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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 May 30 - June 5  > 'Japan Conference,' pro-Yasukuni force, makes up the core of Abe Cabinet
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2007 May 30 - June 5 [HISTORY]

'Japan Conference,' pro-Yasukuni force, makes up the core of Abe Cabinet

May 27, 2007
“Now that part of the postwar regime has fallen apart with the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education, it is high time to break the main part of this regime, the Constitution, and replace it with a constitution specially made for the Japanese people.”

A recently published magazine called “Nippon no Ibuki (Breath of Japan)” enthusiastically welcomes Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s call for “breaking away from the postwar regime” as a golden opportunity for constitutional revision. This is a magazine of the Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi), which marks its 10th founding anniversary this year.

The Japan Conference was established on May 30, 1997, through the merger of the “National Congress to Defend Japan (Nippon wo Mamoru Kokumin-Kaigi)” founded in 1981 and the “Society to Defend Japan (Nippon wo Mamoru Kai)” founded in 1974. The new organization was a product of their effort to unite rightist pro-constitutional revision forces that had promoted at the grassroots level since the 1970s movements demanding constitutional revision, legalization of the imperial era name, and opposition to the separate surname system for married couples.

The Japan Conference at present is led by Chair Miyoshi Toru, former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Vice Chair Odamura Shiro, former president of Takushoku University, Vice Chair Yamamoto Takuma, chairman emeritus of Fujitsu Limited. They are also acting as representing worshippers for Yasukuni Shrine, the center propagandizing justification for Japan’s past war of aggression. Thus, the Japan Conference is recognized as the headquarters of the pro-Yasukuni forces.

235 Dietmembers

One day before the inauguration of the Japan Conference, the Japan Conference Dietmembers Council was formed with the participation of more than 200 dietmembers. As of June 2005, 235 Dietmembers of the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic, and People’s New parties as well as independents joined this group.

The Japan Conference and the Japan Conference Dietmembers Council came into being amid their “sense of crisis” that reflection on Japan’s past war of aggression could spread widely in society. In 1993, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei issued a statement expressing remorse over Japan’s conduct during WWII of forcing foreign women into sex slavery. In 1995, then Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi in his statement expressed an apology for Japan’s past erroneous policy of aggression and colonial rule.

The Japan Conference took a hostile view of these moves. Its prospectus said, “The ever spreading view of history of the Tokyo Trial (the International Military Tribunal for the Far East) is creating an obsequious diplomacy of apologizing to foreign countries and robbing young people who will bear the Japan’s destiny of their pride and confidence in their nation.”

Since then, the Japan Conference has been trying to impose on Japanese society, fully making use of state power, their peculiar values justifying the past war of aggression and eulogizing the state and the society of Japan that rushed to war.

The Japan Conference produced a movie entitled “We Won’t Forget” shown at “Yushukan”, Yasukuni Shrine’s war museum. This film praises Japan’s war of aggression, saying, “It was a war for self-existence and of self-defense in which 100 million Japanese people fought with heroic resolution for the continued existence of the state and nation.”

Emperor at the top of the nation

On May 3, the Preparatory Committee to Promote Enactment of a New Constitution, formed under the Japan Conference Dietmembers Council, made public a draft outline for a new constitution clarifying their view of an ideal nation.

It proposed an emperor-centered nation, stating, “United around the emperor, the Japanese people have overcome many difficulties and developed their country.” It stipulated the emperor as “the head of the state.”

The draft devoted a chapter to “Family” in which it states, “The value of family as Japan’s traditional and laudable custom is placed under the protection and assistance by the state.”

It proposed a complete revision of Article 9 that renounces war, declares non-possession of war potential, and denies the right of belligerency.

On the other hand, it calls for “a clear definition of the principle regulating human rights” and states that the Japanese citizens have “the duty to defend the nation.”

The draft is calling for placing the emperor at the top of the nation, imposing restrictions on human rights, regarding the family as the basic unit of the nation, and mobilizing all citizens for war; hence, it is indeed calling for the revival of the prewar Japanese society.

Causing concerns over its peculiar values

The Abe Cabinet is pro-Yasukuni and led by members of the Japan Conference Dietmembers’ Council. Prime Minister Abe himself was the deputy secretary general of the council until 2005.

Among 18 Abe Cabinet members, 12 are in the council. Combined with those who take part in other similar Dietmembers’ groups, the number of pro-Yasukuni cabinet members has reached 15.

Furthermore, two vice cabinet secretaries and four of the prime minister’s special advisors also are members of the council.

‘Just war’

Prime Minister Abe’s slogan, “Beautiful country, Japan,” comes from “reconstruction of the beautiful country,” a slogan that the Japan Conference put up at the time of its establishment. His call for “breaking away from the postwar regime” implies the reconstruction of a prewar national polity centered on the emperor.

The pro-Yasukuni force is claiming that Japan’s war of aggression was a “just war,” and denounces the preamble to the Constitution calling for lasting peace as “a bond of apology to the Allied powers.” They appreciate “family values” established within the polity centered on the emperor as “a traditional and beautiful custom.”

The fact that the pro-Yasukuni force, which maintains such peculiar values longing for the prewar society, has taken the center stage casts a shadow on Japan’s future. Concerns over it has been expressed even in the LDP itself and in the United States.

At a symposium held in Tokyo on May 20, LDP House of Representatives Constitutional Research Committee Director Funada Hajime said, “Our party has started to deviate from the cardinal idea to restrain the state power by the limits imposed by the Constitution,” adding, “Mentioning of the idea to prescribe in the Constitution duties of people to love nation and other duties will make things dubious.”

Isolated from rest of Asia

Referring to Abe’s slogan of “Breaking away from the postwar regime,” U.S. Columbia University Professor Gerald Curtis said that it is hard to understand that the leader of a democratic country calls for a regime change of his own country and expressed his wish to hear Abe’s explanation about what part of the postwar regime is so bad.

Francis Fukuyama, a conservative critic, said, “Japan’s unilateral revision of Article 9, viewed against the backdrop of its new nationalism, would isolate Japan from virtually the whole of Asia.” - Akahata, May 27, 2007
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