In this book, I have hurriedly covered the 70 years after World War II, starting from the present and then looking back in time. Now, it seems that we have circled back to where we started from, in the present. Today, I feel that Japan has been trying to go back to being a collectivist state like it was before the war, ever since the self-destructive dissolution of the lower house by DPJ’s former Prime Minister Noda and the birth of the Abe administration.
I’m repeating myself here, but ultimately the deciding factor in blocking the government from going out of control, preventing war, and protecting human rights is the Constitution. But then, how can we change the current Constitution?
Now, imagine that you’ve been transported back in time. You’re standing in the burnt ruins of Tokyo right after the defeat in the war. You’ve been entrusted with a crucial job — drafting the Constitution for Japan, a country that is just about to be reborn. Where would you start?
Seventy years ago, Milo Rowell, a GHQ official who was then 42 years old, was in that exact position. Rowell, who had been in charge of legal issues in the Government Section at the time, had actually been educated and trained specially by the U.S. military to become a specialist in the Japanese Constitution and political system.
In November 1945, three months before the GHQ drafted the Constitution of Japan, Rowell was ordered to analyse the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (Meiji Constitution), as a preliminary step. This was the topic: “Why did it become possible for the Japanese military to take over national politics before and during World War II? Analyse its causes by focusing on the flaws of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan.” A month later, on December 6, he submitted a report to the GHQ, Report of Preliminary Studies and Recommendations of Japanese Constitution. (Process of Establishment of Japanese Constitution, Volume 1)
The result went as follows:
An analysis of the actual operation of government discloses many abuses of authority which permitted militarists to obtain control of the government and subvert it to their ends during the past two decades. …
Certain of the abuses which need control if democratic tendencies are to flourish are:
– Lack of effective rights of individual citizens.
– Extra constitutional bodies having access to the Emperor which are not responsible to the will of the people.
– Control of the courts by the procurator as the representative of the Emperor’s will rather than the judge holding such position.
– Lack of control of all functions of government by a constitution.
– A government not responsible to the will of the people.
– Exercise of legislative functions by the executive branch. …”
(Report of Preliminary Studies and Recommendations of Japanese Constitution)
What a surprise it is. Rowell at age of 42 at that time did research only for a month and pointed out a social problem in Japan that has remained almost the same for 70 years since then.
You can see by reading the report that the worst defect of Japanese society has been the “lacking of control of all functions of government by a constitution,” which resulted in the situation that “the will of the people is not reflected in politics and thus human rights of individual citizens are not effective.”
And also you can see that the main cause of this is the function of the Emperor system, overruling the Constitution.
In the pre-war Japan, the court (=the judiciary) was controlled by the prosecutor (= the government), and the legislation was ruled by bureaucrats (=the government) in the form of “order by the Emperor.” (Article 9 of Meiji Constitution)(*1)
Having read this far, you may understand well that the position of the pre-war Emperor, which was higher than the Constitution, was replaced after the war by a new national authority: “the Emperor and the U.S. Forces.” Later, after the Showa Emperor’s death, it was changed under authority of the U.S. Forces, officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry. It became “the Emperor system without the Emperor.”
The following explanation will serve to sum up briefly.
Transition of the structure of the national authority in Japan
●Pre-war (the first half of the Showa Era)
The Emperor + Japanese military + officials of the Home Ministry
●Post-war1 (the second half of the Showa era)
The Emperor + the U.S. Forces +
Bureaucrats of Finance/Economics/Foreign Affairs/Law + LDP
●Post-war 2 (Heisei era)
The U.S. Forces +bureaucrats of Foreign Affairs/Law
Such a virtually autocratic governing system can enable it to achieve high goals in a short time, such as a policy of increasing wealth and military power in the Meiji era or high economic growth in the Showa era. It cannot, however, clear off the old vested-interest structure or change its way to adapt to the situation. It keeps going on the same way till it is brought down by external factors. That is the cause of WW2, which brought the Japanese huge suffering, along with the insane policy of restarting nuclear power plants in an earthquake-ridden country.
Japanese people at the time of the WWII defeat actually recognized such a malady of the Emperor system or, so to say, the gimmick of the Emperor system as well as Rowell. One of them is the Japanese writer Ango Sakaguchi, who published A Sequel to Discourse on Decadance, one year after the Rowell Report in December 1946.
The Emperor system has existed consistently throughout Japanese history, but the dignity of the Emperor has always been just a tool for those who makes use of it and never actually existed. …
It is impossible to make people recognize oneself as an absolute majesty just by calling oneself God. But the people prostrating themselves to the Emperor do make the Emperor God, and by doing so, he can be forced upon the people as an absolute monarch. Then the authorities back up the Emperor as much as they like, and bow to the Emperor in order to force the dignity of the Emperor on the people, and make use of the dignity to enforce commands. …
Consider what this war exemplifies. …
It was conducted completely by the will of the military. There was an incident in Manchuria. And the Japanese troops opened fire in North China. Even the prime minister was not informed of the truth of the nature of this event and accepted the military’s explanation, as did the public. How rife the military is with arbitrary rule.
Moreover, the military diminished the Emperor and fundamentally leased the Emperor’s majesty while idolatrously worshiping the Emperor. Nonsense! It is nonsense!”
What the present rightists say, such as “we have to change the Constitution along with Japanese national character,” illustrates such a twisted structure.
I would be politically in the center-liberal, but I am strongly respectful of the present Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko.
Because they are the only ones in the center of the state who express regret, even in an indirect way, for those significant violations of human rights in Okinawa and Fukushima and for the denial of the constitutionalism by bureaucrats and politicians that I have examined in detail in this book.
The Emperor system, however, should be cut out from politics. It should remain only as a cultural and psychological symbol, and a guarantee of human rights from the imperial families–such as freedom of speech, thought and creed, marriage, and choice in employment, etc. (I would propose adopting the Swedish way of the “symbolic monarchy,” in which the king does not conduct “state business”(*2) as the Emperor in Japan does, and royal families can casually go for shopping by bike in town.)
In 1984, at his 25th wedding anniversary, when he was still a prince, the Emperor Akihito delivered the following statement:
“I think the past Emperors that felt sympathy with peoples’ sufferings being away from politics are how Emperor should act as a symbol. The Imperial family in Japan would be so too.”
This is the consistent thought of the Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko.
In the summer of 1975, Prince Akihito paid his first visit to Okinawa with the princess Michiko. It created great disorder when some radical person threw a bottle grenade at them in front of the Himeyuri monument, but they did not change their plans or change their clothes (which absorbed much smoke), and they offered prayers for the souls of the victims by touring battle sites on the island.
The Emperor Akihito composed the following traditional Okinawan poem (called “Ryuka”)(:3) to express his feeling at that time. He worked long on this Okinawan poem to comfort the spirits in Okinawa, where the largest number of people died during WW2, and where many continue to suffer even today, owing to the U.S. military bases.
Paying floral tribute
To the souls of those who died unnoticed
Hoping for a world without war
From the bottom of my heart
I assume you wish the same, so let’s trace history back and get started again to comfort the souls of the victims, to overcome our shortcomings, and to make a country that will never engage in warfare again. Let’s find a new way for our country by deeply considering the suffering and sorrow of the people without a voice, who died without being noticed, and in our minds taking each other’s hands.
*1 ・・・ The Constitusion of the Empire of Japan, Article 9: “The Emperor issues or causes to be issued, the Ordinances necessary for the carrying out of the laws, or for the maintenance of the public peace and order, and for the promotion of the welfare of the subjects…”
*2 ・・・ Formal appointment of Prime Minister and Chief Justice of Supreme Court, recognition of ministers and government officials, and convocation or dissolution of the Diet.
*3 ・・・ Ryuka is a genre of Japanese poetry in Ryuku Islands (Okinawa). Just as Waka and Haiku, it is one of the fixed verse forms, whose basic form consists of four units of syllables, 8-8-8-6.