Japan marks the 67th anniversary of its surrender to Allied Powers in World War II on Wednesday. This year’s anniversary is different from past anniversaries. It came amid moves by several political parties to change the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
In this situation it is all the more important for every citizen to ponder Japan’s modern war in the 1930s and 1940s. The security situation surrounding Japan these days is not easy. But this should not be used as justification for weakening the principle of pacifism and nonuse of force as embodied in Article 9.
War is not a game but a tragic undertaking that causes unbearable suffering and misery. This simple fact cannot be emphasized too much.
In the war, some 2.3 million Japanese soldiers and civilian workers for the military died as well as some 800,000 civilians, mostly victims of air raids, including the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It is also often said that some 20 million innocent people in the Asia-Pacific region died as a result of actions by the Imperial Japanese armed forces.
The statement issued by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war’s end (Aug. 15, 1995) is an important document that describes the Japanese government’s official view of Japan’s modern war. It says in part: “During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”
The statement clearly shows that rather than a somewhat blurred concept like Japanese colonialism or militarism, it was Japan’s actions as a state that were responsible for the damage and sufferings in Japan’s colonial rule and aggressions.
When Japan examines itself and searches its conscience in earnest over its war in the 1930s and 40s, it can exert a moral power to ask other nations to examine their wartime actions. His message was that through purposeful actions, the Japanese people and government can work toward true reconciliation and peaceful cooperation among nations, especially in this region.
It must not be forgotten that not only the military and the government but also some segment of the Japanese public favored war. The possibility cannot be ruled out that people fanned by populist or demagogic politicians may lightly alter the no-war principle of the Constitution.
It is all the more important for every citizen to study Japan’s modern history from the viewpoint of preventing the government from dragging the nation into war.