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Last Updated: 04/22/2014The Campaign to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Japan for Article 9
Takuo Namisashi tells the story of Naomi Takasu's effort to bring Japan's peace constitution to the attention of the Nobel Prize committee, and explains how international recognition of Article 9, despite its flaws, could have a real impact on countering the rising militarism in Japan and the region.
In a recent article published by Asahi Shinbun Digital, Japanese homemaker Naomi Takasu[i] expresses the view that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which renounces war, is an equally deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, as the European Union was in 2012 (Yaginuma, 2014).[ii] The article goes on to defend the nomination in recognition of the fact that “The Japanese people have abided by Article 9 and have not waged war in nearly 70 years” (Yaginuma, 2014).
What is the Article 9 of Japanese constitution?
According to the Japanese Law translation system, provided by the Ministry of Justice of Japan, the Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is translated as:
Chapter II. RENUNCIATION OF WAR
Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
(The Constitution of Japan, art 9)[iii]
When the constitution was established by the Japanese in 1947, the constitution was welcomed with surprise by the international community and the Japanese themselves. Tabata Shinobu, a Japanese scholar and supporter of the constitution, points out the enormous significance of pacifism being enshrined in the Japanese constitution for human history, “the state which used to called as ‘aggressive state’ has declared itself to be an pacifist state, and this is no wonder that the world has been astonished” (Tabata, 1972, p17).[iv]
The significant concept of the Japanese constitution is precisely its pacifism, and the abandonment of its armed forces, mentioned into the second paragraph, that represent a determination of not using military force, despite the risk of invasion (Miyaji, 2006).[v] However, this determination was contradicted by the establishment of the Japanese Self-Defence Force in 1954, which uses an interpretation of the constitution that calls for the abandoning of military forces, but the maintenance of a self-defence force with the limited purpose of defence.
This contradiction notwithstanding, we have maintained our constitution – along with its renunciation of war – for 60 years. The danger we face with the current regime, and the regional trend towards militarization, is that there is political momentum for an amendment to dissolve the contradiction and officially declare the self defence forces to be a defence military.
Given the momentum towards such an amendment, a grassroots campaign led by the Ms. Takasu, cited above, has sought to remind the Japanese public that we have been protected by the Article 9 of the constitution and have avoided being committed to violent war. In this context, the nomination of Article 9 for the Nobel Peace Prize reaffirms the value to the Japanese constitution as a form of international norm, and may influence the discussion about Japanese pacifist constitution on the national level.
As the remilitarization of Japan is justified by the argument that it would allow the country to implement its international responsibilities, which is particularly about collective defense, and which is against the spirit of the constitution, defending the pacifist constitution can be a form of responsibility toward the international society, as it was at the moment when the Japanese pacifist constitution was established in 1947, when Japanese people declared themselves to be a pacifist state.
Therefore, the simple act of defending Japan’s unique and inspiring constitutional renunciation of war can be, at same time, a counter to the current government’s militarist policy and a contribution to the international norm of resolving political and economic tensions without recourse to violent conflict.
[ii] Yaginuma, H. (2014, April 3). Campaign to award Nobel Peace Prize to Japanese for Article 9 gathers steam. The Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved from http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404030019
[iii] Ministry of Justince. (n.d.). The Constitution of Japan. Retrieved from
[iv] Tabata, S. (1972). Nihon no Heiwa Shisou (The Japanese Peace thoughts). Kyoto: Minerva Shobo, translated by Namisashi,T.
[v] Miyaji, H. (2006). Kokusai Heiwa to Kenpo – Heiwa na Shimin Syakai to ha?- (International Peace and Constitution –What is Peaceful civil society?-). PRIME. 23, 5-10.
Takuo Namisashi is a Doctoral candidate University for Peace.