Support is growing nationwide to have the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Article 9 of the Constitution, which bars Japan from waging war.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee accepted the nomination in April, although its secretive decision-making process is not known to be swayed by public campaigns.
The nomination was made by a Japanese lobbying group that calls itself the Executive Committee for “The Nobel Peace Prize for Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.”
Debate is raging across the nation over whether the government should reinterpret Article 9 — instead of formally amending it — to lift the ban on exercising the U.N. right to collective self-defense.
By June 8, the group had gathered more than 80,000 signatures through the Internet and from people on the street. The group had amassed 24,887 signatures by August last year, when it sent its letter of nomination to the Nobel committee.
Since the prize honors only individuals or organizations, the group nominated the Japanese people as a whole for having kept the article intact for so long.
The idea for the campaign sprang from Naomi Takasu, a 37-year-old housewife from Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, who had been wondering what she could do to “shine a light on the preciousness of Article 9,” which renounces war as a means of settling international disputes.
Takasu had met refugees from nations like Afghanistan while studying in Australia following her graduation from high school in Japan. The experiences brought home to her the misery of war, she said.
She was joined by like-minded people, including housewives and kindergarten teachers in Zama and neighboring Sagamihara, both of which are home to U.S. military bases. They established the committee in August last year.
One of the co-leaders is Tsuneo Hoshino, 80, who is the president of a nursery. He was in sixth grade in elementary school when World War II ended in 1945.
Like many children in Japan at that time, Hoshino had spent the war years believing “my only purpose in life was to die for my country,” he recalled.
But he was so shocked by the devastation he found in Tokyo when returning from his evacuation to the countryside that he came to see a simple truth: “How inhuman it is to destroy lives.”
Hoshino said he now hates war from the bottom of his heart.
The nomination “is just the first step,” he said, noting that he is still collecting signatures ahead of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement in October.
“If we fail this year, we will keep submitting nomination letters again and again until we win the prize,” Hoshino said. “If we continue, we can put pressure on the people who are trying to change Article 9. Collected signatures represent the hope for peace by the Japanese people.”
In a written message, one young signatory expressed the hope that an increase in activities to protect Article 9 will help block attempts to enable Japan to exercise its collective self-defense right.
“Japan is in a dangerous situation,” Hoshino said. “We hope to stem moves toward the use of force by highlighting the spirit of Article 9 to the entire international community through a Nobel Peace Prize.”