Shintaro Ishihara has passed away. I believe he played a very important role, and I feel his death marks the end of an era. On February 2, The Sankei Shimbun’s top article on the front page was about Ishihara. It was titled, “Author, Former Tokyo Governor and Transport Minister Ishihara Dies at 89.”
Ishihara was born in 1932. While enrolled at Hitotsubashi University he published his novel Season of the Sun, which made him the youngest person ever to win the Akutagawa Prize in 1956. This book impacted many young people and gave rise to the “Taiyo-zoku,” or “Tribe of the Sun.” The novel was made into a movie that became the debut role for Ishihara’s younger brother Yujiro.
In 1968, Ishihara ran for the first time in the House of Councillors election (national constituency) with the approval of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He won the election as the top candidate with roughly three million votes, the largest number in history. He moved to the House of Representatives during his first term in 1972, serving in positions such as director-general of the Environment Agency and minister of transport. In 1989, he ran against Toshiki Kaifu in the LDP presidential election. Ishihara received an award for serving as a National Diet member for 25 years at the House of Representatives plenary session in 1995. There, he announced that he was resigning from the Diet, saying, “All the political parties, and most of the politicians, have no objectives beyond egoistic, ignoble self-protection.”
Ishihara ran for the first time in the 1975 Tokyo gubernatorial election, when he was defeated. He ran again in 1999 and was elected for the first time. His accomplishments as governor include relocating the Tsukiji Market to Toyosu (Koto City) and holding the Tokyo Marathon. He also implemented policies outside of the metropolitan government framework, such as having a portion of United States Yokota Air Base airspace returned to Japan, as well as the internationalization of Haneda Airport. In April 2012, he announced that Tokyo would purchase the Senkaku Islands (Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture), which was an opportunity to nationalize them.
In October 2012, Ishihara stepped down as governor to work on creating an “independent constitution,” and announced that he would make another attempt at national politics. After founding the new Sunrise Party, he was appointed a representative of Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and made his return to national politics with the House of Representatives election that December.
Ishihara had the lowest position in the Tokyo block (proportional representation) of the December 2014 House of Representatives election, when he ran as senior advisor to the Party for Future Generations. After losing the election, he announced that he would retire.
Under the heading “The Life of a Politician Who Strove for an Independent Constitution,” the paper ran an article written by Shinji Naito. It read:
Looking back, Ishihara lived a turbulent life with many ups and downs. He was the top winner in the 1968 House of Councillors election (national constituency). He formed the Seirankai in 1973, comprised of young LDP members who made blood-sealed pledges to join and were opposed to normalizing diplomatic relations with China and breaking off relations with Taiwan. Ishihara lost the Tokyo gubernatorial election in 1975. He suddenly resigned from the Diet, ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election once again, and announced that the metropolitan government would buy the Senkaku Islands (Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture)… While he was conspicuous for the words and conduct that astonished the people around him, Ishihara maintained a consistent stance of wanting to enact an independent constitution.
The phrase “independent constitution” that he favored has a more drastic, active nuance than “constitutional reform.” It evokes the real and piercing sense of sorrow felt in Japan, which was defeated in World War II.
It is not difficult to imagine that Ishihara felt unease regarding the supreme law of the land being a constitution that was enacted under the leadership of the U.S. during the occupation.
Ishihara had a strong desire to establish an independent constitution. He penned a monthly column in The Sankei Shimbun called “Japan!” On May 14, 2007, he wrote as follows in the article entitled “Historical Legitimacy of the Current Constitution.”
All laws – including the constitution – are the fruits of their era. In other words, they are the products of history. This means that when discussing them we should attempt to engage in accurate analyses of the historical backgrounds that led to their enactment, and to make decisions based on this awareness. The arguments about constitutional change taking place this Diet session and in the media lack the sufficient understanding of history they should be premised on.
Now that world history as a whole is being greatly transformed, there are many things occurring that would have been impossible in the past. Huntington aptly named these historical factors as the “Clash of Civilizations.” In other words, it seems global domination by white people, which began in the modern era, is finally coming to an end. Another scholar referred to this as the arrival of “apolarity.”
Namely, the powerful “poles” ruling the world are being lost, and religious fanatics are engaging in violent clashes to replace them. Advanced nations are isolated in this trend. Economic activities across the world stagnate, civilization loses ground, and a dark epoch arrives. It is true that there are omens of this.
In this history, it is only natural for Japan to gain true independence, clearly communicate its intentions regarding national responsibilities, and enact new fundamental laws to fulfill its responsibilities as a powerful country. During this process, it is absolutely essential that we base these discussions on attempts to calmly look back at history – the historical circumstances when the current constitution was created, and the fact that Japan was made to accept it unilaterally.
The U.S. wrote and unilaterally forced the current constitution on Japan with the objective of ensuring it would never achieve a comeback as a military nation. This was a way of charging Japan – the only nation in modern history founded by people of color – for its offense of starting the Pacific War, which was truly a clash of cultures. The intentions of the Japanese side were mostly disregarded during the process. I was fortunate to gain some renown at a young age, and through literary circles I became acquainted with the late Jiro Shirasu. I cannot forget the stories he told about how the constitution was forced on Japan as its fundamental law by the occupation army. As Tsuneari Fukuda also pointed out, there are several errors with the Japanese-language particles. But with our disgraceful constitution, bothersome procedures are required to fix even a single particle in the preamble. Before engaging in trivial discussions about which parts to change, these must be premised on a clear-headed, precise analysis and recognition of the historical background that led to the constitution.
All citizens should determine whether the current constitution is historically valid based on a historical awareness cultivated through information about this familiar history.
If there is not an adequate process in place to make this decision, then the National Diet – composed of elite members chosen by the people – should interrogate and determine the historical validity of the constitution as a frank inquiry of all Diet members, who are representatives of the citizens. I assume some Diet members would abstain as a way to escape this inquiry, but the greater number would deny the constitution’s legitimacy.
If the fundamental national law of Japan is not recognized as historically valid by these representatives of the people in the National Diet – the place where decisions are made on behalf of the citizens – then the constitution should be directly annulled. It must be annulled. What reason could there be for its continued existence? If the constitution lacks historical legitimacy, what would be the point of discussing any part of it?
Many Diet members, who should be thoroughly familiar with the history against which the constitution was established, are solely focused on the application of text that strictly limits (and effectively prohibits) revision of the constitution, which lacks legitimacy. And regarding the items that can affect the fates of the Japanese people, I find it absurd that these Diet members are so obsessed with the same old analyses of the constitution.
History is a vast accumulation of facts. It is multilayered and integral. If we take a new look at it in a composed way, the historical principles of the time will surely become visible. Today global rule by the white race – which was one of the prime principles – is approaching its end. Our constitution was made so the U.S. could cleverly and indirectly rule Japan and maintain its dominion. We should free ourselves from the fetters of this constitution and promptly create a new fundamental law for this nation that can bring genuine peace and autonomy, composed in beautifully written Japanese. To achieve that, I believe we should start by posing simple, clear questions in the Diet to ask members solely about the historical legitimacy of the current constitution. Those who cannot answer this question are either betrayers of their people, or they are simply ignorant.
Like Ishihara, I believe the process of establishing the Japanese constitution was highly problematic. However, I do not think it should be discarded for that reason. My opinion is that we should revise the constitution to change this situation in which we are still bound by a law that was created 77 years ago during the occupation, and that does not allow us to have our own military. It makes sense that every sovereign nation is in charge of protecting itself, and I imagine Ishihara felt the same way. If Japan lacked the strength to oppose a more powerful opponent, we should receive assistance from the U.S. Armed Forces according to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and Japan and the U.S. should act together. As Ishihara pointed out, there are some problems with the particles in the preamble. The biggest issue is the phrase “we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.” This says we will entrust our national security to other countries, but we cannot maintain peace according to such an optimistic view. In addition to amending the inability to maintain “war potential” in Article 9, the preamble should clearly state that the Japanese people will take action and exercise force if our country is invaded. We absolutely must not assume that the U.S. will fight on our behalf thanks to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
North Korea launched seven missiles in January 2022, including hypersonic and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. These provocative actions are fundamentally aimed at drawing American attention, but we cannot know when these military actions will cause repercussions in Japan. It is also fully possible that Sino-American conflict over Taiwan will spread to Japan. Peace is maintained through a balance of power. Japan will be drawn into war unless we can deter attacks through a sufficient ability to oppose other countries. Nuclear weapons are the best type of deterrence, but the citizens of Japan – the only country that was the target of a nuclear bomb attack – would have emotional difficulties accepting this. I also doubt that the U.S. would approve. Therefore, we should obtain effective means of deterrence by enhancing our laser guns, railguns, precision-guided munitions, and other defensive weapons that can be used to shoot down missiles, and by improving our ability to strike enemy bases through offensive weapons like long-range missiles that can be used for self-defense. I believe we should improve these structures by increasing the budget if necessary, without being bound by the current framework that limits it to 2% of the GDP.
We must revise the constitution to clearly state that Japan will protect itself, both to ensure deterrence through enhanced weapons and also to inspire a strong will for self-defense among Japanese citizens. I keenly hope that Ishihara’s powerful intentions will influence many people.
February 10 (Thursday), 6:00 p.m.