Rarely does a documentary film, many months in production, appears as timely as the nightly news when it's released. But the premiere in Tokyo on April 23 of "Japan's Peace Constitution" (Japanese title: "Eiga Nihon-koku Kempo"), directed by Japan Focus associate John Junkerman, comes at a moment when tensions with China and Korea over Japan's war past are at their highest levels in decades. The film, produced by the Tokyo independent production house Siglo, shows that the drive to revise the Japanese Constitution cannot be divorced from an understanding of that history or from the impact revision will have on Japan's relations with its neighboring countries.
In order to provide an international perspective on the constitution, the filmmakers traveled to eight countries, with interviews ranging from American historian John Dower on the making of the constitution to Syrian and Lebanese journalists on the dispatch of the Self Defense Force to Iraq. Chalmers Johnson provides a grounding in the "base world" American empire, and Korean historians Kang Man-Gil and Han Hong Koo appeal to Japan to fully acknowledge its past in order to embrace a future of constructive engagement with Asia.
John Junkerman, director of Japan's Peace Constitution
If Japan revises the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 and officially designates its military as such, other parts of Asia will increase their arms buildups and war will become a possibility, according to American film director John Junkerman.
The Tokyo-based director, who recently completed the documentary "Japan's Peace Constitution," said in an interview that Article 9 has kept Japan from resorting to use of force and reassured other parts of Asia that the country does not pose an aggressive threat.
"But if Article 9 is revised and the Self-Defense Forces are called a military and given that right of being engaged in collective . . . defense, Japan's neighbors are going to say 'there is nothing anymore that constrains Japan, therefore we have to rebuild up our arms as well,' " Junkerman said.
On Tokyo's disputes over South Korea-controlled islets known by Japan as Takeshima, and the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets, which are claimed by China and Taiwan, he said, "They could very easily escalate into increased tensions and to wars."
Junkerman's film tells how the constitutional revision is an international issue, not a domestic one, through views of 12 intellectuals from Japan and overseas, including China, South Korea and the U.S.
Chalmers Johnson, director of the Japan Policy Research Institute in San Diego, said that Japan had apologized for its aggression in East Asia by renouncing the use of force via Article 9.
"To formally renounce Article 9 is to renounce the apology," he said in the film.
The film also shows testimony from South Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army, and their protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where they demanded that Tokyo apologize and stop its alleged militarization.
To discuss the Constitution, Junkerman noted it is indispensable to look at the history of Japan's aggression in Asia. He said one of the reasons for making the film was to educate Japanese youth, who are less aware of what happened.
The film traces the process of establishing the Constitution from 1945 to 1947 through interviews with John Dower, an expert on Japan's postwar history and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and former University of Tokyo professor Rokuro Hidaka.
Although the Liberal Democratic Party claims the Constitution was drawn up by the U.S. and Japan should make its own, the experts argued that citizens' groups and political parties debated the Constitution and the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces incorporated their proposals in its draft.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Japan's Peace Constitution -- documentary
From another excellent Japan Focus article: