Thousands of people gathered Thursday in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park to mark the 60th anniversary of the Constitution and to oppose moves by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to amend it and its war-renouncing Article 9.

“Some people say the Constitution is outdated and Article 9 is powerless, but I believe Article 9 has a tremendous influence” on keeping Japan peaceful, Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, told the park gathering, organized by civic groups hoping to protect the nation’s charter.

The LDP unveiled a draft of a new Constitution in 2005, with Article 9 recognizing the Self-Defense Forces as a legitimate military that would be allowed to take part in international missions to maintain peace. Article 9 at present prohibits Japan from possessing a military, even though it does, and renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

The Constitution has restricted Japan from exporting arms and has kept the nation from possessing or using nuclear weapons, Fukushima said, noting the LDP plan would destroy these curbs.

After listening to the speeches in the park, Shoji Shibata, 78, who runs a company in Tokyo, said if Article 9 is revised to allow Japan to participate in military actions, the nation would revert to its prewar militarism.

“I was raised to believe that dying for the Emperor was right. Changing Article 9 would lead Japan to experience what we went through” over 60 years ago, he said.

Shibata said the current social atmosphere reminds him of that period.

“It’s sad that people born after the war do not realize what the prewar society was like,” he added.

A 21-year-old college student from Aichi Prefecture who took part in the meeting said she opposes changing the Constitution, feeling such a move would bring no benefit to the people.

“I think if the Constitution is changed, history would end up being repeated,” she said, declining to be named. “Our generation would be affected directly if (the LDP got its way in changing) the Constitution. I wonder (if LDP lawmakers) have seriously thought about the consequences of such changes.”

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