【PART 1】 Mystery of Okinawa: Military Bases and the Constitution


【20】 Appalling Supreme Court ruling in the “Sunagawa Case”


I went to Okinawa to find the true nature of these various issues. However, there was something I didn’t quite grasp until the end: Japan should be a law-abiding country. How can it so blatantly trample on the fundamental human rights of its citizens? Why can American soldiers drive out Japanese police officers and mayors from an accident site? In the same city, the air space above American houses is avoided by aircraft pilots who fly as low as they please over Japanese houses?why is such an outrageous situation allowed?

As I investigated further, I discovered that a certain 1959 Supreme Court decision (related to the USFJ) ruled that the Constitution of Japan does not apply to the USFJ. In other words, an extraterritorial state was “legally permitted.” For more details, see Vol. 3 of the Rediscovering Japanese History After World War series: Verification: the Collapse of a Constitutional StateThe Sunagawa Case and Japan-U.S. Secret Negotiations (by Toshihiro Yoshida, Shoji Niihara, Yasushi Suenami, published by Sogensha). In short, this ruling is truly outrageous, and in any normal country, such an issue could bring down Cabinets until it was resolved. Kotaro Tanaka, the 2nd Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1950, when Japan was still occupied, wrote a ruling completely in favor of USFJ’s rights in 1959, seven years after Japan regained independence. It was revealed that he had been receiving directions and guidance from the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Because of this decision, the extraterritoriality of USFJ became an immovable fact. Moreover, when the government violated our human rights, we Japanese lost the means of fighting back.

This incident, occurring at the level of the Supreme Court, is arguably the most crucial in the postwar period. It happened more than half a century ago, on February 16, 1959.

The discussion must now move on to some rather abstract legal matters. If you bear with them patiently I guarantee a rewarding result.