‘Spirited Away’ Director Criticizes Plans to Amend Japan's Pacifist Constitution

Award-winning Japanese animation film director Hayao Miyazaki and other members of his studio are making waves for their booklet speaking out against representatives's desire to change Japan's Constitution that renounces war.

Hayao is a co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Inc. renowned for the 2001 film “Spirited Away” whose work attracts both children and adults in Japan. The filmmaker initially started publishing seasonal booklets with the aim of discussing interests aside from film production.

While 75 percent of the members of House of Councilors [ja] support amending the Japanese Constitution, the July issue of the booklet “Neppu”, which means “hot wind” in Japanese makes loud criticism against potential moves by the Diet members to modify the country's Constitution, including the changes in Article 9 so that the country's Self Defense Force can be deployed overseas as well as changes in Article 21 to tighten freedom of expression and assembly.

The draft version of new Constitution by The Liberal Democratic Party was revealed in April and has been part of political topic during the recent 23rd election of the House of Councilors. Some critics are fearing amendments to basic human rights and larger power in military. It's been a long desire for Liberal Democratic Party to amend the constitution. But the public may not be as enthusiastic as the Diet members. According to telephone-based survey by Kyodo News [ja], 44 percent were for the amendment, and 38 percent of the informant were against the amendment. Given that the ruling party won the election with 52.61 per cent of its citizen [ja], the 3rd lowest voting rate after the Second World War 2, the administration is planning on changing the Article 96 firsthand to get rid of a clause designed to prevent an imprudent revision of the Constitution.

Screenshot from the Studio Ghibli publishing's  website announcing PDF download of the booklet

Screenshot from the Studio Ghibli publishing website announcing PDF download of the booklet

The booklet, which consists of four articles from four contributors related to the studio, begins with a short description of the anxiety surrounding the amendment plan: “Who understands correctly what Minister Abe is going to do regarding the amendment to the Constitution? It is very important to express one's opinion clearly.” None of the authors wish the Constitution to be amended.

Japan's mainstream media paid attention to the unusual, explicit criticism by filmmakers’ under-circulated booklet. Thus, the publisher decided to upload the digital version of this particular edition. Usually, the booklet is delivered to subscribers’ home and can be purchased at a limited number of bookstores [ja]. It is downloadable [ja] until 6 p.m. Japan Standard Time on August 20, 2013.

Hayao describes what the Constitution should stand for:

憲法は目標であって、条文をよくしたら貧乏人がいなくなるとか、そんなことあり得ない。でも、戦後の日本は、 その憲法に守られながら行ってきた経済建設のお陰で、他 の国々の人々から収奪したお陰もあるかもしれないけど も、飢え死にしている人を見かけることなどはほとんどな い国になれました。本当にある時期までは、戦後立 てた目標を実現しようと、公平な社会をつくろうと、右翼 の政治家たちも随分やってきたと思いますよ。 それが、経済的にもうこれ以上は無理となると、「この 制度はいけないんじゃないか」とか、「生活保護制度がいけないんじゃないか」とかいろいろ言う。どんな制度でも 悪用する人間は必ず現れますから、それを例にして潰すの は間違いです。

A constitution is a goal. I don't think that the number of poor people will decrease if a part of it has been rewritten into a better sentence. This is impossible. However, thanks to the protection of Article 9 and the reconstruction of our economy after World War [II], Japan has recovered into a country that has a low number of people who die of hunger. Up until a certain time, people, even the right-wing politicians, tried hard to make this goal, set after the war, and a equitable society a reality. However, when it is found that we cannot expect further economical growth, there are opinions such as, “This system is not good” or “Welfare benefits have to be reformed”. There are some bad people who abuse the system, but it is wrong if you reform the system only because people misuse it.

One of the most debated sections of the Constitution is the Article 9 in which stipulates Japanese people to forever renounce war. The existence of Japan's “Self Defense Force” [not as a military] ascribes to this Article:

Chapter II. Renunciation of War

Article 9. 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.

(2) 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.

Hayao explains in the booklet why he is against amending the Constitution even though current status is somewhat ambivalent:

憲法を変えることについては、反対に決まっています。 選挙をやれば得票率も投票率も低い、そういう政府がどさ くさに紛れて、思いつきのような方法で憲法を変えような んて、もってのほかです。本当にそう思います。もちろん、憲法9条と照らし合わせると、自衛隊はいか にもおかしい。おかしいけれど、そのほうがいい。国防軍 にしないほうがいい

Without any doubt, I am against the amendment. We have a low voting rate and the party's share of votes is low as well. Why on earth can this government declare that they would like to amend our constitution? This is my true feeling. I agree that our nation's self-defense forces do not correspond with Article 9, but I think it is better. Better than turning the self-defense forces into a national military.

Producer Toshio Suzuki wrote about Article 9:

僕、日本が憲法九条を持っているって、海外の人はほと んど知らないと思う。だって自衛隊があるしね。そっちを 知っているわけでしょう。だから日本が世界にアピールす るとしたら、九条ですよね。これだけの平和は、九条がな ければあり得なかったわけですから.

I suppose Article 9 is not that known to the world because we have our self-defense forces. Our self-defense forces is more known to the world. If Japan wishes to prove itself to international society, we should do so through Article 9. Our peaceful society would not be a reality without Article 9.

そもそもいま憲法改正に、みんな、そんなに興味あるん ですかねぇ。そうじゃないでしょ。そんなことより、自分 たちの生活をどうするんだってことの方が大変で。だから、 僕は、政治家の独りよがりだと思っています。

Is everyone really interested in the amendment now? I don't think so. Everyone is more worried about their daily lives. I consider this issue as an ego trip of politicians.

Isao Takahata, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and director of the “Grave of the Fireflies“, a film about a young brother and sister who survive on their own during the World War II but ultimately die of hunger, wrote:

 私の憲法第九条に対する思いは、これは全世界で実現すべき素晴らしい理想の旗であり、日本はこの憲法第九条を 外交の中心に据えるべきである、ということに尽きます

Article 9 is a wonderful ideal and it should be put in place all over the world. The Japanese government shall take this Article as the basis of her diplomacy. This is all  I want to say about the Article.

私は、『火垂るの墓』を作る前も、今も、真の意 味で反戦ということで言うならば、こういう映画はたいし て有効ではない、と思い続けてきました。戦争がどんなに 悲惨かは、過去のことを振り返るまでもなく、現在、日々 のテレビのニュースでも目撃できます。しかし、どの戦争 も、始めるときには悲惨なことになると覚悟して始めるの ではありません。(中略)いまは、戦争末期の悲惨さではなく、あの戦争の開戦時 を思い出す必要があると思います。それまで懐疑的だった 人々も大多数の知識人も、戦争が始まってしまった以上、 あとは日本が勝つことを願うしかないじゃないか、とこぞ って為政者に協力しはじめたことを。有名人をふくめ、ほ とんどの人が知性や理性を眠らせてしまい、日本に勝って ほしいとしか願わなくなっていたのです。この情けない私たちに歯止めをかけるすべはあるのでし ょうか。知性や理性を眠らせないですむ方法はあるのでし ょうか。 そのための根本理念が、憲法第九条なのではないかと私 は思います

Making the film “Grave of the Fireflies”, I have always thought that this kind of film is not really powerful as a deterrence against war in any real way. Today, the cruelness of a war can be seen on television without recalling the past. No one starts any wars imagining the cruelness of the war. […] I think what we need to recall is how war was started, not the cruel moments at the end of the war. People who were skeptical about the war and most of the scholars at the time changed their minds to “the war has already started so what we can do is wish for Japan's triumph.” All of them rallied to support the politicians. Most of them buried their intelligence and rationality and began to hope that Japan would win the war. Are there any means to stop this pitiful habit? How can our intelligence or rationality survive? I believe it is our Article 9. It is our fundamental ideal.

On social bookmarking service hatena, user Tarou Takamori [ja] agreed with Isao that emotions can be easily manipulated:

TakamoriTarou web, 社会 高畑勲氏の話が興味深い。火垂るの墓等アニメが反戦を訴るから改正されても戦争にはならぬと言う意見に対し、これは「泣ける」と感情が価値基準だから裏返れば開戦の熱狂は簡単に起き、故に歯止めが必要だと説いてる

Mr. Isao Takahata's article was interesting. He says that we need the deterrence since it will be easy to be entusiastic about starting a war because nowadays our emotions are the basis of our actions. Some people say that a war will not happen even if the constitution is amended because films such as “Grave of the Fireflies” will teach us to be anti-war anyway.

Another user N2, who feels the issue of comfort women has already been solved with an apology and reparations in 1995, bashed the filmmaker that his opinions in the booklet had no basis of an argument:

宮﨑駿氏が「慰安婦の問題では謝罪と賠償すべし」と書いたとのことだったので、冒頭の氏の文章を、つまらなかったのだけど我慢して読んだ。 結局、謝罪と賠償すべき論理・論拠が展開されてるわけじゃなく、単に「すべし」と書いてあるだけ。

It heard that Hayao Miyzaki has written in the booklet that we have to apologize and compensate concerning the comfort women issue. So I read it till the end despite it was boring. All I found was his opinion saying that we “should” do so,  but it no logic, no reasons and no basis of an argument to support the his opinion.

Blogger H.Kazuyuki commented on Twitter [ja] that the studio seems to be turning into a political party:

Studio Ghibli is scary. It's almost like a political organization. I found lots of comments such us “I agree with Hayao's opinion” but I hardly agree with any of it.

Film critic Tomohiro Machiyama [ja] sees Hayao not as a pacifist but rather someone who approves of the self-defense forces:

In our constitution, we renounced military force. Mr. Miyazaki supports the compromise plan which wants to protect Article 9 but allows self-defense forces. There are many countries who have forces but don't allow war as settlement of international disputes such as Germany, Spain, and Italy. He has a same opinion as them.

This post was originally written by Ayako Yokota. Keiko Tanaka edited her post and L. Finch sub-edited.

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