal country” in the style of the US. As a matter of democracy, this contradiction represents a serious problem. We need to eliminate this contradiction. We should clearly say NO to the current path of constitutional revision. If we do this, then surely the international consensus will come to respect Japan as the nation with Article 9. We can make Japan the best confidante, the best adviser for citizens of the world on matters of peace.

Thinking along these lines, it becomes clear that we must also consider how we respond to the countries of Asia. I want to affirm that now is the time for the citizens of Japan to act. It is a matter of each and every citizen realizing that sovereign power resides with them. We need to address the question of how we prevent war from the perspective of holding sovereign power.

Protecting Article 9 is not just a domestic issue for Japan, but rather a matter of world history. It is a matter of seeking an alternative world to that which has existed until now. The choice for the Japanese people is not just a decision regarding Japan-US relations, but could actually impact upon the entire US world strategy. For this purpose also, we need an opportunity to position Article 9 within wider global trends. The Global Article 9 Conference will have significant meaning in this sense.


The tide has shifted over the past few years. When revision of the constitution loomed as a distinct possibility, the citizens of Japan seemed to awaken from their heiwa boke (peaceful stupor). More than 6000 Article 9 Associations have been formed across the country, and innumerable other citizen groups are active. There are probably more gatherings taking place around these issues now than at any time in the sixty-odd years since the war. Partly as a result of these activities, public support for maintaining the present constitution has grown much stronger. I may be overly optimistic, but I think if a public referendum were held, as required to change the constitution, revision of Article 9 would not pass. If and when an actual draft revision is agreed upon, public awareness will rise even higher and opposition might well strengthen further.

When it comes to improving relations with the neighboring countries in Asia, there’s little hope that the Japanese government will bring this about. It really will depend on the efforts of ordinary citizens. If deeper understanding and mutual trust develops at the citizen level, it will be much harder for countries to go to war. One can even imagine this leading eventually to a grassroots campaign to declare Asia an aggression-free zone.


I share exactly the same sentiments, and do believe that that is possible. That impetus is appearing. When I speak with people of other Asian countries, I feel that we approaching the day when we will be able to share ownership Article 9. We need to spread this even further. The upcoming Global Article 9 Conference will be also meaningful in this regard.


There is still very little awareness of Article 9 around the world. I recently showed our film at a festival in Greece. University students were especially interested in the film. After the screening a young woman asked, “Why is it that Japan has this wonderful constitution and we haven’t heard anything about it?” The reason is that the Japanese government, far from advertising the pacifism of the constitution, tries to ignore it, if not conceal it.

Article 9 needs to be more widely known around the world. The conference next May will be a step in that direction. If the rest of the world begins to pay attention, the perception of Article 9 in Japan is likely to change as well.

Today, those nations that have renounced aggression and value peace represent “normal” nations. The US, using military force to resolve international problems, is the exception. Rather than taking its cue from the US, Japan can join with the countries of Asia and Europe and the Third World as a peace-loving “normal” nation.


Thank you.

* * * *

About the Authors:

SHINAGAWA Masaji is the most prominent member of the Japanese business community to be actively involved in the effort to preserve Article 9. He was born in 1924 and graduated from the University of Tokyo. Former president and chairman of Nipponkoa Insurance Co., he is a permanent governor of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Business Executives) and chairman of the International Development Center of Japan. Shinagawa is the author of 9-jô ga Tsukuru Datsu-America-gata Kokka: Zaikai Riidaa no Teigen (The De-Americanized State that Article 9 Can Create: The Advice of a Business Leader).

John Junkerman is an American documentary filmmaker, living in Tokyo. Born in 1952, he graduated from Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin. His films include the Academy Award-nominated Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima, about the atomic-bomb artists MARUKI Iri and Toshi, and Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times. Junkerman’s most recent film is Japan’s Peace Constitution, which is available in both Japanese and English.

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