【PART 3】 The Mystery of the Security Treaty Village (1): The Showa Emperor and the Constitution of Japan
【23】 Arrangement by the Showa Emperor―Why did he add the Charter Oath?
The decision was made to change the issue date of the Declaration from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day. The Showa Emperor also decided on an addition to the beginning of the Declaration: the Charter Oath of Five Articles, based on the message with which he intended to issue the document: “We are defeated in war, but let’s unite together to make a great country, Japan.” This is the final form of what is known as the Declaration of Humanity.
The Charter Oath was a basic policy of Meiji government that “deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by open discussion,” issued in 1868. The Showa Emperor proposed to mention this as the origin of democracy in Japan, before the statement of “The Emperor is not a god” in the Declaration, and to issue it on New Year’s Day.
Why did he do so? He had three reasons, which I will explain in some detail since the circumstances were complicated.
First, adding the Charter Oath demonstrated that he wrote the Declaration of Humanity on his own, not in obedience to GHQ.
A main reason for the Declaration of Humanity was not to deny the Emperor was a god, but to make it a message for national renewal by displaying the Charter Oath widely. The idea to convey was that the military had gone out of control temporarily and brought about a tragic war, but that Japan originally had had democratic principles since way back and had been a decent, democratic nation. So, the Japanese could definitely recover if they returned to the principles of the Meiji era. The Emperor made the statement in order to make that idea known to the people on that occasion. (At a press conference on August 23rd, 1977, the Showa Emperor disclosed that this was the case.)
The Emperor’s move was clever indeed. He actually was forced, but he preserved his pride and the pride of the Japanese by taking a stance that he did it on his own initiative. Until the Meiji era, there had been a history of Japan’s emperors as powerless except for a show of authority against the ones with the actual political power, in order to go along with government management. That is why his way of dealing with GHQ was very refined, and could not be a whim.
He never went against GHQ and met their demands to the fullest, but he added his own twists to ensure his benefit in some important parts. Such a refined strategy of the Showa Emperor (or the practice of a quintessential court diplomacy) is the reason for controversies over who actually was the writer of a variety of documents: Japan or the U.S.? Subjectively, it could be either. I will discuss this in more detail later.