Sixty years ago this month, as the protest demonstrations raged over the ratification of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi argued for the dispatch of the still-relatively new Self-Defense Forces to maintain order as he was losing confidence in the National Police Agency to do so. However, Munenori Akagi, director-general of the Defense Agency, vigorously opposed it.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Akagi, who was a member of Kishi’s own faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, saved Japanese democracy that day. In other words, had the military intervened, Kishi’s handling that year of the ratification process in the Diet — seen as highly undemocratic — would have been legitimized by extra-parliamentary means, his image as a “reactionary” further solidified, and the appearance of, if not actual, political use of the SDF been undertaken, much like authoritarian nations in Asia at the time.

It might seem ironic that someone who received the support of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association during his 1942 successful election bid (and was later purged during the Occupation), was a close associate of Kishi, and a veteran politician who headed the Defense Agency — the predecessor to today’s Defense Ministry — would have sought to stop the prime minister from pursuing that course, but Akagi, who had previously served as chief Cabinet secretary, had his reasons.