“Article Nine is now becoming dangerous to Japan because it hampers collective defense with its allies. North Korea’s nuclear weapons threaten Tokyo and the world, and China is expanding its military reach. Japan needs a military with offensive capabilities that can take part in joint military action when Japan isn’t directly under attack.” (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 8, 2017)

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 Do we really have to change the constitution? Japan is now facing the really important turning point of its history under the Abe’s administration. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a gamble when he called early elections in 2017. After, his party and coalition partner won more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament. He the win is a vote of confidence from the public – one he sees as a green light to change Japan’s pacifist constitution. Abe is particularly keen on the move given the threat posed by nearby North Korea. But what would a stronger Japanese military mean for the region?

 To look at this phenomenon through the glass of International relations Theory, I’d say Japan is now walking towards more realistic point of view. Under the threat of North Korea, and the rise of China, we Japanese citizens are slowly understanding the power transition of the world. Plus, as in the Wall Street Journal article says, and under the presidency of Trump, the U.S. is basically pushing Japan to change its constitution again. We could say, if Japan would actually change the constitution in near future, that would be the second time changing the constitution somehow by the intension of the “foreign actor” United States.

 Therefore, I’m going to apply political realism to this phenomenon, Japan’s constitution amendment movement and its Abe’s attempt. And I set one more important question here, Is the Japanese constitution really a “pacifist” constitution.



The Constitution

 The current Constitution of Japan was promulgated on November 3, 1946, and came into effect on May 3, 1947.  One of the Constitution’s distinctive features is its embrace of pacifism.  Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war, is considered unique.  Japan is allowed Jieitai, the Self Defense Forces (SDF):  the Air SDF, the Maritime SDF, and the Ground SDF.  They cannot be called land, sea and air forces (gun) because article 9 prohibits Japan from maintaining military forces. 

 However, the SDF were named, many have believed the SDF is military and the existence of the SDF is unconstitutional.  Of course, the government has interpreted the Constitution in a manner in which the SDF would not be unconstitutional. The government has developed a somewhat unique interpretation of article 9 and its related rules in order to legalize the existence of the SDF, and has also put limitations on the SDF in the spirit of article 9.  As the government’s interpretation of article 9 has developed further, many think the interpretation has begun to deviate too much from article 9’s language.  The government interpretation has emerged at a time that the United States has demanded more cooperation from Japan in maintaining Japan’s military security. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been the ruling party for most of the era after the Second World War, has discussed amending the Constitution, especially article 9, but resistance has been strong.  It once looked impossible to amend article 9 because the majority of Japanese people would not support the amendment.  However, global political and security issues impacting Japan have changed as I mentioned above, as have the viewpoints of the Japanese people.  Recently, there are realistic opportunities to amend article 9. (liberty of congress: Sep 29,2015)



Who’s the proposer?

 In the process of reading articles about article 9 and amendment movement to it, I actually encountered some really interesting hypothesises that mainly being argued by Japanese scholars. There is the big question “Who’s actually the proposer of article 9”. I personally believe that Shidehara Kichijiro the Prime Minister at the time was the proposer of article 9.

Shidehara Kijuro (1872-1951) was an important figure in Japan’s modern history as a

diplomat, bureaucrat, and politician. Shidehara was envoy to the Hague in 1914, ambassador to Washington between 1919 and 1922, minister for foreign affairs between 1924-1927 and 1929-1931, and Japan’s first postwar prime minister under the occupation (1945-1946) and instrumental in introducing in Japan’s postwar constitution Article 9, dealing with the abolition of war. (Erik Paul)

  Here’s the two theories that have mainly argued. The first one is that it came from Douglas MacArthur, and the second is that it came from then prime minister Kijyuro Shidehara. And about the MacArthur theory, both MacArthur and the United States were concerned about the rearmament of Japan, so in order to avoid that, they included the clause of pacifism in the Constitution. The article of renunciation of war, stated in MacArthur’s three principles (also known as MacArthur Note), is as follows:

 War as a sovereign right of the nation is abolished. Japan renounces it as an instrumentality for settling its disputes and even for preserving its own security. It relies upon the higher ideals which are now stirring the world for its defense and its protection. No Japanese army, navy, or air force will ever be authorized and no rights of belligerency will ever be conferred upon any Japanese force.

 However, on the side of the Shidehara theory, Prime Minister Shidehara visited MacArthur on January 24, just before the announcement of MacArthur’s three principles, and Michiko Hamuro, the daughter of Ohira, heard from her father what Shidehara talked about with Komatsuchi Odaira, the Privy Councilor, and regarding this conference, she wrote:

 Shidehara said that starting from the idealistic position that the world should not maintain any military, to make a society without war we should renounce war itself. Then, MacArthur suddenly stood up, and grasped Shidehara’s hand with both hands, and, full of tears, he said, that is right. Shidehara was a little surprised by this. MacArthur seemed to think about doing something good for Japan as much as possible, but some parts of the U.S. government, some members of GHQ, and also the Far East committee began an argument that had a tremendous disadvantage for Japan. Countries such as the Soviet Union, Holland, and Australia feared the institution of the Emperor itself. Therefore, they insisted that to abolish emperor system, the Emperor needed to be judged as a war criminal. MacArthur seems to have been troubled about this very much. Therefore, MacArthur thought that the idealism of Shidehara, the announcement of renunciation of war, need to be done as soon as possible, and show that Japanese people do not cause war in the world and get trusts of foreign countries, and clearly define that Emperor is a symbol of Japan in the constitution, so we can start to keep Emperor system without the interference of various countries. Both of them agreed that there is no other method to keep Emperor System in Japan, so Shidehara made up his mind to accept this draft. In addition, MacArthur tells in his autobiography Reminiscences (1964) that the article of war renunciation was suggested by Shidehara, supporting the opinion that Article 9 was proposed by Prime Minister Shidehara. However, Shigeru Yoshida, who became the prime minister after Shidehara, denied this theory in the book The Yoshida Memoirs (1957), and mentioned that General MacArthur had declared his intentions earlier than Shidehara. (Shinya Watanabe)

 Guy Almog, from University of Haifa Department of Asian Studies, argues “The most influential figure in the process of creating the new Japanese constitution was undoubtedly General Douglas MacArthur, who was appointed by President Truman as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). It is reasonable to begin this discussion with MacArthur, who was not only the most influential among the figures involved in the creation of the constitution, but also the one who ultimately had the final say in this matter as in others.” However, quite surprisingly, according to MacArthur’s 1964 memoirs, the idea of Article 9 was actually proposed to him before the release of his famous three notes (the so called “MacArthur Notes”)16 by Prime Minister Shidehara Kij?r? on January 24:

Shidehara then proposed that when the new constitution became final that it include the so-called no-war clause. He also wanted it to prohibit any military establishment for Japan—any military establishment whatsoever. Two things would thus be accomplished. The old military party would be deprived of any instrument through which they could someday seize power, and the rest of the world would know that Japan was never intended to wage war again. He added that Japan was a poor country and could not really afford to pour money into armaments anyway. Whatever resources the nation had left should go to bolstering the economy. (MacArthur, 1965) (Guy Almog, 2014)


Is it really a “Pacifist” constitution?

 As Guy Almog argues s in his article, assuming Shidehara had indeed promoted this line of thought, there was nothing “pacifist” about it, as the reasons he voiced to MacArthur did not derive from a moral attitude that deems the participation in any war as impermissible. The reasons he presented were much more a matter of preference and practicality. Japan should ban “any military establishment whatsoever” not because it was inherently immoral, but because this action would satisfy the other nations, and at the same time prevent the former militarist leaders who had led Japan to disaster from regaining strength. In addition, Japan could not afford the creation of new armaments given its wretched postwar economic condition in which 64 cities were destroyed by fire bombing and two by nuclear bombs.

Thus, if these were the reasons behind Shidehara’s proposal, we can safely determine that he was not truly a “pacifist”, but rather a very practical person. This practicality can be seen in an interview made years later with Shidehara’s son, Michitar?, who stressed that the point of his father’s suggestion to MacArthur was a “universal disarmament” but certainly not a “unilateral disarmament,” since he did not dwell in “illusory idealism” (McNelly, 2000). Indeed, who would not desire an eventual “universal disarmament”? The road to this dream, however, seems very different in the eyes of the pacifist and the just war theorist. Pacifism demands “unilateral disarmament” regardless of other nations’ actions, since it totally forbids any participation in war (and without arms, one cannot participate in a war). Although JWT strives to eventual peace, it does not support such notions. (Guy Almog, 2014)

 As above, we can tell Shidehara himself was a realist and really a practical person. He considered the world situation at the time and with all the realistic way of analsis to the world, he finally reached his ultimate answer “article 9, the abolition of war”.


Was Macarthur a pacifist?

 We can even look at Macarthur ‘s retirement speech. As follows:

“I have constantly called for the new political decisions essential to a solution. Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said in effect that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me–and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. Indeed, the Second Day of September, 1945, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows: “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be ‘by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out, this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all the material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh. ” But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there can be no substitute for victory.” (Douglas Macarthur,1951)

 He pretty much predicted everything in his retirement speech, just like he knew what’s going to happen for the next 70 years, By his speech, we can tell that Macarthur was also person who was having realistic point of view.

 As for MacArthur, calling him a “pacifist” would be utterly grotesque. He was an active and experienced general who had participated in his fair share of wars, which he believed to be necessary and moral. MacArthur of course subsequently commanded the United States’ troops in the Korean War until his dismissal from command by President Truman (due to several pugnacious public statements regarding China). In addition, MacArthur ordered (or “allowed”) the creation of the Japanese NPR (National Police Reserve), which later became the JSDF (Japan Self Defense Force). (Guy Almog, 2014)


 Once I remember, my grandfather told me how important the article 9 could be, not only for Japanese people but also for our human society. My grandfather has been served as a member of Japanese military in Manchuria (??).  Since when he was still 18 years old, around 1940 to 1945. He spent all his youth in there Manchuria, as an army, and he told me that article 9 is the crystal of blood, tears and sweats of Japanese citizens and all the victims of the war around the world. And now, Abe is claiming that he’s going revise the constitution by 2020. He says, it is because the constitution, article 9, is not realistic enough and old fashion, it doesn’t fit the time we’re living right now. And it’s the same logic for the many pro-amendment advocates.

 However, what if the constitution has made already in a super realistic way? Shidehara has even said this article 9 is truly a far-seeing article. And as I mentioned above, both Shidehara and Macarthur could be the realist. Then, how could article 9 be an “antique” “idealistic” “pacifistic” constitution that has imposed by the US?

 I see article 9 as actually a super “modern” and “realistic” constitution that is truly far-seeing and going way ahead of us and the world situation right now. Shidehara and Macarthur GHQ have created article 9, because they truly believed that abolition of war is the only realistic way to achieve peace in this world with nuclear weapons. Shidehara mentioned this in an interview held in 1964. He claimed the only realistic way to achieve peace and balance the world is that one nation totally give up on military power and completely abolish any war. And start to build international cooperation with the other nations. When we have debates about the constitution, there are people often say that “The Japanese constitution has imposed by the U.S.”. But if, Shidehara was actually the proposer of the article, which I’m assuming so with all the evidences, then this argument would be nonsense.

 Therefore, the current article 9, I understand it as a pretty appropriate constitution for both Japan and International society. As a reality, Japan haven’t had war for the last 70years since the end of WW2. That is, as it is mentioned in the constitution, we accomplish the sentence “Japanese people forever renounce war” so far. But if, we revise the article and reform the SDF to an offensive military, the future would be different. The realistic path Japan is walking on now, we need to reconsider it if it’s really a “realistic” decision. Yuki Watai from University of Warwick, mentioned in his article. “Although much depends on the domestic political situations, Japan’ security policy will be further expanded and enlarged through future constitutional reinterpretation or possibly the revision – making Japan lean towards more of a neo-realist type of behavior. If this happens, the period of the post-cold war and the time of revising the constitutions will be characterized as ‘a slow, yet fundamental transformation into a normal country’ with the possibility of escalated tensions in the Asia-Pacific – the second Cold War.”  (Yuki Watai)

 Shidehara, I believe, at the time he already knew that having “power” against “power” wouldn’t be a realistic strategy anymore, he knew that article 9, abolition of war and international cooperation can be the next “power” to balance this anarchy filled with nuclear weapon. Abe’s attempt and the US’s push of this amendment movement on article 9, seems like it is happing in a really bad and radical way, not as like after WW2 when Shidehara and Macarthur had the agreement. It is also because of article 9, It has been prevented japan from any war. Once, Ishibashi Tanzan the 55th Prime Minister of Japan said, “To keep Japan’s independence and safety, if it comes to consuming the national strength of expansion of armaments, not only can you not fulfill national defense, but destroy the country”

In article 9, I see there’s this very important evidence and hope that international cooperation will be the next “realistic” power in international relations.


?Douglas Macarthur(1951)

?Erik Paul  

Japan in the World: Shidehara Kijuro, Pacifism, and the Abolition of War: A book review by Dr. Erik Paul

?Guy Almog (2014)


?Klaus Schlichtmann (2009)

Japan in the World: Shidehara Kijuro, Pacifism, and the Abolition of War

?Liberty of congress (Sep 29,2015)

?Nelly, Theodore (2000)

The Origins of Japan’s Democratic Constitution. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.

? Sharon H. Nolte (1987)

Liberalism in Modern Japan: Ishibashi Tanzan and His Teachers, 1905-1960


?Shinya Watanabe

The Breakaway from the Century of War - Article 9 as the Overcoming of European Modernism


?Yuki Watai

?Yusuke Suzumura

Logical Structure of Ishibashi Tanzan’s “S