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Monday, June 30, 2014

Majority of citizenry against PM unilateral "reinterpretation" of Japanese Peace Constitution


"Protest crowd so large that cars cannot pass at all. Shouts against war at PM Abe's office."

Ground view of rally in support of Japanese Peace Constitution.
(Via Keibo Shinichi Oiwa Tsuji on FB)

In despair over the PM's "reinterpretation" of the Japanese Peace Constitution, a middle-aged man set himself on fire yesterday in Shinjuku yesterday.  Protesting the same, over 10,000 rallied Monday evening past midnight in Tokyo today.

However, nothing, even the protests of 90% of its constituency has been able persuade New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party's coalition partner, from rubber-stamping the administration's unilateral move.  New Komeito, was founded in 1964 by the mass Buddhist organization, Soka Gakkai. Around 3.3 percent of the population backs New Komeito. The religiopolitical party's success stems its voting machine, fueled by the devotion of lay members throughout Japan.

Both New Komeito and Soka Gakkai profess pacifism. Over the past two decades, however, New Komeito's actions have served to undermine, instead of safeguarding the Japanese Peace Constitution's anti-war aims. Party leaders say they will try to make their constituents "understand" this latest.  But will the rank and file go along with New Komeito's combination blow to Article 9, which outlaws war, and Article 96, which governs the process of constitutional revision? 

Fueled by harsh memories of prewar capitulation to the militarist government, mainline Buddhist and other faith-based groups in Japan remain steadfast and united in their support of Article 9, the Peace Clause, which renounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." (This has been understood by the courts and all past governments of Japan to prohibit collective self-defense, or engagement in force, except for direct defense of Japan.)

A May 26 Asahi poll found that only 29 percent (around the percentage of voters represented by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe's political party) approve of Japan's taking up collective self defense.  Even less, only 18 percent, support the administration's improvised method of constitutional change.  The poll also found that 67 percent of Japanese voters consider the move for reinterpretation as "improper."

Concerned about their nation, high profile Japanese figures have increasingly spoken out on behalf of Article 9, the peace clause. On the eve of his birthday in December of last year, Emperor Akihito (tutored by an American Quaker during his youth) defended Article 9. Then, on the eve of his birthday in February of this year, Crown Prince Naruhito attributed Japan's peace and prosperity to the pacifist Constitution.

A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki are now demanding that explicit support for Article 9 to be included in this year's Peace Declaration, according to the Asahi last week.

Over the past few weeks, nearly 160 prefectural and local governments have condemned the "reinterpretation" of the Peace Clause, citing commitment to Article 9's anti-war aims and opposition to the extraconstitutional means used by the PM. These governments include Nagano and Gifu prefectures, the cities of Sapporo, Aomori, Naha, and Nago.

At this point, Japanese civil society groups and elected officials who honor accountability to their constituents must consider and initiate countervailing actions that will challenge this unprecedented executive overreach.

Background: 


"Abe hijacks democracy, undermines Constitution," Jeff Kingston, The Japan Times, June 21, 2014.



"Japan’s Article 9 and Economic Justice: The Work of Shinagawa Masaji," Komori Yoichi, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, June 9, 2014.




"Japan’s Constitution: never amended but all too often undermined," Colin P.A. Jones, The Japan Times, March 26, 2014.


"Mr. Abe’s constitutional runaround," The Japan Times, August 9, 2013.


"Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change," Lawrence Repeta, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 15, 2013.

"Inroads or Crossroads? The Soka Gakkai's Pacifist Endeavours in Japanese Foreign Policy,"
Timothy O. Benedict, Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Jan. 31, 2011. 

"The Global Article 9 Conference: Toward the Abolition of War," John Junkerman, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, May 25,  2008.

"The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas," Yoshikazu Sakamoto, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, November 10, 2005.

The Constitution of Japan: Pacifism, Popular Sovereignty, and Fundamental Human Rights," John M. Maki, Law and Contemporary Problems: Vol. 43: No. 1 (1990).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Andrew McConnell: "For Laos, the secret war goes on."


"6-year-old Kungian La lost his left eye after throwing a cluster bomb he found near his home." 
 "Land of the Bomb" photo series by Andrew McConnell

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the US secret war on Laos. Vietnam War era cluster bombs have transformed the once beautiful country into the most bombed place on earth.

Photojournalist Andrew McConnell documented the ongoing effects of the bombing on the people and children of Laos in his photo series, Land of the Bombin which he states, "For Laos the secret war goes on." 

Legacies of War, an advocacy group working to remove cluster bombs from Laos, details the enormity of the task:
From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance over Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years. The bombing was part of the U.S. Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civillians during the nine-year period.

Of the 260 million cluster bombs dropped, up to 30 percent of the cluster bombs dropped by the U.S. in Laos failed to detonate, leaving extensive contamination from unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the countryside. These “bombies,” as the Laotians now call them, have killed or maimed more than 34,000 people since the war’s end—and they continue to claim more innocent victims every day.
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More Background:  

Stop Explosive Investments: http://www.stopexplosiveinvestments.org/

"The Responsibility of Intellectuals Redux: Humanitarian Intervention and the Liberal Embrace of War in the Age of Clinton, Bush and Obama," Jeremy Kuzmarov, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, June 16, 2014

"Fact sheet: Cluster bombs," Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), July 30, 2013. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chie Mikami's The Targeted Village exposes Okinawan struggle for human rights, cultural & ecological preservation, democracy, & peace


In this 2013 interview (highlighted again this week at Magazine 9's website and Facebook page), film director Chie Mikami discusses The Targeted Village, a documentary she released last year. It follows the struggle of the residents of Takae, an eco-village in northern Okinawa, over the use of their prefecture for hazardous V-22 Osprey training.

Because of a media blackout—although the protests in Takae have continued since 2007 and related protests against Osprey aircraft in Ginowan City in 2012 were unprecedented—the major media did not cover them.  Mikami said one of the few reports was a 2-minute report on Asahi's evening news.

One reason for this is the Japanese government's pattern of discriminatory treatment towards Okinawa. The prefecture was not afforded the relative peace and democracy that the Japanese mainland enjoyed in the postwar period. From end of the Second World War to 1972, Okinawa was under US military rule, which routinely used force to violate human rights, property rights, and democratic process in Okinawa. Even after "reversion" to Japanese rule, when Okinawans expected their closure, the bases remained, and the pattern of violations of rights and democratic process continued.

Between 1954 and 1955, US military forced owners from homes and rice farms
 in the former village of Isahama, to make way for US military training base construction.
(Photo: Okinawan Prefectural Government)

Okinawan women protest US military seizure of their homes and land in Isahama (Ginowan) in July 1955.
(Photo: Okinawa Prefectural Government)

Futenma in Ginowan City was built on land the US military forcibly seized from farming villagers during the Battle of Okinawa, and Camp Schwab in Henoko was built on farms and coastal property forcibly acquired during the 1950's period of military base expansion known in Okinawa as "Bayonets and Bulldozers." These communities are among many throughout Okinawa which experienced the same pattern of violent land acquisition. The ongoing struggles in Takae, Ginowan City, and Henoko are not new "anti-base" protests, but instead part of the latest chapter in a seventy-year struggle for property rights, human rights, ecological and cultural preservation, democracy, and peace in the islands of Okinawa.

In Myth, Protest, and Struggle in Okinawa,  Miyume Tanji writes:
In July 1955, one of the US military's most brutal land seizures happened in Isahama [a rice farming village in the Ginowan district], in central Okinawa...Anticipating the forced acquisition of their hamlet, farmers had formed a landowners' committee, & prepared for resistance...thousand of supporters from all over the Island came to protect the farmers in Isahama from the US forces. Kobuka Kotara...who was supporting the Isahama farmers' struggle, recalls....

"At around 3 am, when most supporters of the resistance had gone home, there were only 200-300 hamlet residents left. Slowly, one after another, bulldozers with their headlights off and military trucks filled with armed soldiers entered the hamlet. Off the coast, I could hear the sound of pipelines being connected to a military vessel to drain in the sand and water taken from the ocean It was just like war. At dawn, all the supporters helplessly watched the paddy fields being destroyed by soldiers across barbed wires. Farmers were still inside the last 32 houses, but were finally dragged out at gunpoint. [All were injured during their removals.] The bulldozers went over and flattened the houses, timbers, and roof tiles of the houses were collected to be discarded in the ocean. Women were screaming at this sight, and I could not help my tears." [quoting Kotaro Kokubo in Moriteru Arasaki, 1995, 63-65]...

Victimization of Okinawan farmers & forceful acquisition of their land was combined with the physical violence inflicted on the locals personally...Violence directed towards the local populace by US military staff, especially rape, revealed the crudest & most brutal aspect of the power relations between the occupiers & the occupied...

US land acquisition in Isahama & Ie-jima & the rape [& murder of 6-year-old Yumiko Nagayama, followed a week later by the rape of another young child by US soldiers] resulted the humiliation of all Okinawans, leading to what Arasaki calls the first wave of the "Okinawa Struggle." ...These rallies became models for mass demonstrations in the community of protest of the future.
Until recently, this history was mostly hidden from non-Okinawans. However widespread popular opposition against US military expansion in Okinawa has increasingly garnered attention beyond the islands of Okinawa, among environmentalists, democracy, peace, faith-based advocates, and military veterans and their family members. In the process, disturbing revelations about past abuses by both the Japanese and US governments have become part of the public discourse on Okinawa. A young Okinawan-American, whose father was an American serviceman, explains her support for the Okinawa movement: "Enough is enough."

Protest Tent in Takae

Takae village is located in one of the most well-preserved tracts in Yanbaru, one of the last surviving subtropical rainforests in Asia.  Environmentalist NGOS worldwide have called for its preservation. The Center for Biological Diversity has highlighted the ongoing threat to the survival of the Okinawa Woodpecker.  The survival of the vlllage of Takae is also at risk. The US military use of Yanbaru for "jungle warfare" training has long been a public nuisance.  During the Vietnam War, villagers in Takae were made to don "Vietcong" dress for war games. Now, deforestation, new helipad construction, and low-level Osprey flight training has brought more concerns about stresses on the sensitive eco-region and the villagers' quiet lifestyle.

Mikami follows the Japanese government use of a SLAPP (Strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit to attempt to intimidate and silence residents from protesting against this destruction of more of Yanbaru and interference with their lives. Last week, the Supreme Court of Japan, often criticized for its politically motivated decisions, ruled against their appeal.

Long-time peace and democracy activist  Mrs. Etsumi Taira,
was forcibly removed from the September 2012 sit-in site at Futenma. 
Mrs. Taira is the wife of Reverend Osamu Taira, an early leader in the peace movement..
(Photo: Tomoyuki Toyozato)

Mikami also discusses the related 2012 struggle over Osprey aircraft training at Futenma air base Ginowan. The notorious base was built in the 1950's in the middle of a community of rice villages, in the middle of the night on forcibly seized private and community property - farms, houses, stores, and schools.  Traces of the demolished villages attest to this past: half-buried tombs stick out from under barbed wire fencelines.

Locals saw the forced deployment of the aircraft as a replay of "Bulldozers and Bayonets" forced military construction.  Many of those pushed out of their homes in the 1950's—then children, now grandparents—led the 2012 protests before they were forcibly removed from the sit-in site. They knew the dozen or so troop carrier aircraft were not sent to Okinawa for the "defense" for the Okinawan or Japanese people, but to justify expensive military contracts. And now they must defend themselves, ironically, from the accident-prone aircraft and training pilots themselves.

Chie Mikami (Photo: Magazine 9) 

The Target Village will be screened in August at Theater Pole-Pole in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo (http://www.mmjp.or.jp/pole2/).

Magazine 9, founded in 2005 to support Article 9, closely covers the Okinawan Movement and other issues related to the Japanese Peace Constitution.

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June 29 will mark the 7th anniversary of the Takae struggle. 

More Background:

"The Targeted Village - An Interview with Mikami Chie (Director): The Pretense of Justice: Okinawa’s Unneutral Struggle," Yamagata Int. Documentary Film Festival, 2013

WWF "No Helipads in Yanbaru Forest: http://www.wwf.or.jp/activities/lib/pdf/yanbaru0706e.pdf

Voice of Takae: http://nohelipadtakae.org/files/VOT-english2013Oct.pdf

Takae Blog: http://takae.ti-da.net/

"Film details anger of Okinawans against U.S. military bases," Kazuyo Nakamura, The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 1, 2013. 

"Film depicts Okinawans’ fight against Ospreys," Mika Kurokawa, The Japan Times, Sept. 13, 2013. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nature Conservation Society of Japan: Giant corals are doing great; plenty of evidence of dugongs at Henoko....

Dugong feeding trails in the Sea of Henoko. (Photo: Nature Conservation Society of Japan)

The Okinawa Times recently reported on a reef check conducted in Henoko Bay by the Nature Conservation Society of Japan. Mariko Abe of the Society confirms that some of the massive corals in the area are doing great.

She stresses that there is plenty of evidence of dugong grazing trails in the seagrass.

Giant corals in Henoko Sea's coral reef habitat 
(Photo: Okinawa Times)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Edenwalkers' Akiko Morita finds her purpose in a Kyoto garden: KyotoBloggers session June 18th

"I have a secret for you. Whatever you want to be, you CAN be...you [just] have to be ready right now. Not tomorrow, not later, but right now."- photographer Akiko Morita (right) 

Edenwakers' Akiko Morita shared her story at the June 18th Kyoto Bloggers event graciously hosted by Impact HUB Kyoto. In her previous life she worked as a sociologist at a British university, but decided to return to Japan after a 12 year absence after developing a pressing need to transmit knowledge of Japanese gardens throughout the world.

When she lived in the UK, she loved visiting English gardens and thought there was nothing better in the world. After a quick trip home, and an off-chance visit to a Japanese garden in Kyoto, her life completely changed.

"I was touched by the beauty of Japanese gardens, even though I really had no expectations about them. I was so moved that I decided I would return to Japan and dedicate myself to sharing their beauty with everyone."

Borrowing her friend's camera, and not really knowing how to operate it properly, she started taking her first photos of Japanese gardens in Kyoto. She explained that it was so obvious she was an amateur that professional photographers would come up to her trying to help her as she fumbled with the different camera settings. She eventually bought her own camera and ONE lens, and started reading up on photography. One book made something click in her mind. The author explained how professional photographers, when asked about photos for sale, would quickly be able to procure a list of their work, while amateurs always say "when I get better." She decided to embrace her passion and her new field, and BE a real photographer.

"I have a secret for you. Whatever you want to be, you CAN be...you [just] have to be ready right now. Not tomorrow, not later, but right now."

She also built her own website, Edenwalkers:

"I chose to use the metaphor for Eden for my site because when people encounter each other in gardens, they share smiles, start talking to each other even though they may have never met. They share love and a great and wonderful feeling- gardens are a place that makes anyone become open and free. Garden walkers are actually Eden walkers."

A year and half later, she proudly calls herself a professional photographer (Flickr photos here) and hopes to inspire people to BE who they want to BE. Next week she will be in Australia for a training workshop and then will be touring 90 spots around Japan taking photos on behalf of a client.

Lisa Allen (left) listens attentively to Akiko Morita's (center) story of personal transformation 

Morita was joined by other Kyoto-based bloggers at the event who spoke about their own blogs and projects. Global Communications Coordinator Lisa Yamashita Allen (photography log) introduced the Kyoto Impact Hub emphasising how community has kept the creative energy of the space alive.

Hugo Kempeneer of Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips (http://www.kyotodreamtrips.com/ ) spoke of his yearning to discover and detail locations very much off the beaten path.

Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor elaborated on their newest publication, Deep Kyoto: Walks, and the process of developing the compilation of meditative walks (occasionally hikes, occasionally pub crawls) around Kyoto. The e-book, perfect for carrying around on your smart phone while taking an introspective walk, is available here. Ted gave a reading from "Across Purple Fields," one of the introspective walks in the book. To read the segment yourself, check out the Deep Kyoto page, or watch a video of the reading itself!


And finally- big props to the caterer, Wakako, from Obento Waka for the delicious and healthy vegetarian dinner!

- Written by Jen Teeter

Sunday, June 15, 2014

1,760,000 supporters of the Japanese Peace Constitution ask PM not to change Article 9

June 12, 2014 meeting in support of the Japanese Peace Constitution. (Photo and Story: NHK

The Peace Clause of the Japanese Constitution, Article 9, renounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." This has been understood by the courts and all past governments of Japan to prohibit collective self-defense, or engagement in force, except for direct defense of Japan.

On June 12, Japanese Peace Constitution supporters gathered in Tokyo to proclaim their support of Article 9 and opposition to "collective self defense."  Organizers, which included Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, presented the signatures of 1,760,000 people to the prime minister and after the meeting, they marched to his official residence, and called on him not to change  the Constitution.

Just two days before, the Article 9 Association commemorated its tenth anniversary on June 10th, in Tokyo.  Since its formation, the group has generated more than 7,500 local Article 9 chapters across Japan.

The nine Japanese authors, scholars, and dignitaries who launched the Article 9 Association on June 10, 2004 included author Oe, constitutional scholar Yasuhiro Okudaira, philosopher Shunsuke Tsurumi, and writer Hisae Sawachi.  Four of these luminaries of Japan's prosperous postwar period are deceased: critic Shuichi Kato (1919-2008), peace activist and writer Makoto Oda (1932-2007) and Mutsuko Miki (1917-2012), widow of former Prime Minister Takeo Miki.

Kenzaburo Oe lecture at the June 10, 2014 anniversary gathering. 
(Photo: Takashi Togo, via Asahiwhich is providing outstanding reportage on Article 9)

The inaugural members formed the association in response to former PM Koizumi's deployment of Japanese SDF troops to Iraq and Kuwait after Washington's request for Japanese "boots on the ground" during its invasion of Iraq. Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has not been responsible for death of a single person in war. The Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) engaged in "non-combat" support in Iraq and Kuwait from 2004 to 2008. On April 17, 2008, Nagoya High Court made a (non-binding) ruling that Koizumi's dispatch of troops to Iraq was unconstitutional.

(Photo of Article 9 Association lecture at Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo, 2005, via APJ)

In addition, Koizumi initiated an attempted revision of Article 9, the Peace Clause of the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits Japan from possessing military power other than than what is necessary to defend the nation from attack.  The former PM wanted to change the JSDF from a solely defensive force into a regular army which would be dispatched to support foreign wars, under the auspices of "collective defense," without constraint.

However, his efforts failed, and now PM Abe has picked up this baton.  In 2013, his administration attempted to amend Article 96 (that stipulates procedures for constitutional revisions) and proceed to revise Article 9 under accepted constitutional procedure.  Article 96 requires approval of two-thirds of the Diet; the Abe administration proposed revising it to lower the required votes to a simple majority in both houses to secure the call for a constitutional referendum. This effort failed.

At present the LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito, has enough votes in the lower house but only 55 percent of the upper house, not enough to call a referendum under Article 96 which requires approval of two-thirds of the Diet.  Even if the administration did, the consensus of analysts is that a referendum would fail.

Therefore the administration is trying to push through a "reinterpretation" of Article 9 by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which conventionally provides oversight on bills, orders and treaties and provides legal opinions to the PM.  In the past, LDP governments, advised by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, have asserted that "collective self defense" exceeds the "no-war" limits of Article 9, therefore, Japan cannot engage in collective self defense.  Not only does the current administration's "reinterpretation" fall outside of the range of possible reasonable interpretations of Article 9, to the point of violating both the spirit and the letter of the no-war cause, such a move would set a precedent for the executive branch to bypass the deliberative participatory process of amending the constitution that requires approval by Japanese citizens in a special referendum under Article 96.

For many advocates of democratic process and rule of law, the central issue is not the (albeit critical) debate over whether Article 9 should be amended to allow "collective defense," but instead the attempt by Japan's executive branch to bypass these constitutionally mandated procedures to change the constitution unilaterally.

The two political parties in control of the government, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and New Komeito (which is affiliated with Soka Gakkai, a mass Buddhist organization),  do not represent a majority of the Japanese citizenry.  According to Shingetsu News (yesterday), 27.2 percent of the country support the LDP and 3.3 percent back New Komeito. That's a total of only 30.5 percent of the population.

An Asahi poll found that only 29 percent (around the percentage of voters that support the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe's political party) approve of Japan's taking up collective self defense. But even less, only 18 percent, support the administration's improvised method of constitutional change.  The poll also found that 67 percent of Japanese voters consider the move for reinterpretation as "improper."

Moreover, as with internal dissent in 2004 over sending JSDF to Iraq, the LDP in 2014 does not unanimously back PM Abe's call for constitutional reinterpretation. Former LDP Secretary-General Koga Makoto, who lost his father to the Pacific War, has publicly criticized this plan. Similarly to several Nobel Peace laureates, Koga considers Article 9 a "world heritage."

Concerned about their nation, high profile Japanese figures are increasingly speaking out on behalf of Article 9, the peace clause. On the eve of his birthday in December of last year, Emperor Akihito (tutored by an American Quaker during his youth) defended Article 9. Then, on the eve of his birthday in February of this year, Crown Prince Naruhito attributed Japan's peace and prosperity to the pacifist Constitution.

A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki are now demanding that explicit support for Article 9 to be included in this year's Peace Declaration, according to the Asahi this morning.

Those familiar with Japanese history know that this latest chapter of a cultural and political conflict between Japanese militarists and pacifists has numerous antecedents going back to the prewar and the early postwar period. Kijuro Shidehara, an advocate of pacifism in Japan before and after the war, helped prepare the Kellogg-Briand Pact (General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy) of 1928, of which Japan was a signatory (prewar and wartime militarists ignored the treaty). And, as Japan's second postwar prime minister, Shidehara conferred with the US Occupation, especially General MacArthur, as the postwar constitution was drafted.  (MacArthur attributed Article 9 to Shidehara, although some scholars dispute this.)

Since its promulgation in 1946, Article 9 has been frequently undermined, but the Japanese people have repeatedly rebuffed attempts at constitutional revision. For this, the Peace Clause has ensured that they have not been "visited with the horror of war through the action of government" for seventy years. The late scholar John M. Maki asserted that pacifism, popular sovereignty, and the guarantee of fundamental human rights are foundation of the Japanese constitutional system, and that the "people of Japan made the Constitution their own, and thus carried to completion one of the most successful and significant political transformations of the twentieth century."

At this point, Japanese civil society groups and elected officials who honor accountability to their constituents must consider and initiate countervailing actions that will challenge the executive branch's unprecedented unconstitutional overreach.




(This post is an expanded version of a tribute to the Article 9 Association posted June 10.)

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More Info:


"LDP’s Gifu chapter blasts Abe’s rush to reinterpret Constitution," Asahi, June 16, 2014.

Komori Yoichi, "Japan’s Article 9 and Economic Justice: The Work of Shinagawa Masaji" by , (Intro by Norma Field), published this week at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus:  
On June 10, 2014, the Article 9 Association marks its tenth anniversary, more than ever embattled and determined. As illustrated by Alexis Dudden’s recent article on this site, “The Nomination of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution for a Nobel Peace Prize,” business people figure in the broad swath of “Japanese people who conserve Article 9” recognized as worthy of consideration for the Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Shinagawa Masaji, the subject of this memorial tribute by prominent modern literature scholar and executive secretary of the Article 9 Association Komori Yoichi, was surely the dean of progressive financial leaders of the postwar era...
"A Nobel Peace Prize nomination (with Henoko connection) for the Japanese and Okinawan people who support Article 9, the Japanese Constitution's Peace Clause, " TTT, April 24, 2014.

Shunsuke Hirose, "Shinzo Abe’s Biggest Enemy: the LDP: Internal party discord shows the narrative of Japan’s rightward shift under Abe is not as simple as it might appear," The Diplomat, April 14, 2014.

Mizuho Fukushima (SDP) and Taro Yamamoto (Independent): "Opposition lawmakers state their case against the administration's plan (Exercise of Collective Self Defense)," Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan YouTube Channel, March 27, 2014.

Colin P.A. Jones, "Japan’s Constitution: never amended but all too often undermined," The Japan Times, March 26, 2014.

"Kenzaburo Oe, Jakucho Setouchi, Masahide Ota found “1000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering wars" (Rally @Hibiya Park, March 20, 2014)," TTT, March 18, 2014.

"Mr. Abe’s constitutional runaround," The Japan Times, August 9, 2013.

"Makoto Koga: Election win not mandate for constitutional revision," The Asahi, July 22, 2013.

Lawrence Repeta, "Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change,The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 15, 2013.

John Junkerman, "The Global Article 9 Conference: Toward the Abolition of War," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, May 25,  2008.

Yoshikazu Sakamoto, "The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, November 10, 2005.

John M. Maki, The Constitution of Japan: Pacifism, Popular Sovereignty, and Fundamental Human Rights," Law and Contemporary Problems: Vol. 43: No. 1 (1990).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Jordan Sand: "Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects" - Author's Lecture at Sophia Univ, June 9, 2014



Today at 6: 30 p.m.. cultural historian Jordan Sand will give a public talk at Sophia University (Bldg. 10, Room 301) on his new book, Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects.

A must-read for anyone who lives in or is interested in Tokyo, Temple University historian Jeff Kingston's review at the LA Review of Books is a great synopsis/commentary:
TOKYO IS HOT these days, and not only because it has cutting-edge design, fashion, and more Michelin stars than anywhere else on the planet...Alas, it is also about 160 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant where there were three meltdowns in March 2011. There are still 100,000 nuclear refugees who have fled the adjacent hot zones, and it appears that many will never be able to return to their ancestral homes.

In his excellent new book, Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects, Jordan Sand, a Georgetown University professor of Japanese history and culture, draws our attention away from the headline hype to reveal what Tokyo and some of its denizens are really up to and what they care about. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, Sand slips us under the skin of this megalopolis and helps us understand how it has been evolving, focusing on the battles and passions that have animated neighborhoods, activists, and artists...

Controversy has clouded the euphoria that followed the winning bid for the 2020 games, as about 90 percent of Japanese don’t believe Abe’s reassurances to the International Olympic Committee that the problems at Fukushima are under control...

Tokyo’s Olympic slogan is “Discover Tomorrow,” a motto meant to convey an upbeat message about recovery from the 3/11 disasters and signaling that the story of Japan’s decline has been exaggerated, given bright prospects for its cutting-edge technologies and industries. But when Tokyo got the nod, NHK television showed images of what the snazzy Olympic athlete’s village will look like, then jumped to an interview with some displaced Fukushima residents forced to live in shabby temporary housing due to the reactor meltdowns. Unsurprisingly, they expressed envy and resentment while raising concerns about the diversion of resources and construction crews to Tokyo...

The extensive 1964 Olympic demolition and rebuilding was the third ravaging of the city during the 20th century, following the 1923 earthquake and the March 1945 firebombing that leveled vast swathes of eastern Tokyo. A fourth maelstrom hit with fin de siècle urban renewal, as the erection of shiny high-rises and tony shopping complexes transformed large areas of the formerly distinctive cityscape, making parts of Tokyo look like any city anywhere. The demolished low-rise, low-density neighborhoods of single-family homes and mom-and-pop shops might have been a bit dilapidated, but they exuded a coziness and sense of community that has been erased. Sand helps us understand what has been lost, as intimate exchanges of neighbors have given way to impersonal market exchanges...

Since so many people lost friends and family in the 1945 firebombing by the United States, it is one of the most retold stories in oral histories, with accounts of spectacular flames and the apocalyptic aftermath of a city reduced to ashes and panoramic vistas over smoldering ruins. But outside of Japan this is one of the forgotten horrors of WWII...

The battles over public spaces continue into the 21st century, especially in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster...

Although much of this narrative dwells on loss and retreat, Sand closes on a rousing note:
Yet time plows forward, burying histories and throwing up new ruins in its wake. New groups of people will gather around surviving places and things, making them tell new stories of loss and redemption, and creating new societies of friends.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sarah Bird & Steve Rabson: "Above the East China Sea: Okinawa During the Battle and Today"

Sarah Bird's novel about the Battle of Okinawa and the US military occupation of the prefecture
 was released May 27, 2014.  (Image: Knopf)

Beautiful book excerpt and stunning conversation, "Above the East China Sea: Okinawa During the Battle and Today," between novelist Sarah Bird and Okinawan literature scholar Steve Rabson at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

In 2009, Parker Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, and founder of Center for Courage and Renewal, told Bill Moyers that Americans have been going through a period of collective disillusionment and heartbreak, facing historical and contemporary realities: "...the notion that we always get it right, my country, right or wrong — that somehow America is the noblest nation in the world, these are things that I've for a long time, been unable to believe." This painful collective awakening has been a long time coming.

Bird lived in Okinawa with her career Air Force parents, and Rabson was stationed, as an Army draftee, in Okinawa; both during the late 60's. Bird’s novel, Above the East China Sea, "engages the themes of suicide and death from the Battle of Okinawa to the present, interweaving the fate of Okinawans and American occupying forces." Rabson, a Brown University professor emeritus, became a leading translator of Okinawan literature after his military sojourn there. Their descriptions of their political awakenings resonate with those of us who have experienced similar shocks and awakenings about what the American (and Japanese) governments have done in Okinawa.

In a commentary for The New York Times, "A Military Brat on Okinawa," Bird describes her bond with Hana-san, her family's Okinawan housemaid, now passed on, but whose presence is infused in the compassionate sensibility that informs the Texan author's luminous novel:
Okinawans like Hana-san have paid, too much and too long, for a war they had no part in starting. During the 82 days of the Battle of Okinawa, Hana saw her homeland turned into a wasteland of decomposing corpses and mud, then watched as it was permanently occupied by the invaders. She long ago joined her ancestors, but we still have an unfulfilled obligation to her and to her descendants...
Bird and Rabson speak for many Americans (and Japanese), in their wish that their governments do the right thing, for once, for Okinawans:
 Sarah: My learning curve about the Ryukyu Islands was marked by a series of shocks as I wondered, “How did I not know that more people—mainly Okinawans and Japanese, but also the largest number of Americans in any battle in the Pacific War, as well as Koreans, Taiwanese and others—had died during the invasion than were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined?”
“How was I not aware of the profoundly exploitative nature of our relationship with the islands and their people?” Steve, at what point did you come to appreciate these disturbing political ramifications?

Steve: As soon as I arrived in Henoko, I could see the enormous economic gap between Americans and Okinawans, and sensed the American military’s condescending attitude toward the local people. Later I learned that many of those who worked on the bases or as bar hostesses and prostitutes in the vils’ were from farming families whose land had been forcibly seized by the U.S. military for base construction in the early to mid-various 1950s...

The late 1960s was the peak of the movement for Okinawa’s reversion to Japan where people lived under a civilian constitution and enjoyed prosperity in contrast to Third World conditions in Okinawa under American military rule. The daily protest rallies, marches, and sit-ins reminded me very much of the civil rights movement in the U.S... A Ryukyu University student told me “we have nothing against Americans personally, but are tired of the Pentagon running our island."

...We also know today that the Japanese high command viewed Okinawa as a “throwaway pawn” in their wartime strategy. Recognizing that their forces would be destroyed by the Americans, the Japanese sought to inflict heavy casualties on the Americans and buy time for the battle on the Japanese mainland that they expected to follow. We now know that the Battle of Okinawa, the devastating fire-bombings of Japanese cities, and the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never have happened if Emperor Hirohito had followed civilian advice to end the war in January, 1945...
Steve Rabson, Henoko, 1968 (Photo: APJ:Japan Focus)

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More about Okinawa this week at APJ: Okinawa Facing a Hot Summer:  Introduction and Four Texts translated from Japanese" by Gavan McCormack. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

“Banzai!” The Compulsory Mass Suicide of Kerama Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa: Kinjo Shigeaki interviewed by Michael Bradley


Reverend Kinjo Shigeaki ("Level Five,"1997)

Chris Marker fans will recognize the name of Reverend Kinjo Shigeaki, who was featured in the late French filmmaker's Level Five, about the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa. As in the 1997 film, the Baptist minister describes how the Japanese government forced Okinawans to commit suicide and kill family members in this new APJ interview,"'Banzai!' The Compulsory Mass Suicide of Kerama Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa," by Michael Bradley:
We were to call out Banzai (Long Life!) to the emperor three times. We knew that this was what Japanese soldiers did when they were going to die on the battlefield. The village head didn’t exactly tell us to commit suicide, but by telling us to shout Banzai, we knew what was meant.

Soldiers distributed grenades among us...There weren’t enough grenades to go around because there were so many of us. Actually, my family didn’t get one. Anyway, once the grenades were given out, that was taken as a sign and the killing began immediately. The grenades were detonated, but there were few of them, so most people survived the blasts. Then people began to use clubs or scythes on each other – various things were used.

It was the father’s role to kill his own family, but my father had already died. I was only 16 years and one month old, high school age. (Although, I wasn’t in high school.) My older brother and I didn’t discuss how we would do it, but we both knew we had been ordered to kill ourselves and our family...

It’s a mystery to me why I was kept alive during the war. At that time, life was treated as something insignificant. People killed each other so easily. Part of the reason we had been prepared to kill our own families was because of the nationalistic education we’d received. We were taught that Americans were not human, that they were our enemy and had to be killed.

The Japanese government should now face up to their history – their previous emphasis in education was on killing and suicide and they have never properly acknowledged that. They should admit that the Imperial army slaughtered people in China and other Asian countries. Also, they should be making efforts now to get along with China and their other neighbors, and not to cooperate only with the Americans.
 Reverend Kinjo Shigeaki (2014) 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

W. Eugene Smith: "I wanted my pictures to carry some message against the greed, the stupidity and the intolerances that cause these wars."

Battle of Okinawa, April-June 1945
US flame throwers used to dislodge Japanese soldiers from bunkers.  
The same flame throwers were used on Okinawan civilians hiding in caves.


Battle of Okinawa, April-June 1945
Wounded Soldier Praying


Battle of Saipan, June-July 1944
Father and Child



Orote Peninsula, Guam, 1944
American soldiers struggling to save the life of a wounded dog
I wanted my pictures to carry some message against the greed, the stupidity and the intolerances that cause these wars.

…and each time I pressed the shutter release it was a shouted condemnation hurled with the hope that the picture might survive through the years, with the hope that they might echo through the minds of men in the future – causing them caution and remembrance and realization.

- W. Eugene Smith
W. Eugene Smith, a war photographer for Life Magazine, was injured by mortar fire during the Battle of Okinawa, after photographing the suffering of soldiers, civilians, and animals during battles in Saipan, Guam, and Iwo Jima.

Smith is also renowned for his early 1970's documentary photography of Minamata residents, who were poisoned by mercury discharged from 1932 to 1968 by the Chisso Corporation into Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea in Kyushu. (Writer Sam Stephenson describes a return to Smith's Minamata at the Paris Review: "Letter from Japan.")

Smith's widow, Eileen Mioko Smith, is director of Green Action, a Kyoto-based nuclear-free advocacy organization.