Don't forget importance of Japan's return to international community after WWII
The San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect April 28, 1952, freeing Japan from the postwar Occupation by the Allied Powers. That date is of deep significance as the day Japan pledged to become a responsible member of the international community.
On Sunday, 61 years later, the government sponsored a ceremony to commemorate the restoration of Japan's sovereignty and its return to the international community at the Memorial Hall of Constitutional Politics near the Diet Building.
Delivering a speech at the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "I wish to make this a day on which we renew our hopes and our determination toward the future, as we reflect on the path we have followed until now."
Looking back on the Occupation, the prime minister noted, "In the long history of this country, those days marked our first and longest-lasting age of discontinuity and hardship."
Under the Occupation, the nation could not make any decisions on such matters as appointing cabinet members and enacting laws against the wishes of the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ). The GHQ also limited freedom of speech.
These historical facts, however, are now on the verge of being forgotten by the public.
It is highly important for each of us to coolly review the past once more, including how and why this country plunged itself into circumstances that resulted in losing its sovereignty.
The wars Japan fought in the Showa era, which caused tremendous suffering to many people at home and abroad, were started by Japanese leaders who had lost their international perspective. The nation's defeat in World War II and the subsequent Occupation were the end result of their mistakes.
After restoring its sovereignty, Japan joined the United Nations and achieved remarkably high economic growth, thus successfully building today's affluent, peaceful society.
Japan's sovereignty over its land and territorial waters, however, is still threatened even today. This country is confronted by such challenges as the repeated intrusion of Chinese surveillance vessels into Japan's waters off the Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, and the unlawful occupation by South Korea of the Takeshima islets, Shimane Prefecture. In addition, Russia is currently taking steps apparently meant to perpetuate its seizure of Japan's northern territories off eastern Hokkaido.
The government-sponsored ceremony this year is a milestone for making us consider the issues now affecting the nation's sovereignty.
Meanwhile, a protest rally was held in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, against the government-backed ceremony. The municipal assembly's opposition forces, which sponsored the protest, called it a convention on a "day of humiliation" for Okinawa.
At the same time the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect, Okinawa Prefecture, along with the Amami Islands and the Ogasawara Islands, was separated from the mainland of Japan and put under the administration of the U.S. military.
Okinawa Prefecture was the country's fiercest battlefield in the last stage of the war. It nevertheless was excluded from the restoration of Japan's sovereignty and U.S. military installations were built on large tracts of land there.
April 28 is called a "day of humiliation" for the prefecture for this reason.
It can be said, however, that the Japanese government was able to negotiate with the United States for the reversion of Okinawa Prefecture to Japanese rule, realized in 1972, precisely because Japan recovered its sovereignty.
Think again about Okinawa
It goes without saying that this year's ceremony was never intended to belittle the sufferings of Okinawa Prefecture.
Abe referred in his speech to the prefecture, saying, "Any casual statement would be meaningless in light of the suffering the people of Okinawa had to endure, both during and after the war."
Okinawa Deputy Gov. Kurayoshi Takara, who attended the ceremony in place of Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, expressed his understanding of the ceremony to a certain extent, saying he understood the prime minister was trying to "face up, relatively, to the problems of Okinawa."
This occasion should be utilized as an opportunity to consider a path toward resolving the issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture, based on the vicissitudes of Okinawa's history.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2013)