Since its birth in 1947, the Constitution has always been a target for revision, primarily because it was drafted by Americans rather than Japanese.
Even the Liberal Democratic Party has sought the establishment of “Japan’s own Constitution” as a main goal since the party’s founding in 1955.
Although the Constitution is now 56 — the age of its Meiji predecessor when it finally met its end — and remains intact, the pressure for revision seems to be growing stronger.
In light of the constitutional re-evaluations going on at various levels, a Tokyo-based theatrical troupe plans to resurrect a play this fall depicting how the charter was drawn up.
The play, “A String of Pearls,” comes at a time when the nation’s security policy appears set for change and pressure mounts to revise or reinterpret the war-renouncing Article 9.
“I thought we should have another run of the play after watching the events last year, including the debate on the war contingency legislation and how Japan was getting involved in the war on terrorism,” said Akio Fukushima, president and chief producer of the Youth Theater Company.
“A String of Pearls” portrays 25 civilians from the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces who struggled to draw up the Constitution in just nine days.
The troupe started performing the play in 1998 but stopped last year for economic reasons. This time it will be performed in several cities in November and December, starting in Sendai.
The story is told through the eyes of Beate Sirota Gordon, who at age 22 drafted the sections on women’s rights and academic freedom. She was the youngest of the 25 members and the only woman.
Now 79, Gordon was recently in Tokyo at the invitation of the theatrical group and spoke about her experiences in drafting the Constitution.
As a member of the drafting committee, Gordon was cautious about revising the Constitution.
“I think it is wrong to argue that the Constitution should be revised just because it was imposed (by the Occupation forces),” she told an audience of about 300 packed into a hall in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.
“Japan has a long tradition of importing good things from abroad and adopting them as their own. As long as they are good, there shouldn’t be a problem, should there?”
On Japan’s security policy, Gordon voiced hope that the country upholds the spirit of Article 9 instead of trying to change it, as the renunciation of war seems to be the only way to live in peace in this conflict-plagued world.
“The Japanese people have the marvelous experience of turning militarism into democracy and realizing women’s rights,” Gordon said, noting that Japan could best help conflict-prone nations like Afghanistan and Iraq by serving as a model for peace.
If new rights need to be protected, including those pertaining to the environment or privacy, they should be covered by lower-level laws, such as the Civil Code, because those changes could “mess up the whole Constitution just like opening up a Pandora’s box” if they were to be incorporated into the main charter, Gordon said.
She described how she rode around a war-ravaged Tokyo in a jeep 57 years ago to collect copies of as many foreign constitutions as possible for reference and how she battled to include the clause on women’s rights.
Gordon said that when she lived in Tokyo between age 5 and 15, she saw how women were subordinated in society. She now lives in New York.
“A String of Pearls” was scripted by playwright James Miki, who had already written a separate, award-winning TV drama on the birth of the Constitution focusing on how the Japanese version was rejected by the Occupation authorities.
Fukushima said, however, that he wanted “one told from the American side” to challenge the popular claim that the Constitution was “imposed” under pressure from the Allied Forces and thus requires revision.
The GHQ drafting of the Constitution was top secret and the 25 members involved maintained their silence for a long time even after they left Japan when the Occupation ended in 1952.
Gordon said she had not spoken about her role even to her closest friends until 1994, fearing that conservatives in Japan could take advantage of her youth to argue for constitutional revision.
In 1995, Gordon wrote an autobiography in Japanese titled “1945 Nen no Kurisumasu” (which was translated into English in 1997 as “The Only Woman In The Room”).
Playwright Miki used the book along with other materials in writing the script of “A String of Pearls.”