A majority of Japanese want (jp) to change the constitution, but are not particular fussed about changing the “peace clause,” Article 9. I have posted about this over at sigma1 along with some other Japan domestic politics commentary on potentially uninteresting matters for some, such as electoral matters and voting. Here below is the my section on Japanese post-quake responses to questions on Japan’s constitution undertaken by the Asahi Shimbun:

When asked if, in general terms, Japan should change its constitution, 54% of the those survey responded in the affirmative while 29 percent said it was not necessary to change the constitution. This has changed from 47% in favour versus 39% against in 2010.

However, among the 54% in favour of amending the constitution only 14% pointed to the need for Article 9 revision, and 9% believed that amendment should take place for the simple reason that Japan needed to symbolically ratify its “own” constitution. What is significant about this is that two of the old reference points for symbolic politics in Japan – ie the need for an indigenously ratified (non-American) constitution and the need for Japan to free itself from Article 9 in order to “regain its sovereignty,” do not appear to be particularly compelling reasons for constitutional adjustment in the 21st century. Academic and media claims that Japan is becoming more nationalistic and/or more “realistic” (in the strict IR theory sense) therefore need to be taken with a grain of salt. To be sure, there has always been a need to take these conceptualizations with a grain of salt and this is not a new dynamic as such.

What is compelling however it seems is the need for political reform – in particular the need for new rights and a new political system to be enshrined in the constitution. 74% of the affirmative respondents pointed towards this as being the reason for constitutional revision.

As for the 29% who indicated there was no pressing necessity for constitutional revision, 45% (13% of all respondents to the question on constitutional change) did point towards the need to protect Article 9.  35% of this group agreed that there were no pressing problems and that the constitution had become entrenched in political life (ie even if American ‘imposed,’ the Japanese have entrenched the spirit of the constitution in its society), with 15% saying that it served its purposes in guaranteeing freedom and the rights of the public.

This result also suggests that entrenched anti-militarism or pacifism, or the population wishing to keep “their head in the sand” on foreign policy, are not in themselves convincing explanations for Japan’s constitutional reticence.

In a straight yes or no on Article 9, only 30% pointed to the immediate need to adjust Article 9 while 59% think it is still better to maintain Article 9. This changed from 24% and 67% respectively in 2010. When interpreted in the context of the previous results, while it seems that an absolute commitment to the “Peace Constitution” above all else is no longer (if it ever was) the major factor in Japanese constitutional politics, it seems as if the public is still relatively unconvinced about alternative visions for Japanese security policy and its military posture. There is often a very black and white thinking contained in discussions on Article 9 in foreign media and the academic world- a thinking that seems to subtly imply that Japanese either completely adhere to the principles of pacifism (and thus not touch Article 9 at all), or they must want to embrace either “realism” (ie a “normal” Japan) or “nationalistic militarism,” and thus want Article 9 completely removed.

I think the reality is more that Article 9 is seen to not be just a buffer against militarism in Japan, but also against foggy strategic and visionary thinking on Japan’s security. It is completely possible that if Article 9 was to be amended, it could be amended in a way that does not fit in with any of the mainstream expectations of analysts focused on the explanatory factors of  ”pacifism,” “realism,” or “(conservative/militaristic) nationalism.” However, as nothing appetizing currently exists (and may never do perhaps),  for the time being slow and steady on security policy evolution is both, from the Japanese point of view, pragmatic and democratic.

 

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Corey Wallace joined Japan Security Watch in 2011. He writes on Japan security-related topics, focusing on issues and stories that may not find their way into the English language media. He also hosts the blog Sigma1 where he writes on Japanese domestic politics and broader issues in international relations. Prior to taking up a PhD Corey was a participant on the JET program (2004-2007) and on returning to New Zealand he worked at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology from 2007-2010 as a policy adviser. Corey lectures two courses at the University of Auckland. One is on the international relations of the Asia-Pacific, which contains a significant focus on East Asia security issues. The other is a course on China's international relations. His primary academic interests before his current Japan focus were science and technology politics/policy, issues of ethnic identity, and Chinese modern history and politics. He carries over his interest in issues of identity and history into his PhD where he is looking at generationally situated concepts of national identity and their impact on foreign policy ideas in Japan.
Corey Wallace has 51 post(s) on Japan Security Watch