Massive Rally in Tokyo Defends Japan’s Pacifist Constitution Amid Rising Concerns

Citizens Voice Alarm Over Government Actions, Citing Erosion of Constitutional Principles and Rising Militarization Trends.

TOKYO, May 5, 2024 — More than 30,000 peace-seeking Japanese citizens flooded the streets of Tokyo in a massive rally to defend their country’s pacifist constitution. Marking the 77th memorial day of Japan’s post-war Constitution, demonstrators passionately chanted, “No constitutional amendments, Defend the constitution, Protect peace!

Japan’s supreme law, particularly Article 9, renounces war and prohibits the nation from maintaining military forces or war potential. However, recent developments have sparked concerns among citizens regarding the government’s commitment to upholding these principles.

Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, passionately addressed the crowd, condemning what she deemed a constitutional, peace, and human rights crisis. She emphasized the urgency of the situation, highlighting the need to preserve Japan’s commitment to peace.

Massive Rally in Tokyo Defends Japan's Pacifist Constitution Amid Rising Concerns 2

Reports from Kanehisa Yamauchi, who recently visited Okinawa, underscored growing militarization concerns. The deployment of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the proliferation of military activities in Okinawa have raised alarm bells among citizens.

Speakers at the rally, including Tomoko Tamura of the Japanese Communist Party and Sayo Saruta of the New Diplomacy Initiative, criticized the government’s actions, accusing it of violating Article 9 through policies such as lifting the ban on collective self-defense and increasing defense spending.

Amidst the sea of protesters, one flag, bearing the image of a young girl atop a dove of peace, stood out. Shoichi Itoh, representing the Article 9 Association, emphasized the collective aspiration for peace and the importance of imparting the lessons of war to future generations.

However, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s message to a small gathering of pro-constitutional amendment forces reiterated the government’s intent to accelerate discussions on revising the constitution, prompting further dissent among the rally participants.

The Demise of Article 9

Article 9 of Japan’s constitution has long served as the cornerstone of the nation’s pacifist stance, prohibiting military aggression and advocating for peaceful conflict resolution. However, over the years, the erosion of its principles has been palpable.

The decision to lift the ban on exercising collective self-defense in 2015 marked a significant departure from Japan’s traditional security posture, allowing for overseas military engagements and challenging the essence of Article 9.

Recent initiatives by the Kishida government, including updates to security and defense-related documents, signify a further departure from the nation’s pacifist roots. These measures aim to enhance Japan’s military capabilities and expand its strategic reach, signaling a profound transformation in its post-war security stance.

As Japan grapples with these internal and external pressures, the fate of Article 9 hangs in the balance, with citizens taking to the streets to defend the principles enshrined in their constitution and safeguard the nation’s commitment to peace.

The rally in Tokyo serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of Japan’s pacifist constitution and the ongoing struggle to uphold its values in an increasingly uncertain world.

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