Ever since the United States wrote a very liberal constitution for Japan in 1947, during the aftermath of World War II, conservative politicians have sought to amend the document. Their chief target is the so-called Peace Clause, Article 9, which prohibits Japan from actively waging war. Conservatives assert that Japan, as a major world power, should be able to have its own military. Until recently, however, the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has lacked the two-thirds vote necessary to amend the constitution; but the decline of progressive parties has encouraged the LDP to seek constitutional reform. Although the LDP's coalition partner, the Buddhist Soka Gakkai-backed Komeito, has modified its sponsor's support for "absolute pacifism," the party's strong support for Article 9 has thwarted the LDP's plans for constitutional reform. This development signals the important role that some of Japan's new religions play in maintaining Japanese pacifism.
Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals, Religious Organizations & Japan's Constitution
Since the 1950s, many conservatives in Japan--including leading members of the country's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)--have sought to amend several progressive elements of the nation's 1947 Americanauthored constitution. Through the 1990s, progressive political parties--including the now virtually defunct Socialist Party--had enough votes in Japan's parliament to prevent the LDP from garnering the two-thirds majority it needed to amend the constitution. By the late 1990s, because the progressives had been in sharp decline, the LDP and its conservative allies felt that they had a much better chance to initiate constitutional reform. Still, many of their proposals have failed because of strong opposition from religious organizations and their allies, especially the Buddhist Soka Gakkai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (lit., "value creation society") and its political ally, the Komeito [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]}, known in English as the "Clean Government Party."
The section of the current constitution causing greatest controversy is Article 9, which states that the Japanese people will "forever renounce" the threat or use of force to settle international disputes and will never maintain a military. (1) The LDP wants to rewrite Article 9 in order to recognize the existing Self-Defense Force (SDF) as a legitimate army and to restore "normalcy" to the Japanese state by reacquiring the sovereign right of collective security. As the debate grows in intensity, so does disagreement over what the goals of revising Article 9 should be. At one end of the spectrum are the conservatives: allied with hawkish officials in the LDP, they advocate Japan's having the freedom to use the full extent of its potential military power to serve Japan's national interests. At the other end are a growing number of moderates and liberals: they genuinely fear that the ruling conservatives might greatly expand Japan's military potential if given a free hand to reinterpret the constitution.
Although pressure to enact this and other constitutional reforms is growing in intensity, changes to Article 9 in the near future are unlikely. The LDP has nowhere near the two-thirds majority it needs, especially in the Upper House, and has no prospect of attaining that power any time soon. Revision would require strict party unity, and the party remains somewhat divided over the issue. Many members of the leading opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, support revisions to Article 9; but the LDP's more pacifist-leaning coalition partner, the Komeito, (2) which the LDP had to rely on for its Upper House majority before the 2007 election, strongly opposed any reforms that would permit collective security. The fact that the coalition lost its Upper House majority in 2007 further complicates LDP plans to revise Article 9.
The Komeito's position is …