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Japan's Peace Constitution

by John Junkerman, Director; Yamagami Tetsujiro, Producer; Soul Flower Union, Music
First Run/Icarus Films, Brooklyn, NY, 2006
70 mins. col.
Sales: $348; rental/VHS: $75
Distributor’s website: http://www.frif.com

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University


"We, the Japanese people, resolved that never again shall be visited with the horrors of war through the action of the government" is the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of Japan. Article 9 of the Constitution prohibits war, simple as that. Yet some Japanese politicians, including former Prime Minister Koizumi, have questioned its continued viability. Rushing to aid George W. Bush, to whom he crooned Elvis songs when visiting Graceland in Memphis, Koizumi's January 2004 "token" dispatch of troops to Iraq may have damaged its business and diplomatic relations with the Islamic world.

The video features numerous talking heads. MIT History professor John Dower acknowledges the role of US General MacArthur and his Occupation Authority and points out that it has been upheld by the Japanese for over 60 years, despite pressure in the 1950s by the Eisenhower administration (Vice President Nixon called the Peace Constitution "a mistake") to rearm and fight Communists in Korea. In a lecture delivered in Japanese, C. Douglas Lummis points out that no person has been killed in an act of war by the national Defense Force.

Beate Sirota Gordon, a functionary of the US Occupation Authority, recalls the necessary research into other nations' constitutions, difficult to find in heavily-bombed Japan, and her advocacy of inclusion of women's rights into the Constitution. Scholar Hidako Rokuro speaks of the multiple drafts by multiple committees and the new Constitution's popularity among the citizenry who had suffered the fifteen-year war (1930 to 1945). We hear of lingering resentments in China and Korea for Japanese war crimes and from Palestinian refugees in Damascus, Syria and intellectuals in Beirut, all are familiar with Article 9.

The film is leavened with festive demonstrations against the US invasion of Iraq and given further gravity in the testimony of elderly demonstrators against a proposed US helicopter base on Okinawa. This reviewer is left convinced that it would be a good thing if the Constitution of my own nation, the United States of America, prohibited war.



Updated 1st June 2007

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