Japan had a pacifist “constitution” long before 1947, when the current one went into effect. It was issued in the year 604, its author so esteemed, in his own time and since, as to merit the posthumous name Shotoku Taishi (Crown Prince Sage-Virtue). His lifetime (574-622) spanned an early phase of Japan’s astonishing leap from prehistory to history, barbarism to civilization, inchoate nature worship to the Buddhism and Confucianism it was just starting to absorb under the generously proffered, gratefully accepted tutelage of its vast and mighty neighbor, civilization itself to dazzled Japanese eyes — China.

Shotoku himself was a great student and sponsor of Chinese learning. Article 1 of his 17-article constitution is Confucian to the core: “Harmony should be valued and quarrels avoided. … When superiors are in harmony with each other and inferiors are friendly, then affairs are discussed quietly and the right view of matters prevails.”

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