It was 1987 when we first became actively involved with
Japanese peace activists. Gensuikyo had launched a "Peace Wave"
- at 7:30 a.m. on August 6th, across the planet, one after the
other as time zones changed, people gathered indoors and out to
speak and pray about Hiroshima. We'd been staging special events
in Washington DC during Hiroshima/Nagasaki week for several
years, and wrote the Peace Wave organizers that we would
incorporate a Peace Wave action. Our follow-up report of the
action was published in the Peace Wave news magazine, a
remarkable short-lived publication which awakened lonely little
enclaves of anti-nuclear activism around the world to the fact
that we were not alone.
In 1990 Norio Okada of Akahata wrote a story about Proposition
One, and a follow-up story in 1993 after DC Initiative 37 won the
election. Akahata (a daily newspaper) has a readership of 3
million. The stories led to an invitation for Proposition One to
send a representative to the Japan Peace Conference.
On November 3, 1994 Proposition One was introduced to some 1,500
Japanese peace activists at the 9th annual Japan Peace
Conference, held in Misawa City, 500 kilometers north of Tokyo.
Ellen Thomas, who was the lucky person chosen to accept the
Japanese invitation to speak, reports on what she learned:
"Over and over during my week in Japan, when I was able to
visit with peace people in Misawa, Hiroshima, and Kobe, I was
told that DC Initiative 37 and the resulting Congressional bill
give people hope, proving that in America a few patient people
can accomplish a great deal.
"My hosts seemed to understand the significance of our work,
and its frustrations. I discovered that their 50-year struggle
for nuclear disarmament has faced similar obstacles of government
repression, media silence or misinformation, and public
"I was struck by the coincidence between our effort to amend
the U.S. Constitution with Proposition One, and the Japanese
people's struggle to retain their courageous renunciation of war
by Constitutional decree.
"After World War II the Japanese adopted a Constitution whose
'We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected
representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall
secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful
cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty
throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be
visited with the horrors of war through the action of government,
do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do
firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust
of the people, the authority for which is derived from the
people, the powers of which are exercised by the representative of
the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people.
Tis is a universal principle of mankind upon which this
Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions,
laws, ordinances and rescripts in confict herewith.
'We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are
deeply conscious of thie high ideals controlling human
relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and
existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving
peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an
international society sriving for the preservation of peace, and
the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance
for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of
the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and
'We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone,
but that laws of political morality are universal; and that
obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would
sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign
relationship with otehr nations.
'We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to
accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our
"Article 9 reads:
'Aspiring sincrely to an international peace based on
justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a
sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as
means of settling international disputes.
'In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph,
land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will
never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will
not be recognized."
"It was Japanese Prime Minister Shidehara who proposed the
above language to General MacArthur, who wrote in a letter that
he was "astonished" at the proposal. Shidehara later wrote that
MacArthur was at first hesitant to approve the idea, but was
moved by Shidehara's plea that this was a matter of the highest
importance to the future of mankind, transcending any national
"Now, 48 years after the Peace Constitution was ratified, the
U.S. and United Nations are putting pressure on Japan to send
their Defense Force overseas to help with U.N. peacekeeping
missions. An editorial appeared in a mainstream Tokyo paper on
November 3rd proposing an amendment abolishing the Preamble and
Article 9. I was told that 'the government wants to change
Article 9 180 degrees.'
"Various hosts told me that the Japanese government is paying
half the costs of all U.S. military bases in Japan -- 100 in all
-- about 500 billion dollars annually -- and all the expense of
Japan Defense Forces. They say now the U.S. is demanding that
ALL U.S. costs should be paid by Japanese. They say there are
government plans to build new bases and expand existing bases
into the hills, which are customarily left uncluttered, their
beauty traditionally the 'wealth of Japan.' They say they
absolutely don't want any new bases, and want to reclaim the
much-needed land now used by JDF and U.S. bases for housing,
farming, and environmental protection. Many of the activists
have worked most of their lives to demilitarize Japan. 'We don't
need any military bases in Japan,' I was told again and again.
"The Japanese government is so far officially noncommittal to
U.S. and U.N. pressure, in part no doubt due to the extremely
well-organized opposition they face from a broad coalition of
organizations throughout Japan which are committed to retaining
these evolutionary passages in the Constitution.
"It was such grassroots coalitions which led to the city
councillors of Kobe declaring their city a nuclear-weapons-free
port in March, 1975, the first such port in the world. Since the
U.S. policy is never to declare whether or not a ship has nuclear
weapons aboard, no U.S. warships have been in Kobe harbor since
the 'Kobe Formula' was adopted in 1945:
'RESOLUTION ON THE REJECTION
OF THE VISIT OF
INTO KOBE PORT
'Kobe Port is among the world's leading ports in terms of
the number of ship calls and the volume of handling cargo. While
developing Kobe Port as a port convenient for the users and
comfortable for the workers, we have to maintain it as a peaceful
one acceptable to the citizens in general. It can easily be
imagined that the bringing of nuclear weapons into our port will
cause the citizens' uneasiness and confusion, and it will hamper
the normal functioning of the port.
'WE, Kobe City Council, reject the visit of all nuclear-armed
warships into Kobe Port.' March 18, 1975, Kobe City Council.
"It is such grassroots coalitions that in November 1994 had
managed to collect 45 million signatures in ten years on the
'Hiroshima Appeal,' which calls on the U.N. to eliminate nuclear
weapons worldwide. Their goal, by August 1995: 61 million, or
over half the population of Japan. Having observed their
incredible efficiency, I won't be surprised if they succeed."