Voices | VIEWS FROM THE STREET

Views from Gifu: Now Abe has the numbers, is it time to tweak the Constitution?

by Stephen Carr

Stephen Carr asked people in the city of Toki, Gifu Prefecture, whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should push for constitutional revision now that he has the numbers in both houses of parliament to introduce a referendum on the issue. Of around 30 people approached for their views, six brave souls answered.

Erica Williams
Assistant language teacher, 27 (Canadian)
The pacifist system has been put in place for a very good reason, as part of the culture, and Japan has been forced to be nice to other countries. We hear more about the A-bomb than Japan’s war record these days. Changing the Constitution could be catastrophic both for this country and the rest of the world. It is possible that Japan has learned its lesson and does not need this leash, but why fix something that is not broken?

Guillaume Seguineaud
Postgrad student, 27 (French)
Until now, Japan has always relied — more or less reluctantly — on the U.S. to ensure its security. But the interests of both countries are diverging as the balance of power in Southeast Asia is becoming dangerously unstable. Japan will not necessarily lose the trust of other countries just because it has an army. Being able to project itself abroad could also give it a better negotiating hand with terrorists, as when targeted by ISIS (the Islamic State group) a while ago.

Izumi Kito
Clerk, 52 (Japanese)
The Constitution is now 70 years old and it has passed the test of time, so it should not be changed. We have been at peace for all these decades, and our best chance of achieving another long period of peace is by keeping things as they are and not upsetting the current balance. The Self-Defense Forces’ only purpose is to defend Japan. They should not get involved in any conflict involving other countries, even if they are allies, as the SDF could then get drawn into fighting too.

Connor Ryan
Assistant language teacher, 26 (American)
Any sovereign country must have the ability to change its Constitution, if the people desire it. However, this is not a priority for Japan because there are more pressing matters, like the economy, the strong yen and the age gap. Japan could have more to lose than win if it changes. If it goes down the path of running military operations overseas, it could cause a disconnect between the government and the people’s wishes.

Hagiko Yoshida
Librarian, 38 (Japanese)
When I read a draft of the (Liberal Democratic Party’s)proposed constitutional changes, I was surprised to find that some words are going to be brought back from the Meiji Constitution, such as “The Emperor is head of state” and “The national flag is the Hinomaru” (both not specified in the present charter). This is like a reversion to World War II and does not consider our children’s futures. Re-armament will not solve anything and will not bring us happiness.

Kazuo Toi
Professor emeritus, 69 (Japanese)
The war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution should not be changed. Before World War II, small changes piled up that nobody could adjust to and then the military rushed into its stupid war. I am somewhat afraid this could happen again. Japan could easily be invited into a “hot” (conflict) area and war could be triggered by a small incident. Abe and the LDP should concentrate on the economy instead.