Shortly after World War II the Japanese adopted a remarkable Constitution, whose preamble reads:

"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. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances and rescripts in conflict herewith.

"We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the 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 striving 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 want.

"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 other nations.

"We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources."

Article 9 of the same 1947 Constitution reads:

"Aspiring sincerely 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."

Now, generations after the Peace Constitution was ratified, it's in serious danger. The U.S. and United Nations are putting pressure on Japan to send their "Self-Defense" Forces overseas to help with U.N. peacekeeping missions.

An editorial which appeared in a mainstream Tokyo paper on November 3, 1994 (the day the Peace Conference opened in Misawa) proposed an amendment abolishing the Preamble and Article Nine.

The Japanese government is officially noncommittal to U.S. and U.N. pressure about sending Japan Defense Forces overseas so far, no doubt due in part to the extremely well-organized opposition they face from the broad coalition of organizations throughout Japan which are campaigning to retain the Peace Constitution.

The position of Gensuikyo, Japan Peace Committee, and "almost all politically aware people in Japan" is that the Japan Defense Forces are unconstitutional and should be disbanded, and that U.S. bases are not needed. They are absolutely opposed to sending troops overseas, and want to reclaim the much-needed land now used by JDF and U.S. bases for housing, farming, and environmental protection.

"We don't need any military bases in Japan," I was told again and again. This position was shared by the Social Democratic Party of Japan ("SDP") until its Chairman, Murayama, was nominated Prime Minister by the Diet to lead the present coalition government with the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. "The 180-degree turnabout by the SDP has shocked the public," said Hiroshe Ide of the Japan Peace Committee. "The SDP has announced it will dissolve now to form a new party, discarding all the political commitments it made in the past."

Perhaps the most disturbing remark by Mr. Ide concerned the official government policy about plutonium, that the Japanese Constitution "does not prohibit nuclear weapons for defense. The government renounces war but does not renounce nuclear weapons. In fact, it has a new agreement with the U.S. to join research in developing plutonium.

"Japan has developed much high-tech equipment in joint research with the U.S. which ultimately is used for military purposes. Japan says the export of arms is strictly banned. But high technology can't be strictly defined as weapons or peace.

"In the 1980's India proposed to the United Nations making the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace. Only five countries were opposed: the U.S., England, France, Israel, and Japan.

"The Japanese government way is to be vague, and very sly," Mr. Ide concluded.