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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Report of Article 9 Event on October 26th at Langara College

Report of 'Japanese Constitution Article 9 - Let's Talk and ThinkTogether'
For the introduction and intent of this event, please see the previous posting

The event organized by Vancouver Save Article 9 ( was held from 7 to 9 PM at Langara College in Vancouver, with facilitators for four discussion groups, Tom Andrews (English), Tatsuo Kage, YumikoKikuno and myself (Japanese).
Twenty-six people participated despite the heavy rain. The prior reading was given to the Japanese groups (Chapter 5 of "The National Referendum on the Constitution Article 9" by Hajime Imai - a collectionof 39 diverse opinions on the Article 9), and the evening was divided into three sessions - Part I: discussion with emphasis on opinions one agrees with; Part II: discussion with emphasis on opinions one disagrees with; Part III: writing one's own Article 9.

Some of the opinions and views expressed in the large group sharingwere:
  • The Article 9 is the symbol of apology to the Japanese atrocities duringthe WWII.
  • It is hard to interpret whether the right of collective self-defense isrecognized under the current Constitution.
  • Japan should strive to make diplomatic efforts so it won't be a targetof attack, and if it were still attacked, I would rather die.
  • The current Constitution has flaws. It is unacceptable for anindependent nation not to have armed forces.
  • I believe in the power of words, instead of power of military means. There are two ultimate choices when Japan is attacked - one is to fightback, and the other is not to fight back and call for the internationalcommunity to intervene.
  • There were many people at the World Peace Forum conference on theArticle 9 that were impressed with the peace clause that was exceptionalin the world. We should keep the Article 9 for the sake of those people.

The significance of this event is that it has taken place outside ofJapan including an English-language discussion group, which presented different perspectives from those of the Japanese-language groups. To me they appeared more objective and analytical.

Tom Andrews, the facilitator of the English group first presented the'points of departure' questions. I will quote some of them below.
  • What are your views on the intent, meaning & consequences of Japanretaining or revising the Constitution, particularly Article 9?
  • Is Article 9 practical in the context of today's world? What is thepossibility or consequences of Article 9 being extrapolated to andimplemented in other countries?
  • If you were given the opportunity and power to write an Article 9-likeclause for Canada's constitution, how would you phrase it? WHat wouldthe words and inclusion mean for Canada, for you personally?

Following is Tom's report of the discussion in the English group.

'Our discussions ranged over many topics, including: North Korea, China, South Korea and Japan's diplomatic relations with them, as they related to potential amendments to the Japanese constitution. Plus other nuclear-related issues, like proliferation the above listed countries, plus Iran, Israel, the US, Canada, Russia, India and Pakistan). The issue of oil as a cause for destabilization, along with the impact oil scarcity and the securing of access to oil on country-to-country relations in North East Asia continually returned to the discussion. The meaning of article 9 and peace, stability and history was an area that came up for discussion a number of times. National sovereignty and independence of action and dependence on the US versus international stability/US hegemony also was frequently front and centre. We also talked about Tatemae and Honne - even delusion or idealism in Japanese public image, diplomacy, mythology and cultural identity. David and I related information about the origins of the constitution, the process and politics of its drafting and the relationship to supreme court decisions. US bases and the divergence between the political and bureaucratic elites and their alliance and integration with those in the US and the general population was remarked on by David and myself and the role of the mass media.'

Following are some of the comments that participants shared with us.
I had a lot of fun in the discussion this evening (many similarcomments)

  • Being in the English group, it helped me to gain some knowledge aboutCanadian's understanding. I hope I can bring some Chinese people,especially young people to our discussion next time.
  • It was meaningful to exchange ideas with people from differentgenerations. The reading was long and there was gap between those whohad read and who had not. A brief summary of points for discussionwould have been helpful.
  • The 'discussion guidelines' and the availability of structured programnotes were helpful.
  • I wanted to hear more from the people in the other groups.
  • I found it a little bit noisy during open discussion.
  • I thought the "Questions for a point of Departure..." were very usefulin focussing our discussion. David and Tom's insights were most helpful.
  • This format seems well-suited for an exchange of ideas amongwell-informed people, and this is a good thing. Not being personallywell-informed on this issue, I will be watching to see if there is alecture that will provide an opportunity to learn more. Thank you forproviding this opportunity to an outsider like myself.
  • I thought it would be a challenge to write my own Article 9, but somepeople participated and I thought it was good.

The main objective of this event was for people with different opinions to get together to learn from each other, clarify one's opinion and gain new perspectives, and I believe this objective was generally well-achieved. I thank the participants for this precious opportunityof learning and sharing, and for the constructive suggestions for future events.

With appreciation,

Satoko Norimatsu

(Photos by Masa Kagami)

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