Tokyo: thousands protest re-militarization

Some 40,000 protested outside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office June 30 to oppose the government's official reinterpretation of the constitution to allow Japan's military a larger international role. Protesters chanted "Protect the constitution!" and "Stop war, stop Abe!" The change was officially announced the next day, asserting a right to "collective self-defense"—essentially, allowing use of the Self-Defense Forces in wars beyond Japan's shores. In announcing the change, Abe counterintuitively stated that "the risk that Japan will be involved in a war will be reduced further with [today's] Cabinet approval." Legal scholars contend the "reintrepetation" has no legitimacy without an actual change to the constitution, and Diet approval. (Japan Times, July 2; DW, Asahi Shimbun, July 1; Revolution News, AP, June 30) In reaction to Abe's proposed change, Japanese activists earlier this year submitted a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Article 9, the constitutional provision under which Japan "forever renounce[s] war as a sovereign right of the nation." The Nobel Prize Committee has officially accepted the nomination. (Kyodo, April 11)

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  1. Japan: self-immolations against militarization

    A Japanese man died after setting himself on fire in Tokyo's Hibiya Park Nov. 12. He left behind a letter and video message to Abe and government leaders protesting the easing of military curb. (The Guardian, Nov. 12) The park is historically significant as the scene of the 1905 Hibiya Incendiary Incident, a violent protest over the terms that ended the Russo-Japanese War.

    On June 29, a man in a business suit self-immolated on a pedestrian footbridge outside Tokyo's Shinjuku Station after announcing through a megaphone that he was going to kill himself in protest at the remilitarization. He was extinguished by rescue workers, and survived. (JapanTrends, June 29)