With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe increasingly bent on altering the pacifist Constitution, backers and foes of his revisionist agenda held gatherings on Constitution Day on Saturday to make their voices heard.

Opponents massed at a hall in central Tokyo to unify their argument against the constitutional revisions being pushed by the Abe administration.

“We are in a situation where pacifism, which is the foundation of the Constitution, is at unprecedented risk,” said Ken Takada, who helped organize the gathering at Hibiya Public Hall in Chiyoda Ward.

Takada said Abe is trying to destroy pacifism by reinterpreting the national charter to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, which could drag the country into a war by going to the defense of an ally under armed attack.

A proposal is expected to be compiled in about 10 days by Abe’s private advisory panel of hand-picked security experts. The panel will propose that the Cabinet reinterpret war-renouncing Article 9 to sidestep the formal process of constitutional revision, currently considered unviable, in order to legalize collective self-defense.

The proposal in the pipeline is “terrible,” Takada said.

“We have to raise our voices and act against runaway Abe or there will be a situation (in the future) where our country engages in war with Asian countries,” he said.

Some 3,700 people attended the annual gathering of pacifist groups, the organizers said. Later in the day, the participants drafted a resolution and went on a protest march through the center of Tokyo.

Meanwhile, about 400 advocates of constitutional revision gathered at an event in Shinjuku Ward, listening ardently to a passionate speech by Junpei Kiyohara, head of a pro-revision group in Tokyo established by the late former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.

Kiyohara believes that at a time when security risks, particularly in Asia, have changed, Japan’s postwar belief in pacifism makes less sense than it used to.

“There was a time when I believed that the Japanese people, following the nation’s defeat in World War II, wholeheartedly pursued the idea of absolute pacifism,” Kiyohara said.

“But I think this mindset is no longer very strong, and has been replaced by the thought that Japan instead needs to contribute to the international community,” Kiyohara argued.

Kiyohara condemned the Constitution, drafted by the U.S-led Allied Powers, as emblematic of Japan’s postwar subservience to a “colonialist” United States and thus a lack of independence.

Unlike “normal” constitutions, Japan’s doesn’t specify who is to assume leadership during natural disasters or other contingencies, nor does the charter grant Japan full-fledged military power, Kiyohara noted, describing these qualities as “shortcomings.”

Since the Constitution hasn’t undergone the slightest change since it came into force 67 years ago, Kiyohara declared that Japan “should make the Constitution more up to date and in tandem with the changing landscape of society.”

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) lawmaker Fumiki Sakurauchi, who was onstage with Kiyohara, agreed.

Citing regional security risks, including territorial disputes with China and South Korea and North Korea’s nuclear plans, Sakurauchi said Japan “should waste no time” in asserting and exercising the right to collective self-defense.

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