Chronology 2007 - 2015
January 9 - Formal transition of the Defense Agency (Bōeichō) to the Ministry of Defense (Bōeishō).
January 26 - In a speech before the Diet, PM Abe calls for constitutional revision and sets progress on the issue as a major goal for his administration.
March 5 - PM Abe claims a lack of proof that the Japanese government or the military forced women into sexual servitude during WWII. His comments spark outrage in Asia.
March 8 - The LDP opens a new inquiry into the use of 'comfort women' by the Japanese army during WWII.
March 27 - Parliamentarians’ Alliance for an Autonomous Constitution (Jishu Kenpo Kisei Giin Domei), established in 1955, renames itself to Parliamentarians’ Alliance for Establishing a New Constitution (PAENC; Shin Kenpo Seitei Giin Domei) and starts its activity as a nonpartisan group comprising approximately 200 incumbent and former diet members. The group is chaired by former PM Nakasone Yasuhiro.
March 30 - The Ministry of Education discloses its high school textbook screening results, decreeing that there is insufficient evidence to prove that Japanese soldiers forced Okinawa civilians to commit mass suicides at the end of WWII.
April 5 - Nakasone Yasuhiro meets PM Abe to report the start of PAENC and his inauguration as the chairperson of the group. Abe expresses his support as the head of LDP seeking the constitutional revision for the party’s goal.
April 8 - Ishihara Shintarō re-elected governor of Tokyo for his third term.
April 13 - The House of Representatives approves guidelines for constitutional revision.
May 14 - The House of Councillors passes the National Referendum Law to revise the constitution. The legislation holds that a referendum on the issue cannot take place before 2010, and requires the approval of a majority of voters.
May 18 - The House of Representatives approves the three revised education related laws, which in part require schools to teach patriotism in the course of compulsory education..
May 27 - Ota Akihiro, head of the New Komeito, warns that his party will refrain from supporting PM Abe's campaign for the upcoming House of Councillors election if Abe goes too far in calling for amending the Constitution.
June 24 - Okinawa politicians protest government plans for textbook revision that would deny the Japanese army's ordering of civilians to commit mass suicide (shūdan jiketsu) at the end of WWII.
July 29 - For the first time in its history, the LDP coalition suffers crushing defeat in the House of Councillors election at the hands of the DPJ.
July 30 - The U.S. House of Representatives calls on Japan's government to formally apologize for its role in the system of 'comfort women' in World War II.
August 7 - The Deliberative Councils on the Constitution for both Houses are established. However, due to the domestic political backdrop, the council head and the members are not selected, thus, leaving the group to be inactive in reality.
August 15 - PM Abe avoids making a visit to Yasukuni Shrine on the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in WWII.
September 12 - PM Abe announces his intention to resign the post of Prime Minister, citing DPJ opposition to continuation of the naval mission in the Indian Ocean as a reason.
September 26 - Official resignation of PM Abe. Fukuda Yasuo elected as his successor in the LDP. Inauguration of the Fukuda Cabinet.
September 29 - Over 100,000 people demonstrate against the textbook revision of military involvement in the Okinawa mass suicides. According to the Kyodo News agency, this is the biggest rally staged on Okinawa since its return to Japan by the United States in 1972.
October 1 - PM Fukuda lays out a policy agenda that supports extending the Japanese naval mission in the Indian Ocean supporting US-led troops in Afghanistan, saying that building security in the region serves Japan's national interests.
October 4 - PM Fukuda qualifies the intended textbook revision, stating that it is not a question of denying military involvement in the mass suicides of Okinawa, but a question of determining whether or not all the mass suicides were ordered by the army. The DPJ calls for the textbook screening process on this issue to be re-opened, questioning the neutrality of the first screening results.
October 9 - DPJ efforts to push for a second round of the textbook screening process are blocked by its inability to achieve a consensus even amongst its members in the House of Councillors, where it has a majority.
October 9 - Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura rejected DPJ President Ozawa Ichiro’s suggestion that Japan participate in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
October 17 - The Cabinet approves an anti-terrorism bill that allows the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) to continue supporting U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan. The current deployment is scheduled to end on November 1st.
October 24 - U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer calls on Japan to maintain support for U.S. forces in Afghanistan by continuing the JMSDF mission in the Indian Ocean.
November 1 - Termination of the JMSDF deployment in the Indian Ocean. Japan withdraws the two ships supporting U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.
November 1 - Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura announces that the Japanese government is set to consider establishing a permanent law on the dispatch of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) overseas.
November 9 - Japan's parliament extends its current session as the LDP tries pushing through a law to renew support for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.
November 12 - PM Fukuda withdraws from his membership of PAENC. He serves as the vice-chairperson of the group.
November 13 - The House of Representatives approves the bill to resume the JMSDF mission.
November 14 - Suit filed against 2006 revision to the Fundamental Law on Education.
November 16 - During talks in the White House, PM Fukuda pledges to resume Japan's naval support for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan to US President George W. Bush.
November 24 - The Article 9 Association counters moves to revise Pacifist Constitution in Tokyo. The group calls on the public to form pro-Article 9 groups in their communities, schools and workplaces so they can link up with each other and seek further support for the clause..
November 28 - The House of Councillors votes to end the JASDF (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) mission in Iraq.
December 4 - The House of Councillors begins debating a bill to allow the redeployment of the JMSDF in support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.
December 14 - For the first time in fourteen years, the government extends the parliamentary session into the succeeding year in an effort to pass the JMSDF bill.
December 18 - Japan carries out tests of its anti-missile system and shoots down a mock ballistic missile off Hawaii. This is the first time such a test has been carried out by a U.S. ally.
December 26 - The Education Ministry announces that it will partly reinstate references in textbooks to the military's involvement in civilian mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa in WWII.
December 27 - The DPJ approves the use of space for defense purposes in the outline of a bill on space it plans to submit to the next ordinary Diet session. The DPJ bill will constitute a counterproposal to the bill on space use jointly submitted by the LDP and the New Komeito in June.
January 1 - PM Fukuda rules out a cabinet reshuffle to rally public support, instead pledging more efforts to pass the controversial bill to redeploy the JMSDF in support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.
January 10 - PAENC submits a petition with 318 signatures of the diet members to the President of Upper House Eda Satsuki, and to the Speaker of Lower House Kono Yohei the next day, demanding the Deliberative Councils on the Constitution at both Houses to initiate their activities.
January 11 - The LDP forces through the JMSDF redeployment bill by using its majority in the House of Representatives to override opposition lawmakers who had voted down the bill in the upper house hours earlier. This is the first such move in fifty seven years and follows months of deadlock over the proposed legislation.
January 14 - The Defense Ministry carries out its first test of the viability of a missile defense system to be established in major cities. The Ministry plans to establish 11 missile defense sites by 2011, and is also co-operating with the US on ship-based missile defence systems.
January 16 - The Prime Minister's Office (shusho kantei) announces and implements new anti-terror legislation.
January 17 - Based on the new anti-terror legislation passed on the 16th, Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru orders the resumption of the JMSDF mission in Afghanistan.
February 2 - The Kanagawa prefectural education board decides to continue collecting the names of teachers who refuse to stand when the "Kimigayo" national anthem is sung in school ceremonies.
February 7 - The Tokyo District Court orders the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to pay ¥27.5 million in lost wages to 13 former high school teachers who were denied postretirement re-employment because they refused to sing the national anthem. The teachers had been reprimanded for disobeying a metropolitan directive of October 2003 that requires all teachers to stand and sing "Kimigayo" while facing the Hinomaru flag during official school ceremonies.
February 7 - An annual rally is held to demand the return of four disputed islands – known as the Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan – which Russia seized in the closing days of World War II.
February 9 - Japan scrambles 22 jets and lodges an official protest with the Russian embassy after discovering a Russian Tupolev 95 bomber in Japanese air space, over the isle of Sofugan, 650km (400 miles) south of Tokyo. Russia denies that it violated Japanese air space.
February 11 - U.S. Marine Sgt Tyrone Hadnott is arrested in Okinawa for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl. Foreign Minister Komura Masahiko warns that this latest allegation is "definitely not good for the US-Japan alliance".
February 13 - The LDP begins discussing the establishment of a permanent law to dispatch Self-Defense Forces units overseas whenever necessary, in lieu of issuing a Special Measures Bill for each case.
February 20 - Human rights campaigners in Japan and East Timor announce the joint creation of a set of exhibition panels showing testimony by former Timorese "comfort women." The panels were initially created in Japanese for a display at the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) in Tokyo last year.
February 22 - In order to curtail crimes by U.S. military-related personnel, the LDP announces new measures compelling the U.S. to report annually on the number of service members, employees and family members living off bases in Japan.
February 26 - Japan plans to establish a new law that would ban foreign ships from staying in its territorial waters without a legitimate reason. The planned legislation would also authorize the Japan Coast Guard to tighten restrictions on such vessels.
February 26 - The government considers dispatching Self-Defense Forces personnel to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sudan as early as June in a move partly aimed at underscoring Japan's international contributions ahead of hosting the Group of Eight summit in July.
February 29 - Japanese prosecutors release US marine Tyrone Hadnott, who was arrested on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl, after her family decided not to pursue charges. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Japan earlier this week, voiced deep regret over the case.
March 3 - PAENC holds its general meeting. Former PM Abe, LDP Secretary-General Ibuki Bunmei, LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Tanigaki Sadakazu and DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama Yukio takes up a post as senior advisor of the group and DPJ Deputy Leader Maehara Seiji as deputy chairperson. With the DPJ senior members joining, the group gains a new impetus. Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura also attends the meeting stating, “Receiving the order (of Mr. Nakasone) to represent the cabinet, I recognize it as a voice from heaven and am pleased to attend.”
March 8 - An executive committee is established in Okinawa Prefecture to organize a rally against crimes committed by U.S. military personnel. At the panel's inaugural meeting in Naha, participants agreed to press both the Japanese and U.S. governments to consolidate and reduce U.S. military bases in Okinawa and drastically revise the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
March 10 - Fukaya Takashi, an LDP lawmaker who heads the House of Representatives' special antiterrorism panel, says he will strive to establish in 2008 a permanent law to dispatch Self-Defense Forces units overseas.
March 11 - Governors representing 14 prefectures that host U.S. bases petition the central government to revise the SOFA in light of recent crimes allegedly committed by U.S. servicemen. They hold meetings with Foreign Minister Kōmura Masahiko and Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru.
March 25 - PM Fukuda Yasuo says that the government will draft permanent legislation during the current Diet session allowing for the dispatch of the SDF overseas for multinational operations.
March 25 - The DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) compile a joint proposal to revise the SOFA to mandate that the U.S. hand over its military personnel suspected of crimes on the order of Japanese authorities. Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka rejects the proposal.
March 27 - A Defense Ministry think tank, the National Institute for Defense Studies, says in a report titled "East Asian Strategic Review 2008" that China's evolving space program should be closely watched for the impact it could have on its military buildup. Among its concerns is the possibility that visits of China's defense officials and port calls by its military vessels are for the purpose of using Japan to advance Chinese propaganda.
March 28 - Japanese judges dismiss a libel case against Nobel laureate Ōe Kenzaburō, who was accused of lying about the country's war time past. Ōe's book Okinawa Notes claims that the Japanese military ordered hundreds of civilians to commit suicide as US troops advanced during World War II. Judge Fukami Toshimasa did not rule on whether the military ordered the mass suicides, but concluded that the former Imperial Japanese Army had been deeply involved.
March 28 - The education ministry publishes revised education curriculum guidelines (Atarashii gakushū shidō yōryō) for elementary and junior high schools that promotes patriotism and instructs elementary school children on how to sing the national anthem.
March 31 - The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education punishes twenty public school teachers for disobeying an order to stand and face the flag during the singing of the national anthem in graduation ceremonies in March.
April 2 - A House of Representatives panel passes an agreement obliging Japan to pay part of the costs to host U.S. military bases, paving the way for its approval by the full Lower House.
April 2 - The U.N. has sounded out Japan about dispatching Self-Defense Forces personnel to take part in U.N. peacekeepers' mine-removal efforts in southern Sudan.
April 3 - The House of Representatives passes a bilateral agreement with the United States obliging Japan to pay some ¥140 billion a year to help operate U.S. military bases until fiscal year 2010.
April 4 - Despite possible right-wing intimidation, more than 10 theaters nationwide confirm they will screen "Yasukuni," a controversial documentary film on Tokyo's war-linked shrine, in May or later as originally planned.
April 10 - The LDP convenes a project team to work towards establishing a permanent law on international peace that would allow the SDF to be deployed overseas at any time. The Diet unanimously voted for the new law to combine the current Special Measures Bills on peacekeeping operations, Iraq reconstruction assistance, and terrorism prevention.
April 11 - Japan extends, for another 6 months, the economic sanctions on North Korea that were imposed after its nuclear test in October 2006.
April 11 - The Supreme Court fines three peace activists a combined ¥500,000 for trespassing on a Self-Defense Forces housing compound in western Tokyo and distributing antiwar leaflets.
April 17 - The Nagoya High Court rules that the dispatch of the JASDF to Iraq in the form of airlifting multinational combat troops to assist U.S. forces in Baghdad violates the first clause of Article 9. This is the first anti-SDF dispatch suit that has been ruled as unconstitutional. In response to this ruling, the JASDF Chief of Staff Tamogami Toshio states in vulgar Japanese that "in this situation, [that ruling] doesn't matter." After protests by the plaintiff, the Iraq Action Group, Tamogami concedes that the wording of his view had been "in part, inappropriate".
April 18 - Japan, the United States and Australia hold senior working-level talks in Hawaii on security issues, including on how to better strengthen mutual cooperation in international peacekeeping missions.
April 19 - Some 100 JASDF personnel returning from Iraq were greeted by antiwar activists as they arrived at Komaki Air Base in Aichi Prefecture after completing their tours of duty.
May 1 - A U.S.-Japan Special Measures Agreement obliging Japan to pay some ¥140 billion a year to support U.S. military bases through fiscal year 2010 takes effect. Last month, the previous pact expired March 31 due to a delay in the Diet. This current implementation is due to the Lower House overriding the Upper House in the Diet.
May 1 - PAENC convenes in Tokyo with the presence of Former PMs Kaifu Toshiki and Abe Shinzō. The convention adopts a resolution that calls for the immediate initialization of the Deliberative Councils on the Constitution in both Houses. However, members from senior DPJ leaders, including Party’s Secretary General Hatoyama Yukio and Deputy Leader Maehara Seiji, do not attend the meeting.
May 3 - Japanese peace groups are set to unveil a cenotaph in Guam on May 18 to honor the more than 20,000 Japanese and U.S. soldiers and islanders who lost their lives in the Battle of Guam in 1944.
May 3 - Peace Ring of Guam, a Guam-based nonprofit organization, and its Japanese arm have erected the monument by the sea in Agat Village, one of two locations on the western coast where U.S. forces landed and fought Japanese troops.
May 3 - Marking the 61st anniversary of the enforcement of the postwar Constitution, hundreds of people gathered in Tokyo's Hibiya Park to call for keeping Article 9, which renounces war.
May 3 - Documentary on Yasukuni Shrine by Chinese filmmaker screens in Tokyo.
May 4-6 - International peace activists gather in Chiba for the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War. Participants include Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace from the United States, and Beate Sirota Gordon, a co-author of Japan's constitution.
May 8 - Japan is considering beginning negotiations with Iraq to conclude a status of forces agreement to stipulate the legal status of Air Self-Defense Force personnel conducting missions there. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1790, which authorizes the current deployment of multinational forces in Iraq, expires at the end of 2008.
May 10 - Backed by the DPJ, New Komeito and the LDP, the House of Representatives panel passes a bill intended to allow the use of space for defense purposes. This is a departure from Japan's decades-long policy restricting the development and use of space to nonmilitary purposes.
May 19 - The education ministry plans to clearly state in a supplement of the government's new educational guideline for junior high school students that a Seoul-controlled islet in the Sea of Japan is an "integral part of Japan." According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the supplement referring to the island called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean will be compiled around June or July for use from fiscal year 2012.
May 20 - US ambassador Schieffer urges Japan to boost military spending amid splurge by Asian neighbors.
May 21 - The Diet enacts Japan's first law on the use of space. This law modifies the former principle of the non-military use of space (based on a 1969 Diet resolution under the Constitution) and paves the way for the development of space defense equipment, including full-scale spy satellites.
May 23 - The government declares null and void a 1949 state-imposed ban on public schools organizing field trips to the Yasukuni Shrine.
May 27 - A position paper released by the Cabinet states that Japan will refrain from identifying Takeshima (a pair of Seoul-controlled rocky islets in the Sea of Japan known as Dokdo in South Korea) as an "integral part of Japan" in educational documents.
May 29 - The DPJ submits a bill aimed at providing ¥3 million in special benefits to each Korean and Taiwanese convicted of Class B or C war crimes at the Tokyo tribunal.
May 29 - The LDP Human Rights Issues Research Council (Jiminto no jinken mondai to chosakai) begins debating a working draft of the Human Rights Protection Bill (jinken yogo hoan) that would implement a system of relief aid for victims of human rights violations. The Bill's previous proposal was withdrawn in 2002, and the current move to resubmit it for consideration is controversial.
June 3 - A House of Councillors committee unanimously approves a bill to enable people with gender identity disorder who are parents to change their officially registered sex if their offspring are adults. Previously, having no children was a condition of a sex-change law enacted in July 2003 to enable people with gender identity disorder to alter their sex in their family registries.
June 4 - The Supreme Court of Japan rules that denying citizenship to persons whose parents were not married at the time of their birth is unconstitutional, granting 10 children of Filipino women the right to Japanese nationality. The ruling overturns Article 3 of the Nationality Law (kokuseki hō), which restricts children born to unwed foreign mothers to the nationality of their mother's country if their Japanese fathers do not recognize them before birth.
June 5 - The Justice Ministry initiates steps to amend the Nationality Law following the Supreme Court ruling of 6.4.2008. It instructs its regional bureaus not to reject applications for nationality from the parents of children whose circumstances fall within the bounds of the ruling.
June 6 - Ichiro Fujisaki, the new Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., says he is determined to ensure policy continuity on U.S.-Japan issues, and claims his first priority as building strong relationships with those in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, rather than preparing for the next administration to be launched in January 2009.
June 9 - A team of Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, and SDF official depart for Afghanistan to explore the possibility of dispatching the SDF there on an assistance mission.
June 10 - The Diet enacts a revised law designed to allow people with gender identity disorder greater ease of changing their registered sex (kaisei sei dōitsu sei shōgaisha seibetsu tokurei hōan.
June 12 - PAENC holds its regular meeting and, for the third time, adopts a resolution that calls for the immediate initialization of the Deliberative Councils on the Constitution in both Houses. Following Nakasone’s remark, “Being aware of how news writers are seeing the movement of constitutional revision and getting their advices are critical to promote the movement itself,” chief political editors of Sankei and Yomiuri Shimbun give a presentation.
June 13 - Japan extends its Kuwait-Iraq airlift mission and refueling mission in the Indian Ocean until July and January 2009, respectively, citing the need to provide continued assistance in the reconstruction of Iraq as well as U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.
June 19 - Bound for China, a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer (海上自衛隊護衛艦) departs from Kure (呉), Hiroshima Prefecture, carrying Self-Defense Force personnel in official uniform. This is the first such visit ever made to China by uniformed SDF personnel.
June 30 - The government decides to send two or three Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF Rikujō Jieitai 陸上自衛隊) personnel to Sudan as early as September to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations there.
July 8 - The MEXT reconsiders a plan to state in an educational document that the Takeshima islands are an "integral part of Japan" in order to avoid straining Japan-Korea relations.
July 15 - The government panel on Reform of the Ministry of Defense (Bōeishō Kaikaku Kaigi 防衛省改革会議), headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka, endorses a nonbinding report that proposes leaving the management of SDF units to uniformed officers rather than bureaucrats.
July 18 - The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopts a nonbinding resolution against a joint Japan-U.S. plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma (普天間) within Okinawa. Japan abandons the idea of dispatching the SDF to assist Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts, citing the deteriorating security situation in that country.
July 25 - At a defense conference in London, British Ministry of Defense official Teresa Jones expresses hopes that Japan will continue to provide support for antiterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean.
July 28 - The MOD conducts a missile defense exercise in Tokyo using the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3 パトリオット･ミサイル) ballistic missile interception system. This is the first full-fledged test of the missile carried out by the ministry.
July 29 - The JASDF's mission in Iraq will terminate by the end of this year when the current U.N. resolution authorizing the deployment of multinational forces there expires.
A team of Japanese officials arrives in Egypt to conduct research on dispatching defense personnel to U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sudan. The SDF’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations in southern Syria is extended for six more months until March 31.
August 5 - PM Fukuda indicates his lack of plans to visit Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. But Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka (安岡興治), a member of PM Fukuda’s restructured cabinet, stated his intention to go.
August 8 - In Tokyo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher announces that Japan can decide its own contribution it wishes to make to antiterrorism efforts in Afghanistan. Under a special law that expires in January, the JMSDF has been engaged in refueling a U.S.-led coalition in the Indian Ocean.
August 15 - Over fifty Cabinet ministers and Diet members visit Yasukuni Shrine on the 63rd anniversary of the end of WWII.
August 15 - Over 260 protesters and war bereaved gather in Tokyo to protest politicians' visits to Yasukuni Shrine. They also demand that Article 9 of the Constitution be protected.
August 22 - Bilateral sources of Kyodo News reveal that PM Fukuda promised to continue the JMSDF's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean beyond its January expiration when he met U.S. President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido in July.
August 28 - Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka voices anger over the kidnapping and killing of aid worker Ito Kazuya (伊藤和也) in Afghanistan, but insists that this will not deter Japan's anti-terror mission.
September 1 - PM Fukuda announces his intent to resign.
September 11 - In an address at the MOD, Defense Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa (林芳正) states that Japan will earn more respect around the world through acting to fight terrorism instead of just providing money. Hayashi reiterated in his address the need for Japan to extend the bill for the JMSDF to continue its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.
September 12 - The MOFA reveals that Denmark's ships will also receive fuel from the JMSDF's Indian Ocean support mission. Denmark is the eighth country after the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and Pakistan to receive refueling aid from Japan.
September 17 - The JASDF successfully guns down a mock ballistic missile in Japan's first test of a U.S.-developed land-based missile interception system. The test was conducted at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The firing of the two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3 パトリオット･ミサイル) interceptors concludes testing on the key capabilities of the nearly ¥1 trillion missile shield that Japan hopes to complete around fiscal 2010.
September 25 - Kyodo News sources reveal that the United States urged Japan in July to reconsider its decision not to dispatch SDF troops to Afghanistan. During a visit to Tokyo late that month, special U.S. presidential envoy Bobby Wilkes, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Central Asia, met with top officials of the Foreign and Defense ministries (MOFA and MOD) and urged Japan to go beyond JMSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.
September 27 - The government sends two Ground Self-Defense Force officers to Sudan by late October to help with U.N. peacekeeping operations there. The JGSDF (Japan Ground Self-Defense Force) officers will be dispatched to the headquarters of the U.N. Mission in Sudan until June 30 next year.
September 30 - Finance Minister Nakagawa Shōichi creates a stir by backing a plan to display the Hinomaru flag in the ministry's press briefing room.
October 1 - The Tokyo High Court rejects a suit filed by a group of residents calling on Yokosuka to cancel permission for the government accommodation of the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington.
October 2 - In an interview, Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu states that Japan's involvement in antiterrorism efforts in the Indian Ocean must continue regardless of which party holds power in the Diet.
October 3 - The Cabinet approves a mission sending two Ground Self-Defense Force officers to Sudan to take part in U.N. peacekeeping operations. Foreign Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro tells reporters that the dispatch of the two officers will both advance ties between Japan and Sudan and contribute to installing security and peace in the region.
October 5 - The Saitama Prefectural Government provides local public elementary and junior high schools with a central government document lifting a ban on field trips to Yasukuni Shrine.
October 10 - Japan extends its ban on port calls by North Korean-registered vessels and all imports of goods from the country for another six months, citing the lack of progress in denuclearization and its failure to come clean on its past abductions of Japanese nationals.
October 10 - The Lower House begins deliberating the government's special antiterrorism bill for extending the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. It also opens debate on a contentious bill that would allow SDF troops to be dispatched for support activities in Afghanistan.
October 11 - Having reached agreement with Pyongyang over verification of its nuclear programs, the United States informs Japan it will remove North Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states by the end of October.
October 17 - Japan is elected to a record-breaking tenth two-year term as a revolving member of the UN Security Council.
October 17 - Prime Minister Asō presses the continuation of Japan's controversial refueling mission in the Indian Ocean next year.
October 17 - 48 lawmakers, including a special adviser to Prime Minister Asō, pay a group visit to the autumn festival held at Yasukuni Shrine.
October 17 - The Finance Ministry displays the Hinomaru flag in its press briefing room under orders from Finance Minister Nakagawa Shōichi.
October 18 - Prime Minister Asō attends an annual ceremony at the Defense Ministry to mourn Self-Defense Force personnel killed while performing their official duties.
October 19 - Hoshyar Zebari, foreign minister of Iraq, expresses hope that Japan will increase investment in and economic support for the reconstruction of Iraq even after its airlift mission in the country ends this year.
October 20 - Prime Minister Asō visits the Tokyo tomb of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru. This is his first such call since taking office last month.
October 21 - The Lower House approves a special antiterrorism bill that enables the MSDF to continue refueling multinational warships engaged in counterterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean.
October 22 - A Liberal Democratic Party panel approves a bill to make Nov. 12, 2009, a one-time national holiday marking the 20th anniversary of Emperor Akihito's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Its members include former Prime Minister Mori Yoshirō, DPJ leader Ozawa Ichirō New Komeito head Ota Akihiro, and Watanuki Tamisuke, leader of Kokumin Shinto.
October 22 - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets in Tokyo with Prime Minister Asō. The two leaders sign a joint declaration on security cooperation aimed at improving the safety of Japanese vessels navigating the Indian Ocean, and they agree to continue to work toward concluding an economic partnership agreement at an early date.
October 22 - A bill to extend Maritime Self-Defense Force refueling support for US and coalition ships in the Indian Ocean clears the House of Representatives and is submitted to the opposition-controlled House of Councillors.
October 27 - At a lecture in Tokyo, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen urges Japan to continue its naval refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and to cooperate with the Netherlands on international efforts to secure peace in Afghanistan.
October 27 - The Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) holds its biggest homeland defense drill to date in Hokkaido, mobilizing some 3,000 personnel and digging some 2,000 hillside caves and trenches to hide troops, tanks and command posts.
October 28 - At a committee session of the House of Councilors, Prime Minister Asō cites legal restrictions on sending the SDF to Afghanistan.
October 30 - Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu announces that Gen. Tamogami Toshio, the ASDF Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff, will be dismissed for having written an essay justifying Japan's wartime aggression in Asia and urging the country to exercise its right to collective defense.
October 31 - The Yokohama District Court will retry a case in the so-called Yokohama Incident, Japan's worst wartime repression of free speech. In the incident, more than 60 journalists were arrested between 1942 and 1945 on charges of promoting communism in violation of the now-defunct Peace Preservation Law.
October 31 - The U.S. Marine Corps orders its staff in Okinawa to stay away from residential areas, schools, cemeteries and other public sites. This is an apparent effort to ease local anger over a slew of incidents involving its personnel.
November 1 - China and South Korea excoriate Tamogami Toshio for his essay seeking to justify Japan’s military actions in Asian countries before and during World War II.
November 3 - In his first public appearance since being fired from the SDF, Tamogami defends his nationalist essay, claiming that his justification of the Japan's war in Asia was intended to instill the country and its people with a sense of confidence.
November 4 - Lt. Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander of U.S. Forces in Japan, says that the Tamogami controversy will not affect Japan's security alliance with the United States.
November 6 - In a meeting with DPJ lawmakers, Defense Ministry officials reveal that 78 Air Self-Defense Force members submitted essays to the same contest won by Tamogami Toshio. This finding fuels suspicions that the essays were orchestrated by Tamogami, since 62 of the 78 belong to an ASDF unit in Ishikawa Prefecture formerly commanded by him.N
Novmeber 7 - The Tokyo Metropolitan Government conducts Japan’s first drill against “dirty bombs.”
Novmeber 7 - Tamogami Toshio's successor as head of the ASDF, Gen. Hokazono Kenichirō, says that his predecessor's nationalist essay was “inappropriate” and “damaged public trust” in the ASDF.
November 8 - The Japan Times publishes an editorial arguing for greater civilian control of the SDF.
November 10 - The nuclear submarine USS Providence makes a port call in Okinawa without giving the normal prior notification to Japanese authorities. Since 1964 the United States’ policy has been to give at least 24 hours’ notice before its nuclear submarines enter Japanese ports.
November 11- Tamogami defends his contentious justification of Japan’s wartime past before the Diet. He also calls for the Constitution to be amended so that Japan can engage in collective self-defense.
November 12 - A bipartisan group of Japanese lawmakers voices concern over growing South Korean capital investment in Tsushima City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
November 13 - The Defense Ministry says that the U.S. military in Japan will stop allowing the public to watch its artillery training in Hokkaido involving marines and will no longer hold a press conference about the drills. The U.S. forces will instead post information and photos regarding the drills on the Internet.
November 20- Vice Defense Minister Masuda Kōhei refuses to respond to criticism that some lecturers at the Defense Ministry's Joint Staff College hold nationalistic views.
November 25 - At the ninth Solidarity Conference for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, DPJ Upper House member Konno Azuma says that “The government has kept its eyes shut and ignored the issue.” Victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery are joined by international activists and lawmakers to demand proper apology and compensation from the government for its past atrocities.
November 28 - The government officially orders an end to the Air Self-Defense Force’s mission to airlift supplies and personnel between Iraq and Kuwait. Withdrawal is scheduled to begin in mid-December and be completed by March 2009.
November 28 - During a symposium at the Afghan Embassy in Tokyo, experts say that Japan's continued contributions are needed to halt borderless acts of terrorism in Afghanistan. Afghan Senior Minister Hedayat Amin Arsala urges Japan to continue its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.
November 28 - Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada says that the Self-Defense Forces will not acquire more advanced cluster bombs even though they would not be banned under a new accord on the munitions.
December 1 - During a news conference in Tokyo, Tamogami Toshio says that his justification of Japan's wartime acts is shared by many lawmakers and military personnel, and that his opinions are not “particularly militaristic or of a rightwing nature.”
December 5 - The Diet clears the revised Nationality Law, which will allow children born out of wedlock to a Japanese man and a foreign woman to obtain Japanese nationality even if the father acknowledges paternity after birth. (At present, a child born outside marriage can obtain nationality only if the Japanese father recognizes paternity before birth.) This follows a Supreme Court ruling on June 4 that the current provisions violate Article 14 of the Constitution's Article 14, which stipulates equality under the law.
December 7 - The results of a Kyodo News opinion poll conducted December 6–7 show support for Prime Minister Asō's administration at 25.5%, a 15.4-point decline from the previous survey conducted in November. When asked whom they would prefer as prime minister, Asō or opposition Democratic Party of Japan leader Ozawa Ichirō, 33.5% picked Asō and 34.5% Ozawa. It was the first time since Asō took office that he fell behind Ozawa by this measure.
December 8 - Two Chinese survey vessels enter Japanese territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku islets. Japan protests through diplomatic channels.
December 8 - The organizers and judges of a controversial essay contest back former ASDF Chief of Staff's Tamogami Toshio's entry, saying that its contents “awoke the Japanese public.”
December 10 - The Defense Ministry releases a report on its basic reform policy stating that the authority of ranking officers over Self-Defense Forces units will be increased while the influence of bureaucrats will be decreased.
December 12 - After being voted down in the opposition-controlled House of Councillors, a bill to extend Maritime Self-Defense Force refueling operations in the Indian Ocean for naval vessels engaged in counterterrorism activities goes back to the House of Representatives, where ruling-coalition members pass it with a two-thirds majority vote.
December 13 - Prime Minister Asō meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at a groundbreaking trilateral summit in Fukuoka Prefecture. The three leaders agree to boost cooperation in the face of the economic crisis.
December 15 - The ASDF transport unit in Kuwait begins withdrawing after completing an airlift mission that lasted four years and nine months.
December 17 - The Fukuoka High Court upholds a district court ruling that it is constitutional for public school principals to order teachers to sing the national anthem at school ceremonies.
December 22 - A draft revision of the education ministry's curriculum guidelines for high schools released Monday does not mention the Takeshima islets under dispute with South Korea.
December 24 - The MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean is officially extended to July 15, 2009. Without the extension, the legal basis for the mission would have ended on Jan. 15.
December 26 - Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada says that Prime Minister Asōhas ordered him to consider sending the MSDF on an antipiracy mission off Somalia.
December 28 - House of Representatives Speaker Kōno Yōhei lays flowers at a U.S. memorial cemetery in Honolulu where victims of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 are among those commemorated.
January 11 - The results of a Kyodo News telephone survey show support for Prime Minister Asō Taro's cabinet at 19.2%, down 6.3 points from the previous survey in December. The disapproval rate climbed to 70.2%, the highest level since Prime Minister Mori Yoshirō's cabinet was in power roughly eight years ago.
January 12 - Prime Minister Asō and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea hold talks in Seoul. The two leaders pledge to cooperate to resolve the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and work closely with the administration of incoming US President Barack Obama.
January 13 - Watanabe Yoshimi, former minister of state for financial services and administrative reform, resigns from the Liberal Democratic Party to protest the administration’s backtracking on civil service and administrative reform.
January 26 - Vice Foreign Minister Yachi Shōtarō, Japan's representative on key diplomatic issues, states that Japan needs to seriously consider sending civilians to aid the reconstruction of Afghanistan as dispatching the SDF would require new legislation.
January 27 - Foreign Minister Nakasone Hirofumi announces he will visit Okinawa this weekend to discuss the stalled accord on reorganizing the U.S. military in Japan.
February 14 - Finance Minister Nakagawa Shōichi meets with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Rome. The two sign an agreement under which Japan will provide the IMF with a $100 billion loan, the largest-ever single contribution to the fund
February 14 - The last of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force personnel involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq return home, ending the country’s five-year-long aid mission to the war-torn country.
February 16-18 - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Japan. She meets with Foreign Minister Nakasone Hirofumi on February 17 and signs an agreement to relocate 8,000 US troops and their families from Okinawa to Guam. She also meets with DPJ leader Ozawa Ichirō, relatives of Japanese abducted by North Korea and Prime Minister Asō.
February 18 - Prime Minister Asō meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Sakhalin, and the two leaders agree to accelerate specific efforts aimed at achieving resolution of the Northern Territories issue.
February 20 - The results of a survey conducted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun and TV Tokyo show that support for Prime Minister Asō’s cabinet fell 4 points from the January survey to a new low of 15%. Disapproval of the cabinet rose 4 points to 80%, the highest level in the survey’s history.
February 20 - The MSDF and the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) conduct a joint antipiracy exercise off Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture. The exercise precedes the deployment of two MSDF destroyers to Somalia to protect Japanese ships from Somali pirates. In the absence of an official antipiracy law, the destroyers will be dispatched under the pretext of maritime policing.
February 22 - The Shimane Prefectural Government marks its fourth "Takeshima Day" promoting Japan's claim to the disputed group of South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan.
February 24 - Prime Minister Asō becomes the first foreign leader to meet with President Obama at the White House. The two agree to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance and jointly address various global issues, including the economic crisis and the war in Afghanistan.
February 26 - The Osaka District Court dismisses a lawsuit calling for Yasukuni Shrine to remove 11 servicemen and civilian employees of the Imperial Japanese forces from its enshrinement rolls. It is the first judicial determination at the district court level on the collective enshrinement of Japan's war dead.
February 27 - The House of Representatives passes the government’s draft budget for fiscal 2009, assuring that the measure will become law before the start of the new fiscal year on April 1 even if rejected by the upper house.
February 28 - Larry Walker, a spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, announces that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.
March 5 - At a rally in Tokyo, lawmakers and activists denounce the imminent dispatch of Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers to the Gulf of Aden, calling it irrational and a threat to the Constitution.
March 13 - The Cabinet authorizes the emergency dispatch of Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers to combat piracy in the waters off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. The mission is to be carried out under Article 82 of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces Law, which allows the country to conduct maritime security operations. On the same day the government submits a bill to the Diet to allow the MSDF more latitude in fighting pirates.
March 26 - The Tokyo District Court rejects a damages suit filed by 172 teachers punished for refusing to sing the national anthem at school events.
March 27 - Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu orders the Self-Defense Forces to intercept and shoot down any part of a North Korean rocket that might fall on Japanese territory.
April 9 - A history textbook authored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (Atarashii Rekishi wo Tsukuru Kai, or Tsukurukai) cleares the Ministry of Education's textbook screening for the 2008 academic year.
April 14 - The Defense Ministry announces that an MSDF destroyer off Somalia helped a Maltese ship approached by a suspicious vessel, saying that a rescue operation poses no problems because it constitutes a humanitarian step based on the law of the sea.
April 14 - The Defense Ministry announces that an MSDF destroyer off Somalia helped a Maltese ship approached by a suspicious vessel, saying that a rescue operation poses no problems because it constitutes a humanitarian step based on the law of the sea.
April 16 - A prefectural museum in Naha City, Okinawa, bars a series of collages by the artist Oura Nobuyuki featuring photos of the late Emperor Hirohito from an exhibition for "educational" reasons. The collages feature a cutout photograph of Hirohito along with images such as mushroom clouds and an anatomical chart of human bodies.
April 21 - PM Aso draws protests from China and Korea for making an offering to Yasukuni Shrine for its spring festival. This visit follows a similar one made at the shrine's autumn festival in October 2008.
April 23 - Amid strong protests from opposition parties, the House of Councillors passes an antipiracy bill to create a permanent law enabling the MSDF to protect ships of any nationality against pirates.
May 3 - The 45th anniversary of the Constitution's promulgation is commemorated. Conferences by pro- and anti-reform groups are held across Japan.
May 10 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with PM Asô in Tokyo. The two leaders sign an agreement whereby Japan will provide Russia with technical expertise on building nuclear power plants in exchange for enriched uranium..
May 11 - Ozawa Ichiro resigns as president of the Democratic Party of Japan on charges of accepting illegal political contributions. On May 16, DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama Yukio is elected his successor.
May 15 - Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu orders the dispatch of two P-3C patrol aircraft to participate in antipiracy activities in coastal waters near Somalia.
May 21 - Japan's new lay judge system takes effect. Under the system, citizen judges join professional judges in adjudicating serious crimes.
June 2 - The House of Representatives endorses a proposal to keep the Diet open from June 3 through July 28. The extension of the Diet session increases the likelihood of key legislation, including the antipiracy bill, to be cleared.
June 18 - The LDP coalition uses its supermajority in the Lower House to pass an antipiracy bill rejected by the Upper House. The new law permits the SDF to fire at suspected pirate ships that ignore warnings and to protect foreign vessels traveling in pirate-infested waters.
June 22 - The Cabinet extends the dispatch of two GSDF officers participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sudan.
July 3 - Under a temporary law on antiterrorism campaigns, the Cabinet extends the MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean for another six months.
July 6 - Under the new law authorizing MSDF vessels to escort commercial ships of any nationality, two MSDF destroyers commence antipiracy operations off Somalia. They are further allowed under the new law to fire on pirate boats closing in on commercial ships that ignore warning shots.
July 8 - Defense Minister Hamada visits Yonaguni Island (????) in Okinawa Prefecture, close to China and located at Japan's westernmost end. He announces plans to consider stationing SDF forces on Yonaguni and surrounding islets as a means of increasing border security.
July 8 - The Diet passes bills abolishing the Alien Registration Act and tightening controls on foreign residents.
July 12 - The DPJ scores a historic victory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, putting them in a good position to win control of the central government in the upcoming Lower House election.
July 14 - Japan completes ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It is the first time for Japan to ratify a disarmament treaty led by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteering countries -- excluding the United States, Russia and China -- since the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines in 1998. Japan's ratification adds a new dimension of disarmament to the nation's foreign policy.
July 17 - Japan's Defense Ministry releases its annual White Paper including a section on the defensive use of space under the Basic Space Law aiming for "the development and utilization of space [by Japan] under the principle of peace enshrined in the Constitution of Japan in compliance with international commitments." (Pt II. Chap.1, Sec.4.1).
July 18 - Japan and the United States agree to engage in periodic talks on nuclear defense issues. The agreement is reached at a Security Subcommittee Meeting attended by senior working-level officials from the Foreign and Defense Ministries and their U.S. counterparts, including Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs.
July 21 - PM Aso dissolves the Lower House and sets the general election for August 30.
July 24 - The Self-Defense Forces' antipiracy operations off Somalia will fall under a new law in effect today that authorizes them to escort commercial ships of any nation. The legal basis for MSDF operations will be switched from the maritime police-action provision of the SDF Law to the new antipiracy law, which was enacted June 19.
July 31 - PM Aso, unveiling the LDP's campaign platform, declares his party's aim to revise the Constitution as soon as possible.
August 4 - The Yokohama board of education adopts a disputed history textbook with a nationalist bent for use in many of the city's public junior high schools. The textbook is authored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, popularly known as Tsukurukai.
August 12 - At a news conference in Tokyo, DPJ leader Hatoyama Yukio pledges not to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine if he becomes prime minister, and suggests that Cabinet ministers also refrain from doing so.
August 15 - Former PMs Koizumi Junichiro and Abe Shinzo, together with members of the Diet, visit Yasukuni Shrine on the 64th anniversary of the end of Japan's surrender. PM Aso refrains from visiting.
August 15 - Hatoyama Yukio announces a DPJ policy for a new national memorial facility for mourning the war dead. Speaking of an "East Asian Community Plan", he advocates leaving the conservative nationalism that he says has been cultivated by the LDP's visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
August 30 - In a historic upset, the DPJ captures 308 of the total 480 seats in the general election for the House of Representatives, forcing the LDP into the role of an opposition party for only the second time in its 54-year history. Prime Minister Asô announces he will resign as LDP president to take responsibility for the crushing defeat.
September 9 - The leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party, and the People’s New Party agree to form a coalition government. The coalition will hold a majority in both houses of the National Diet.
September 16 - Prime Minister Asō Tarō and his cabinet resign en masse in the wake of the ruling coalition’s defeat in the August 30 lower house election. Asō’s Liberal Democratic Party is thus relegated to the opposition for only the second time since its founding in 1955.
The Diet selects DPJ President Hatoyama Yukio to become Japan’s new prime minister. Hatoyama forms a cabinet and launches his administration based on the DPJ’s coalition with the SDP and PNP.
September 24 - Under orders from Foreign Minister Okada, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launches an investigation into purported secret Japan-US pacts, including one allowing US ships and aircraft to bring nuclear weapons into Japan without prior consultation, in contravention of the Japan-US Security Treaty.
October 11 - Foreign Minister Okada makes an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he meets with President Hamid Karzai to discuss Japan’s assistance for the strife-torn country. On October 12 he visits Pakistan and meets with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. In his meeting with Qureshi, he urges Pakistan to begin negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and quickly sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
October 13 - At a press conference, Minister of Defense Kitazawa Toshimi states that Maritime Self-Defense Force refueling operations in the Indian Ocean will not be extended after legislation permitting them expires in January.
October 20 - US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets with Foreign Minister Okada in Tokyo. He urges Japan to adhere to the bilateral agreement on relocating the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to another site in Okinawa. The following day Gates also discusses the subject with Prime Minister Hatoyama and Defense Minister Kitazawa.
November 8 - Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan, around 21,000 people gather in Okinawa to demand immediate closure of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station and oppose plans to set up a replacement facility within the same prefecture.
November 10 - The government announces $5 billion in new nonmilitary aid to Afghanistan to be disbursed over a five-year period.
November 13–14 - US President Obama visits Japan on the first stop of his four-country official visit to Asia. He meets with Prime Minister Hatoyama, and the two agree to strengthen the Japan-US alliance and work together on climate change, elimination of nuclear weapons, and other areas of mutual concern.
November 15–16 - Minister for Foreign Affairs Okada visits Okinawa to address the issue of closing Futenma Air Station. Okada states that it will be difficult to annul the bilateral agreement reached with the United States in 2006, which calls for the functions of the base to be relocated to a new facility within Okinawa Prefecture.
November 21 - Sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announce the discovery of a document referring to a secret pact to allow US military vessels and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons to make port or land in Japan. Previous administrations denied the existence of such an agreement.
December 15 - Prime Minister Hatoyama announces the government will put off making a final decision on relocating the functions of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station until sometime next year.
December 29 - A government panel confirms the existence of three secret pacts between Japan and the United States. The pacts relate to the docking and passage of nuclear-armed warships, contingency use of US military bases should a crisis occur on the Korean Peninsula, and the transportation of nuclear weapons to Okinawa in the event of an emergency.
January 15 - With the expiration of the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law, the Maritime Self-Defense Force concludes eight years of refueling operations for naval vessels of the United States and other nations participating in antiterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean.
January 17 - The first members of a civilian medical team dispatched by the Japanese government arrive in Haiti to begin treating survivors of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation on January 12. A medical team from the Self-Defense Forces starts relief activities in Haiti on January 23.
January 24 - Inamine Susumu wins the mayoral race for the city of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. Inamine is a staunch opponent of the agreement reached by Japan and the United States to relocate the functions of Futenma Air Station to Nago from their present location in Ginowan, also in Okinawa.
February 5 - The government orders the dispatch of a 350-member SDF engineering unit to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in earthquake-hit Haiti.
February 23 - US special envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth embarks on a visit to China, South Korea, and Japan aimed at restarting six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.
March 18 – According to Yomiuri Shinbun’s national public opinion survey (conducted February 25-26), 54% answers “the constitution should be revised,” a 11 point increase from the survey conducted in September the year before (43%). It is the first time since 2009 (52%) that more than half answers in favor of constitution revision. The percentage of the people who answered, “the constitution should not be revised” decreases to 30% (39% in the previous year).
April 27 – LDP issues a full draft for a revised constitution with an accompanying booklet describing an explanation for general readers. The booklet states that the spirit of the amendment is to “make the Constitution more suitable for Japan” by “drastically revising the translationese wording and the provisions based on the theory of natural human rights currently adopted in the Constitution.” Examples of proposed changes are: changes in the Preamble, defining the Emperor as “the head of the State,” revisions of many of the human right provisions currently adopted in the Constitution, changes in the obligation of the people, and that a simple majority in the two Houses shall be adequate to pass a motion for constitutional amendment (Article 96).
November 21 – LDP party president Abe holds a press conference at the party headquarters to announce the campaign pledge for the election of the House of Representatives with the slogan, “Take back Japan.” ( 「日本を、取り戻す。」) In his speech, he clarifies his policies, including the rebuilding of foreign diplomacy and his plans for constitution revision, and also advocates a public project for disaster prevention and damage control, the “10-year project.” (「１０年間の集中計画」)
December 17 – The official publication of the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Daily (人民日報), posts an editorial article that states that the new prime minister of Japan should seriously address the issues of “Yasukuni Shrine,” “Senkaku Islands,” and ”the constitution.” The article demands that the new prime minister not make official visits to Yasukuni Shrine, and not make revisions to the constitution that would call for a continuous presence of civil servants on Senkaku Islands and would change the name of the Self-Defense Force (自衛隊) to “Armed Forces” (国防軍).
December 17 – Party president of the LDP Abe makes an official statement of his plan to take on the issue of revising Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution. With regard to constitutional revision, he states, “The first step is that we revise Article 96. If over one-third of the Diet members opposes then we can’t even have a proper debate. The hurdle is too high.” The LDP campaign pledge for the election of the House of Representatives states that the requirement to issue a proposal will be alleviated from “over two-thirds” of approval to “the majority.”
December 24 – The official publication of North Korea’s Korean Worker’s Party, the Rodong Sinmun, announces for the first time the LDP’s victory in the elections for the House of Representatives and the resignation of DPJ Prime Minister Noda. The Rodong Sinmun focuses on the issue of the establishment of a “Army Force” through constitution revision and stated, “It is a worrisome issue that the party that is likely to lead Japan toward militarism earned the most votes,” and that “conservatism and militarization has entered into a serious stage.” The article stresses that if the constitutional revision as asserted by the LDP is realized, “it is clear that Japan will again head toward the path of a war of invasion.”
April 19 – According to Yomiuri Shinbun’s national public opinion survey (conducted March 30-31), 51% answers, “the constitution should be revised.” The percentage of people who answers, “the constitution should not be revised” is 31%.
April 23 – PM Abe makes a public statement at the Upper House Budget Committee saying that the issue of revising Article 96 should be raised at the Upper House elections in July. He says, “It has been over sixty years since the formulation of the constitution and since then, no revisions have been made. The revision of Article 96 is connected to the movement to bring the constitution back into the hands of the people.”
May 12 – In response to the LDP’s discussion on constitution revision, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party Hashimoto remarks, “It is dangerous. [The LDP] are expressing their public authority too much and it is scary. In the least, I don’t think that they can obtain public sympathy from anyone younger than my generation.” Also, with regard to the upcoming Upper House elections, Hashimoto says, “We must be sure to clarify our differences in our views of the constitution.”
May 28 - The DPJ Constitution Investigation Committee 民主党憲法調査会 (President Akihiro Ōhata) holds a council at the board meeting regarding its campaign pledge for the Upper House elections and entering into its final stages, specifies that they will object to the revision of Article 96.
June 6 – The Communist Party releases its campaign pledge for the Upper House elections, raising their objections against the revision of Article 96 and the termination of raising sales tax, making the appeal that they “would not allow the stampede of Abenomics.”
June 10 – DPJ Mitsuru Sakurai holds a press conference at the party headquarters to announce the campaign pledge for the Upper House elections, specifying that they object to the revision of Article 96. Regarding constitutional revision, he expresses that “they will envisage a future oriented constitution,” but did not go into details. Sakurai explains that, “We are planning on revising [the constitution],” but there is a strong view that this statement is made as a result of considering the defunct Japan Socialist Party members within the party who are supporters of the current constitution.
June 13 – The LDP releases its campaign pledge for the Upper House elections, which states that they would adhere to their campaign pledge from the December 2012 election for the House of Representatives, specifying that they would “appease the proposal requirement of both the House of Representative and Councillors to the majority.” Also adding to their campaign pledge a statement that “this is in order to make it easier to create opportunities for the public to participate in the judgment of the constitution.”
June 17 – Your Party (Minna no Tō) releases its campaign pledge for the Upper House elections, the “Agenda 2013,” calling for a re-examination of Article 96, specifying that “they should go forward with simplifying the procedure of constitution revision and should alleviate the requirements needed to pass a resolution,” and also calls for a unicameral system that combines the House of Representative and Councillors and a system for a direct election of the prime minister. However, Policy Research Council Chairman Asao states that he “believes that the issue of constitutional revision is not a point of controversy.”
June 20 – Social Democratic Party releases its campaign pledge for Upper House elections, specifying that they object to the revision of Article 96 in order to prevent larger constitutional revision. It also states that they are against resuming operations at nuclear facilities and participation in the TPP.
June 27 – New Komeito releases its campaign pledge for Upper House elections. Taking into account the discussions of constitutional revision since the election of the House of Councillors, they include a new section, “Constitution,” which was not in their campaign pledge for the House of Councillors election. It introduces new policies that approach issues on constitutional revision with the claim that they would “add to the constitution” while maintaining three fundamental factors of the current constitution: respect for fundamental human rights, sovereignty of the people, and upholding pacifism.
Issues to be added to the constitution include environmental rights and expanding local administration. It also indicates that they would carefully reconsider the role of the Self Defense Force and its international contributions. With regard to Article 96, it indicates the importance of “discussing the issues in correspondence to the content of the revisions” and expresses a cautious stance in revisions that would serve as a precedent for further constitutional revision. By contrast, while also stating that, “a rigid constitution should be preserved,” it takes the position that a re-examination of Article 96 is possible if requirements are stricter than revisions to laws.
June 28 - Japan Restoration Party releases its campaign pledge for Upper House elections, stating that they support revisions to Article 96 and an implementation of a regional system. Regarding the issue of the “army comfort women,” adds that they would “clarify historical facts and protect the dignity and honor of Japan and the Japanese people.” Regarding the revision of Article 96, specifies that it would alleviate the proposal requirements from two-thirds of the vote to one-half.
July 12 – LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba makes public statement in Chofu city of Tokyo saying, “The LDP will tackle head on the issue of constitutional revision. Those who claim that ‘what is written in the constitution are abstract ideas that differ from reality’ don’t seem to me to have a sincere attitude toward the issue.”
July 22 - The total number seats in the Upper House from the LDP, Japan Restoration Party, Your Party, who are for constitutional revision, and from New Komeito, who advocates adding to the constitution, reaches higher than the number necessary number to propose a revision of Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution, which is two thirds of the Upper House (162 seats).
July 29 – Deputy Prime Minister Asō Tarō makes public statement referring to the Nazis over constitutional amendments, noting that the German constitution was changed without the public being aware suggested that Japan should “learn about its methods.” (「ワイマール憲法もいつの間にかナチス憲法に変わっていた。あの手口を学んだらどうかね」) On August 2, Asō retracted his remarks, saying it has led to a misunderstanding.
August 12 – Upon meeting with supporters in Nagato city of Yamaguchi prefecture, PM Abe expresses his strong determination in revising the constitution, saying that he feels that it is his “historical mission” (「これが私の歴史的な使命だと思っている。」).
September 11 – One year to the day since Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands. Bilateral relations between Japan and China have soured in part due to the bitter dispute over these islands. The Chinese government said that it had carried out 59 patrols in the vicinity of these islands since the previous year, and that each time its coast guard vessels had been warned off by Japanese ships.
October 3 – California Glendale city Mayor Dave Weaver said that he opposed the comfort woman statue during an interview with Channel Sakura News. The mayor of Highashi-Osaka, Glendale`s sister city, sent a letter of complaint about the statue.
December 19 – Three members of the Japan Restoration Party visited California to voice opposition to the comfort woman statue. They met with city officials and local citizens groups and expressed grievances to mayor Dave Weaver.
January 29 – This month the House passed an Appropriations Bill which urged Secretary of State John Kerry to address issues related to the comfort women and to encourage the Japanese government to recognize `wartime violations of basic human dignity.` The resolution is non-binding.
February 27 – A Glendale resident and a Los Angeles resident filed lawsuits to have the comfort woman statue in a Glendale public park removed.
April 11 – The Nobel Prize Committee officially nominated Article IX of the Japanese Constitution as a candidate for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
May 5 – TA Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat spotted two Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the vicinity of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The Japanese coast guard vessel warned the Chinese vessels not to enter Japanese territorial waters, and the Chinese vessels responded that the Japanese vessel had entered Chinese territorial waters and warned the Japanese coast guard vessel to follow Chinese laws.
May 26 – Sixty-seven percent of those polled by the Asahi Shinbun deem Abe’s strategy to reinterpret the constitution to be improper. ‘Overall, 55 percent of voters oppose the prime minister’s plan for constitutional reinterpretation concerning the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, compared with 29 percent who support it, according to the survey. However, opposition increases when his method is called into question. Asked how they view Abe’s strategy to drastically change Japan’s postwar security policy without a revision of the Constitution, 67 percent of respondents said it is “improper.”’
May 26 – According to the Yonhap News Agency, another memorial to Korean comfort women will be erected on US soil, this time near Washington D.C. at the Fairfax County Government building in northern Virginia. This project is the result of efforts by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in Washington and the Comfort Women Memorial Committee.
May 30 – Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara announces that he will step down from the Japan Restoration Party he co-led with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto in order to focus all of his efforts on revising the pacifist constitution. Ishihara will reportedly take 10-15 Restoration Party members with him to form a new party.
June 5 – According to a Yomiuri Shinbun poll, seventy-five percent of the public support a change in the government’s constitutional interpretation that would authorize the Self-Defense Forces to guard U.S. vessels carrying Japanese nationals fleeing from a foreign country in a state of turmoil.
June 13 – Since May 20th, the LDP and the New Komeito have held talks to try to come to an agreement about collective self-defense. New Komeito has been considering giving consent for Japan to exercise collective self-defense in limited situations, but any reinterpretation of Article 9 is opposed by the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, the primary voting bloc relied upon by the New Komeito. The New Komeito is considering extracting a phrase from a 1972 government decision to support a compromise with the LDP’s position on collective self defense. The phrase in question states that self-defense measures can be taken “in tense and inappropriate situations that could fundamentally overthrow the people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” PM Abe is seeking to wrap up talks with the New Komeito so that his cabinet can approve a change in the constitutional interpretation before the current Diet session ends on June 22nd.
June 20 – Japanese Diet enacts bill that will eventually lower from 20 to 18 the minimum voting age in national referendums. This law is seen as a crucial part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution.
June 26 – Thousands of protestors gathered outside PM Abe’s official residence for the second consecutive night to voice their opposition to changes in the interpretation of article 9. The protestors bore a range of placards featuring caricatures of PM Abe (some drawn in the likeness of Adolf Hitler) and various slogans such as: “Against approving the exercise of collective self defense!” (集団的自衛権行使容認反対!) “Don’t break article 9!” (九条こわすな！) “No Fascism!” (In English) .
June 28 – For the first time, a Japanese delegation attended the Paris-based Eurosatory defense and security industries trade show. Thirteen Japanese companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electronics, Kawasaki Steel, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Toshiba and NEC sent representatives with goods including engines, radars, and missile technology.
June 29 – In Shinjuku, Tokyo, A man set himself on fire after giving an hour-long speech in protest of PM Abe’s efforts to change the constitution and article 9. Although videos and discussions of this event attracted considerable attention on social media, NHK, Japan’s Public Broadcaster, declined to feature the story on its flagship 7:00 pm news program. The news was reported, however, by foreign news agencies including the BBC, China’s CCTV, and the New York Times.
June 30 – Half of Japanese voters object to PM Shinzo Abe's landmark policy shift in security policy that would ease restrictions on Article 9. The change in policy will widen Japan's military options by ending the ban on exercising "collective self-defense" or aiding a friendly country under attack. It will also relax limits on activities in U.N.-led peacekeeping operations and "grey zone" incidents short of full-scale war.
July 1 – A cabinet resolution (kakugi kettei 閣議決定) was announced, declaring changes to the longstanding interpretation of article 9. The interpretation outlined in the cabinet resolution paves the way for allowing the SDF to use force abroad to defend allies even if Japan is not directly under attack. The new interpretation does not rule out Japan’s participation in UN-led collective security operations. By permitting collective self-defense (集団的自衛権), the new interpretation creates the possibility of Japanese involvement in foreign conflicts. The new interpretation broadens the powers of an administration to determine whether Japan will become involved in conflicts abroad, in that an administration will be able to determine whether or not an escalating international situation constitutes a sufficient threat to Japan’s national security to warrant intervention.
July 2 – According to a poll conducted by the Kyōdo News Agency, the approval rating for PM Abe’s cabinet has fallen from 52.1% (June 22nd) to 47.8%. The disapproval rating stands at 40.6%, marking the highest rate of disapproval since PM Abe came to power. 54.4% of those surveyed opposed the cabinet’s decision to change Japan’s long-standing interpretation of the constitution to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense. 34.6% expressed support. Although the final decision regarding the new interpretation is due in a month and a half, 82.1 percent of respondents said there had not been sufficient discussion on the issue. 73.9% expressed concern that the scope for Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense could expand in the future, while 68.4 percent said PM Abe should call a general election to allow voters to give their verdict.
July 3 – On July 2nd, various regional editions of the Asahi Shinbun featured statements from local residents about PM Abe’s new interpretation of article 9 of the constitution. A collection of these ran in the popular Vox Pupuli column on July 3rd. 79-year-old Shinji Kuroda, a veteran of WWII and a long-time Liberal Democratic Party supporter from Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, said, ““Wars create localized situations that cannot be controlled by governmental negotiations.” “Yuichi Osato, 78, an LDP member of the Akita prefectural assembly and a former assembly president, disagrees with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s agenda. Osato was 4 years old when he started living in China with his father. “I’ve been bombed. I know what war is like. But I don’t think Abe knows,” he said.”
July 3 – Japanese Catholic Bishops issued a statement criticizing PM Abe’s cabinet resolution to change the interpretation of article 9. The strongly worded statement accuses PM Abe of violating article 99 of the Constitution, which states that “The Emperor or the Regent as well as Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this constitution.”
July 9 – The slide in approval of PM Abe and his cabinet in recent public opinion polls may be slowing the pace of PM Abe’s planned constitutional revision. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested that the cabinet would move more slowly, taking about a year to roll out planned changes and making time for discussion in the Diet.
July 11 – Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera held a joint press briefing with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the Pentagon briefing room. Secretary Hagel voiced his support for PM Abe’s reinterpretation of the Japanese constitution to allow for collective self-defense. Hagel: “Together, Japan's collective self-defense decision and the revised defense guidelines will allow Japan to participate more actively in areas such as ballistic missile defense, counter-proliferation, counter-piracy, peacekeeping, and a wide range of military exercises. The United States and Japan will also be able to work more closely together on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and other areas. We can raise our alliance to a new level, and we intend to do that.”
July 15 – Polls conducted by Jiji News (時事通信) between the 11th and 14th of July indicate that the approval rating of PM Abe and his cabinet has fallen to 44.6%, with the disapproval rating rising to 34.6%. This marks the lowest approval rating since the Abe administration came to power in 2012.
July 18 – Japan approved its first major military technology deal since the end of the arms export ban in April. The deal approved the supply of missile interceptor gyroscopes to the United States and sensor-related technology to Britain. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactures the gyroscopes under license from US Defense contractor Raytheon.
July 19 – Over 100 people participated in a parade in Hiroshima to demonstrate against changes in the interpretation of article 9. Participants chanted “[change] all of the weapons into flowers”「すべての武器を花に」.
July 19 – Defense Minister Itsonori Onodera has announced plans to make provisions for military use of Saga Airport in Kyushu. The plans indicate that the minister hopes to base MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the facility. These aircraft could be used to protect islands in the East China Sea (including the Senkaku islands).
July 24 – Two women who were treated as sex slaves (“comfort women”) by the Japanese army during WWII visited the comfort woman statue in Glendale to commemorate the upcoming third anniversary of the city’s “Comfort Women Day” on July 30th.
July 24 – Japan has released documents detailing the history of the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. Japan sought Taiwan’s silence over the Senkaku Islands in 1971 in exchange for support for Taiwan’s attempt to maintain its seat at the UN. The dispute over the islands only began after a 1968 survey conducted by a UN agency indicated the possibility of petroleum in the vicinity.
July 25 – The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO that works to prevent armed conflicts, has released a report entitled “Old Scores and New Grudges: Evolving Sino-Japanese Tensions,” arguing that “The deterioration in relations between China and Japan has spiraled beyond an island sovereignty dispute and risks an armed conflict neither wants.”
July 25 – South Korean PM Geun-hye Park told visiting Tokyo Governor Yōichi Masuzoe that she wants the Japanese government to resolve the comfort women issue. This encounter comes after PM Abe authorized a panel to investigate the 1993 Kōno statement. Under international pressure, PM Abe backed down without issuing a revision to the statement, but the review process itself has strained relations between Japan and its neighbors.
July 26 – Ambassador Manuel Lopez, the Philippines envoy to Japan, expressed his country’s support for PM Abe’s shift in the interpretation of article 9. Lopez says that the Philippines regards a greater military role for Japan as a potential balancing force for the East Asia region.
July 27 – According to an unnamed Japanese government source, Japan is considering creating a new law that would allow the Self-Defense Forces to provide weapons and ammunition to the US military as a means of “logistical support.” The source claimed that it is hoped that this legislation can be passed in time for the change to be reflected in the guidelines for US-Japan security cooperation to be passed by the end of the year. A senior lawmaker with the New Komeitō party said that nothing regarding the sale of arms has yet been discussed across party lines.
July 27 – A conference calling for the investigation of the process leading to the cabinet decision to revise the interpretation of Article 9 was held in Aichi Prefecture. Speakers at this conference included university professors, lawyers, and a former member of the Diet.
July 27 – Yōhei Kōno, author of the 1993 Kōno statement and retired LDP politician, has voiced his opposition to PM Abe’s reinterpretation of article 9. Kōno also criticized PM Abe’s decision to review the 1993 Kōno statement of apology on comfort women. Kōno on article 9: “The armaments industry cannot in any way be allowed to have an influence on Japanese politics,” he said. “We cannot become that kind of country.”
July 27 – Natsuki Uchiyama, a member of the pop group AKB48 and a freshman at Keiō University, has co-authored a book titled Constitutionalism (『憲法主義』) with Shigeru Minamino, Associate Professor of law at Kyūshū University. The book is intended to raise awareness about the significance of the constitution.
July 30 – A community center in Saitama sparked criticism by refusing to publish a haiku critical of the rush to alter article 9. The poem in question reads, “Tsuyu no sora/’Kyūjo mamore’ no/Josei demo.” The Japan Times printed the following translation: The poem can be translated: “Under a rainy-season sky ‘Protect Article 9′ Female demonstrators cry out.”
July 30 – A UN human rights agency led by Sir Nigel Rodley (UK) called on Japan to guarantee that investigations of wartime sex slavery are independent and to provide a public apology and compensation to the women who were victims. The committee statement argues that Japan is responsible to “ensure that all allegations of sexual slavery or other human rights violations perpetrated by Japanese military during wartime against the ‘comfort women’, are effectively, independently and impartially investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished”. The statement asserts that Japan has a “direct legal responsibility” with regards to the comfort women. The statement additionally notes that “The committee is also concerned about re-victimization of the former comfort women by attacks on their reputations, including some by public officials and some that are encouraged by the state party’s equivocal position.” The Japanese Foreign Ministry has rejected the call.
July 30 – China conducted offshore military drills this week that have been seen as “a show intended for Japan.” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters, "For any country, conducting drills in nearby seas is what they routinely do […] We ourselves carry out exercises in a solid manner. We take this as China's routine exercise […] It is our understanding that this is not the kind of exercise aimed at a particular country or a particular situation."
July 31 – The Japanese Self Defense Forces took part in joint military exercises with the US during RIMPAC 2014 this month. The SDF rehearsed amphibious landing scenarios. The Diplomat writes that, “The SDF’s interest in island warfare clearly stems from the possibility of conflict with China over disputed islets in the East China Sea.”
August 1 – Japan’s Maritime Policy Department announced names for 158 previously nameless remote islands administered by Japan. Five of the islands issued names form the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands chain, which is also claimed by Taiwan and China. The new names will appear on maps and in publications, but they do not indicate changes from boundaries as drawn on previous Japanese maps. The Chinese government issued a protest at the announcement.
August 1 – A campaign by Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), a conservative group with ties to PM Abe, has led to 19 prefectural assemblies passing resolutions asking the national Diet to rewrite the constitution. Nippon Kaigi reports that it has about 35,000 members, 47 prefectural chapters, and 230 local chapters. On the other hand, in response to a campaign by 9-jō no Kai, some 200 municipalities have passed statements expressing opposition to PM Abe’s efforts to push through constitutional change.
August 2 – Ex-PM Fukuda met with Chinese PM Xi Jinping during a secret visit to China from July 27th to July 29th. Commentators maintain that the likely purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of talks between PM Xi and PM Abe.
August 3 – According to a survey conducted by Kyōdo News Agency, 84% of respondents say the government’s explanation for collective self-defense is unclear/inadequate.
August 3 – 157 constitutional law scholars held a press conference to call for the repeal of the cabinet decision whereby the LDP and New Komeitō altered the interpretation of article 9 to allow for collective self-defense.
August 3 – In Union City, New Jersey, a Butterfly sculpture with a plaque declaring a dedication to the Korean Comfort Women has been unveiled.
August 5 – Asahi Newspaper formally retracted 16 articles it had published about the comfort women issue between 1982 and 1997 based on the testimony of Seiji Yoshida. Yoshida made sensational claims that he organized the comfort women system for the Japanese military on Jeju island. The retraction comes amidst increasing pressure from PM Abe and right-leaning media.
August 6 – A US Judge ruled that the Glendale, California comfort woman statue does not violate any law.
August 6 – The Asahi Newspaper has attracted attention for retracting articles that cited testimony by author Seiji Yoshida that he kidnapped some 200 women on Jeju Island and forced them to become comfort women. Asahi first published his story in 1982, and he was cited in at least 16 articles in the 1990s. The Asahi newspaper now claims that it cannot verify the details of Mr. Yoshida’s accounts. Mr. Yoshida died in 2000.
August 6 – Hiroshima marked the 69th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb. Mayor Matsui Kazumi referred to the importance of acknowledging the role the Japanese constitution has played in keeping Japan out of wars since the end of WWII. Some 45,000 people participated in the day’s events.
August 7 – Chinese ships again sailed into disputed waters, prompting a warning from the Japanese coast guard.
August 7 – According to a Kyōdo News Agency poll, 60.4% of those surveyed opposed the cabinet resolution that opened the door to the recognition of the right to collective self-defense.
August 9 – In the Peace Park in Nagasaki, a representative of those injured in the atomic bombings (hibakusha 被爆者), Ms. Jodai Mineko (75), gave a speech calling for peace and directly criticizing PM Abe’s move to alter the constitution to allow for collective self-defense. The phrase most frequently cited refers to the “recklessness of trampling on the constitution.” (“憲法を踏みにじる暴挙”)
August 11 – According to a joint poll conducted by Fuji News Network and Sankei Newspaper, PM Abe and his cabinet have an approval rating of 51.8%. This marks a 6-point improvement since July. In the wake of Asahi Shinbun’s retraction of articles related to the comfort women problem, 70.7% of respondents said they thought Asahi had not sufficiently verified the facts before publishing the articles in question. 54.5% of respondents said they hoped for high level talks between Japanese and Chinese leaders, and 52.5% said they hoped for high level talks between Japanese and Korean leaders.
August 12 – Former Democratic Socialist PM Tomiichi Maruyama (in office from 1994-1996, now 90 years old) severely criticized PM Abe’s constitutional politics in an interview with the China Daily.
August 13 – The Japanese government has begun drawing up defense guidelines to deal with “gray zone” conflict scenarios that include armed foreign nationals disguised as fishermen landing on Japanese islands. As Chinese boats repeatedly enter territory administered and claimed by Japan around the Senkaku islands, the government has also announced that it will enhance maritime education for wider understanding of Japan’s territories and resources.
August 15 – South Korea’s PM Park Geun-hye criticized Japan over the comfort women issue during her Liberation Day speech. PM Abe did not visit Yasukuni Shrine to mark the end of the war.
August 16 – A group of opposition lawmakers from the DPJ, the social democratic party, and other opposition parties led by DPJ lawmaker Shoichi Kondo has announced plans to write a bill that will prohibit collective self-defense and conscription.
August 16 – In Saga-city in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, the Saga anti-war assembly of 1000 (戦争をさせない佐賀県１０００人委員会) held a conference with 500 attendees. Yokota Koichi (横田耕一 Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law at Kyushu University) gave a speech denouncing PM Abe`s changes to the interpretation of Article 9. Nobel Prize Winning Novelist Oe Kenzaburo is among the founding members of this regional anti-war coalition, which was formed in March of 2014.
August 18 – Japan`s Foreign Ministry announced that the number of Japanese living in China has dropped by 10% since last year. According to Japanese Government figures, 135,078 currently reside in mainland China.
August 19 – On his last day in Seoul, Pope Francis met with a group of seven former Korean comfort women prior to a mass attended by South Korean PM Park Geun-hye. One of the women gave Pope Francis a butterfly pin lapel, a symbol of their struggle, which he wore during the mass. The topic of the Pope`s sermon was reconciliation between North and South Korea..
August 20 – The Abe cabinet has published a statement discouraging local governments from passing ordinances to allow foreign residents the right to vote. This is a reiteration of the position stated in a brochure the LDP issued in 2011. The move comes as an increasing number of local governments are making use of local statutes to allow residents (Japanese nationals and foreign nationals) to vote on regional issues. Korean Residents of Japan, many of whom were born in Japan, represent one significant minority impacted by these events.
August 20 – According to Defense News, Japan may invest as much as 40 billion yen (387 million dollars) to develop an indigenous stealth fighter starting in April 2015. Japan has also lifted its self-imposed ban on weapons exports and will begin exporting to India next year.
August 23 – During Indian PM Modi`s visit to Japan in September, India and Japan are expected to sign a historic defense pact. This will be Japan`s first such agreement since the end of the war with a country other than its traditional allies the US, Britain, and Australia.
August 23 – In Okinawa, approximately 3,500 protestors marched to Henoko Bay to protest the construction of a U.S. Marine Corps Base there. Leaders gave speeches against PM Abe`s re-militarization of Japan and perceived discrimination against Okinawans.
August 24 – Four Chinese government ships entered the waters around the Senkaku islands, marking the 20th such entry into Japanese administered territory this year.
August 29 – Japan`s Defense Ministry is seeking a 5.05 trillion yen budget for the coming year, a 3.5% rise over last year. Earlier this week, Japan`s coast guard requested a doubling of its current budget to 50.4 billion yen. . According to official figures, in 2013 Japan spent $51 billion on defense (making it the world`s 7th largest defense budget), China spent $112.2 billion (2nd largest), and the U.S. spent $600.4 billion (1st place).
August 29 – A government spokesperson announced that PM Abe had sent a message of support to a ceremony held on Mount Koya for more than 1000 Japanese who died after convictions for war crimes. The New York Times writes, ‘Mr. Abe wrote in the message that the convicted war criminals had “sacrificed their souls to become the foundation of the fatherland.”’ Critics see this revelation as likely to contribute to the ongoing deterioration of relations between Japan and its neighbors.
August 30 – The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Japan to provide apologies and reparations to surviving comfort women and their families. Deputy Head of the Commission, Anastasia Crickley said, “we also believe it is very important that denial of these events is not countenanced.” The panel also urged the Japanese government to address hate speech by law in the wake of a rise in racist demonstrations targeting Korean residents.
August 31 – The National Interest published an editorial regarding Pope Francis’ meeting with seven elderly former comfort women in South Korea on August 18th. This editorial points out that a Japanese cabinet decision in 2013 acknowledged the 1947 Batavia War Crimes Trials’ verdict that a number of Japanese officers were guilty of forcing women into prostitution in Indonesia. Thus, in 2013, the Japanese cabinet accepted that these documents were part of the official Japanese government records supporting the Kono statement. However, these documents do not appear to have been considered in the recent “review” of how the Kono statement was drafted. The editorial argues that the deliberate omission of documents from the Batavia War Crimes Trials should be understood as part of a larger attempt to set aside any legal record or proceeding prosecuting Japanese war crimes.
August 31 – The Japanese coastguard reported that three Chinese vessels once again entered the waters around the Senkaku island, marking the 23rd consecutive day of such an occurrence.
September 1 – During his visit to Japan, PM Narendra Modi of India said that expansionism will never lead to progress in the modern world. This remark was regarded as a swipe at China, and the state visit in general has been seen as representing a strengthening of ties between Japan and India.
September 2 – The Washington-based think-tank Asia Policy Point recently published a 94-page report about the 2012-2014 Abe administration. One day before the scheduled cabinet shuffle, the writers published a summary of their findings about the make-up of the Abe cabinet thus far. They argue that prior Japanese cabinets have been comprised of members from competing factions (habatsu), the overwhelming majority of PM Abe’s cabinet hail from one or more of 18 conservative parliamentary leagues and issue groups. “The hub of these leagues with a membership that claims 63 percent of the extended 97-member Abe administration and nearly 90 percent of its 19 cabinet ministers, is the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership Diet Members’ Caucus (Shinto seiji renmei kokkai giin kondankai). The caucus is an extension of the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, an organization established in 1970 to preserve the political presence of Shinto in Japan.” .
September 3 – PM Abe reshuffled his cabinet, appointing Sadakazu Tanigaki as LDP secretary general and MP Toshihiro Nikai as his deputy. The appointment of two men with close ties to China was seen as an advance effort to lay the ground for a first meeting between PM Abe and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Beijing this autumn. Five of the new appointees are women. Two thirds of the cabinet were reshuffled. Fifteen of the nineteen members are affiliated with the Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi), a rightist group founded in 1997 for the purpose of normalizing the Japanese military. PM Abe himself is a special advisor to this group, and Deputy PM Taro Aso and five of the six who remained in their posts are also members. Sanae Takichi is the group’s vice president and the newly appointed minister of general affairs. Takichi has publicly called for the invalidation of the Kono statement. Eriko Yamatani, newly appointed minister for the North Korea abductee issue, recently visited the US to protest the installation of comfort women statues.
September 4 – In the year ending in March 2014, Japan scrambled fighter jets 415 times (a high 36% up from the previous year) to intercept Chinese aircraft. This comes after Beijing enlarged its air identification zone in November of 2013 to cover a broad swathe of the East China Sea claimed by Japan.
September 4 – Sri Lankan Lawyer Radhika Coomaraswamy, who published the UN report on the comfort women issue in 1996, spoke to the Kyodo news agency for the first time since Asahi Newspaper retracted its stories from the 1980s and 1990s on the comfort women issue. She said that the works of Seiji Yoshida that have recently come into question were only one source of evidence. She reiterated that there was no doubt that the Japanese military forced women into sexual slavery during the war. She called the Japanese government’s stance on the comfort women issue ‘baffling.’
September 5 – Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga responded to Coomaraswamy’s comments saying, "It's regrettable that the Coomaraswamy report has not taken into account our basic stance, or how hard we have been tackling the issue […] There is no confirmation of objective material that proves (comfort women) were forcibly taken away," the top government spokesman added. "We will continue to explain our stance to the international community, including the United Nations."
September 6 – The Asahi Newspaper published an apology for initially refusing to publish its monthly column by journalist Akira Ikegami who had chosen to comment on the paper’s review of its 1980s and 1990s reports on comfort women. Asahi has been under fire recently.
September 7 – According to the latest Asahi Newspaper public opinion survey, the Abe cabinet’s approval rate is at 47%, a 5% increase since August. An increase in support among female voters is particularly notable. When PM Abe announced plans to change the interpretation of the Constitution, support among women voters dropped below 40% in July. Currently it stands at 44% among women and 49% among men.
September 8 – An interview with Miyazaki Hayao published in the Studio Ghibli Magazine Neppu in July was translated and published online. Miyazaki criticizes PM Abe and argues that Japan should take responsibility for the comfort women issue and act accordingly.
September 8 – Opponents to the comfort woman statue in Glendale California have filed an appeal against the ruling in August which found that the statue could stay as it violates no laws.
September 9 – South Korea is pushing to resume long-suspended security talks with Japan in order to discuss North Korea and regional security issues. The talks took place regularly from 1997 until they were put on hold in 2009 due to tensions over historical and territorial disputes.
September 9 – Australian News Media have reported that the Australian government is on track to buy 10-12 Submarines from Japan for 20 billion Australian Dollars (17.38 billion USD).
September 10 – According to a survey conducted by the China Daily, 53.4% of those Chinese surveyed responded that they envisioned a future conflict between China and Japan. (1,539 persons were surveyed in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenyang and Xian). The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (64%) and Historical Understanding (59.6%) were cited as the two prominent reasons for unfavorable impressions of Japan and sources of conflict.
September 11 – This day marks the second anniversary of Japan’s purchase of the Senkaku Islands from a private landowner. The anniversary was met with renewed criticism of the move by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
September 15 – Professor Jeff Kingston and Professor Asano Ken’ichi writing in Japan Focus criticized NHK’s decision not to report the self-immolation next to Shinjuku station performed on June 29th. Both argue that NHK is dominated by PM Abe’s influence and thereby failing to function as an effective journalistic watchdog.
September 16 – Japan rules out providing military assistance to the US in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
September 19 – China’s ambassador to Iceland, Ma Jisheng, has been accused of spying for Japan and arrested. He was allegedly turned while he served in the Tokyo embassy from 2004 to 2008.
September 20 – A protest was held outside the Asahi Newspaper Headquarters demanding that the paper stop publishing all together. Protestors claimed that Asahi was responsible for spreading the comfort women narrative and thereby damaging Japan’s international reputation.
September 21 – Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui expressed his approval of PM Abe’s move to allow Collective Self Defense during a visit to Japan. Lee was the first democratically elected leader of Taiwan, in office from 1988 until 2000. He is an outspoken proponent of Taiwanese independence.
September 22 – The largest ever Japanese business delegation headed to China. The trip was organized by the Japan-China Economic Association. This trip comes as tensions over the Senkaku islands seem to be decreasing in the period leading up to the APEC summit.
September 22 – Nikkei news announced that Japan is developing its first new fighter aircraft since WWII.
September 23 – Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the New Komeito Party, announced his support for the Abe cabinet’s policy platform.
September 24 – China and Japan held talks in Qingdao about maritime policy and agreed to establish a mechanism of communication in order to avoid unnecessary crises that may arise from incidents in the East China Sea. Another high level talk is planned to take place later this year in Japan.
September 24 – In a speech held at Columbia University in New York, PM Abe said that he hopes to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. “Just to meet, shake hands and hold talks will contribute further to peace and stability in the region.”
September 25 – The government has decided to postpone voting on major legislation dealing with the right to Collective Self Defense until after nationwide local elections (slated for April of next year). The security policy change has proven unpopular with the public, so the party has opted for a slower pace of change. New Komeito and the LDP are scheduled to resume talks about legislative changes in November.
September 30 – US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said that the US will respond militarily to any attempt to take the Senkaku Islands. Former Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim gave his vote of confidence to a militarizing Japan, saying, ‘They can go nuclear […] in a matter of months.’
September 30 – Japan’s largest warship, a 250m Izumo-class helicopter carrier, is now in the process of sea trials. This ship is the largest ship commissioned by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces since the end of WWII. It will be commissioned next year.
October 2 – Asahi newspaper has announced a third-party committee to evaluate the paper’s comfort women coverage.
October 3 – The Yomiuri Newspaper posted an editorial decrying threats made against former Asahi reporters connected to the comfort women articles and their families. Yomiuri maintains that the Asahi reports damaged Japan’s international reputation, but that the threats of physical violence and the posting of names and addresses of reporters and their family members online are reprehensible criminal acts.
October 4 – Japanese citizens supporting Article 9 (憲法９条保持する日本国民) are in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize along with Malala Yousafzai and Edward Snowden.
October 4 – A Chinese Y9 Recon Plane was sighted above the Senkaku Islands for the first time.
October 5 – The Japanese Coast Guard announced plans to boost its patrols in the waters near the Senkaku Islands. Two 96 meter long Cutters are the latest editions to the Coast Guard fleet. These ships are expected to be sent to patrol the waters near the Senkaku Islands by late October. There are plans to construct 8 more vessels by the end of 2015.
October 5 – The Kokumin Anpo Hoseikon (国民安保法制懇), a group of constitutional scholars and former bureaucrats, has released a report denouncing the Abe cabinet’s reinterpretation of the constitution. Among the writers is a former director general of the cabinet legislation bureau, Ōmori Masasuke. The report was discussed on today’s Vox Populi column in the Asahi Newspaper.
October 6 – PM Abe accused the Asahi Newspaper of tarnishing Japan’s honor during a session of the Lower House Budget committee. He said he wants Asahi to put efforts into recovering Japan’s Honor. A group of 444 lawyers, scholars, journalists, and concerned members of the public called on Hokusei Gakuen University not to give in to demands that the university fire Takashi Uemura, a former Asahi Newspaper Journalist who in the 1990s contributed to the comfort women reporting. The university has even received bomb threats in connection with Uemura. Professor Jiro Yamaguchi, leader of the Support Hokusei Gakuen University Group, has compared such pressure to McCarthyism.
October 7 – Members of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force are scheduled to make a goodwill visit to Manila, Philippines, next week. Manila is attempting to build stronger relationships with Japan and generally embraces PM Abe’s constitutional revision.
October 7 – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that his ministry will consider removing the solicitation for donations for the former comfort women from its website. Kishida said that he himself does not believe Japan forced women to serve in wartime brothels.
October 8 – South Korea Indicted a Japanese Journalist for defaming President Park. Tatsuya Kato, former chief of the Seoul Bureau of the Sankei Newspaper, published an article on August 3rd suggesting that Park was unavailable after the ferry disaster last April because she was spending time with a lover.
October 13 – The LDP is under pressure to distance itself from the far right after several senior members were linked to hate groups. Three members of PM Abe’s government, including Eriko Yamatani, the chairwoman of the national public safety commission, are implicated. A photograph surfaced featuring Yamatani with Shigeeo Masuki, a senior member of the anti-Korean Zaitokukai group. Zaitokukai group members frequently call for Korean residents in Japan to be killed. However, Yamatani refuses to denounce the group, and claims she does not recall being photographed with Masuki. Photographs of Sanae Takaichi, the internal affairs minister, and the LDP’s policy head, Tomomi Inada, together with Kazunari Yamada, the leader of a fascist party, have also emerged. Takaichi and Inada claim they were unaware of Yamada’s extremist views.
November 5 – Japanese man burned himself to protest that the government was shifting to collective self defense.
November 6 – The Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives was held. The attendees had a free-style discussion on the theme of “The Japanese constitution and basic legislation related to the constitution: the issues which should be focused on in future discussion”. The representative of each party provided their ideas. The full version of the meeting notes are available on the website of the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives but brief summaries are below. Funada Hajime (LDP) said the government should let the people become more acquainted with the voting age change from 20 to 18 years old for the national referendum for constitutional revision. In addition, he suggested that the government use an age limit of 18 years old for related laws, such as the Public Officers Election Law. He also explained the LDP’s conventional disciplines on constitutional revision but emphasized the importance of deliberative discussion between parties and called for other parties’ ideas on constitutional revision. He then proposed a gradual approach to revise the constitution, starting with the three less controversial articles, ‘environmental protection (Kankō-ken)’, ‘financial discipline’ and ‘emergency situation’, ahead of Article 9 and other articles which need more deliberative compromises. Takemasa Kōichi (DPJ) expressed anxiety regarding the Abe administration’s reinterpretation of Article 9 to exercise Japan’s collective defense right in July 2014. He also said the government should resolve the conflicts between ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘human rights’ concerning current radicalized ‘hate speech’ activities. Takemasa presented new subjects from the former DPJ administration’s incomplete constitutional reform: elimination of administrative sectionalism, decentralized government, administrative reform involving integration of prefectures (Dōshūsei) and the people’s right to free access to information. He mentioned there should be more careful discussion even about the three less controversial articles. He insisted that the Diet should keep making efforts to mobilize the people in the constitutional discussion like the upcoming public hearing event in Morioka. Takemasa indicated that Article 96, which requires support of two third members of House of Representatives and Councils to revise the constitution, has effectively prevented dogmatic and rapid revision. Itō Nobuhisa (JIP, the Japan Innovation Party) articulated a positive attitude toward constitutional revision, including toward Articles 9 and 96. He recognized the necessity of legislation to exercise Japan’s collective defense right but said that reinterpretations of articles should be approved by a legal institution. Itō also proposed some issues that the JIP has pushed, such as specification of the Emperor as the official head of state, direct election of the Prime Minister, local autonomy, and introduction of Dōshūsei. About Article 96, he said the requirement should be relaxed to encourage national debate on constitutional revision. Saitō Tetsuo (KM, the Kōmeitō) insisted that the three basic characteristics of the constitution, ‘basic human rights’, ‘the sovereignty of the people’ and ‘permanent peace’, have contributed to reconstitution and peace of postwar Japan, have been adapted by the Japanese people over time and should not be re-done. In this context, ‘addition of articles’ instead of ‘revision of the constitution’ would be suitable and acceptable as an approach of modifying the constitution. About security, Saitō said the conception of ‘human security’ should be emphasized more. Also according to Saitō, there are some internal disagreements regarding the three less controversial articles inside the KM. He also agreed that relaxation of the requirement determined in Article 96 should be considered but he does not think the requirement is too strict. Nishino Kōichi (PFG, the Party for Future Generations) argued that the Japanese people should stand firmly against the ‘imposed constitution’ and write their own new constitution. He also expressed strong apprehension of Japan’s security crisis, focusing on territorial disputes over islands and waters with neighboring counties, and sought clear specification of Japan’s self-defense right in the new constitution. Nishino said concentrating on supportive votes which satisfy the condition of Article 96 as soon as possible is necessary. Mitani Hidehiro (the Your Party) explained the Your Party’s basic principles on the constitutional discussion, such as favoring the introduction of Dōshūsei with local leadership, direct election of Prime Minister and increased local autonomy. Regarding new human rights related to protection of environment and privacy, Mitani said that more thoughtful consideration was needed based on his party’s fundamental focus on small government. He also mentioned that the requirement of Article 96 is too strict and has discouraged national discussion on constitutional revision. Kasai Akira (JCP) confirmed the JCP’s stance which is opposed to any revision of the constitution, not only Article 9 but also addition of new articles regarding ‘environmental protection’, ‘financial discipline’ and ‘emergency situation’. He said the Japanese people do not require debates to edit the constitution and that the Commission on the Constitution is also not necessary. Kasai insisted that the Abe administration should halt modification of original definition of Article 9 and creation of new security guidelines with the US. Suzuki Katsumasa (PLP, the People’s Life Party) said the Commission on the Constitution is essential because it provides equal opportunities to small parties to join the constitutional debates. According to Suzuki, the PLP believes there are not only three but four basic characteristics of the current constitution: the fourth is ‘international cooperation’ in addition to ‘basic human rights’, ‘the sovereignty of the people’ and ‘permanent peace’. Suzuki insisted that any constitutional revision to deny these four functions should not be allowed and in this context, Article 96 is reasonable and should not be changed. The cabinet decision to reinterpret an article of the constitution might violate ‘constitutionalism’.
November 7 – The Washington Post released an interview with PM Abe. PM Abe talked about the economy, Japan’s diplomatic relationship with China and the US, and the reinterpretation of Article 9 in the Constitution that was decided in the cabinet in July. In the interview, PM Abe said “Changing the interpretation means that now it is possible to exercise the right to collective self-defense. As a result of this, I believe the Japan-U.S. alliance will be stronger. I firmly believe that as a result of that, the peace and stability of the region, as well as that of Japan, will be made even stronger.”
November 10 – PM Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping held formal talks in Beijing to improve the Japan-China relationship for the first time since the two leaders assumed office. The summit was held on the sideline of the APEC hosted by China in Beijing.
November 11 – Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio said there is no territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands to re-confirm the Japanese government’s view on the islands.
November 11 – Japanese man burned himself to protest that the government was shifting to collective self-defense.
November 14 – Asahi Shimbun declared that president of Asahi Shimbun, Tadakazu Kimura, would resign, taking responsibility for the Asahi Shimbun releasing a false report on the comfort women issue, providing wrong information on “Yoshida testimony” related to the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima in 2011 and postponing publication of an article about comfort women written by Ikegami Akira, a journalist.
November 16 – The leaders of the US, Australia and Japan had a summit and took an oath to oppose Russian incursion into Crimea. President Obama, PM Abbott and PM Abe had the meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit hosted by Australia in Brisbane.
November 16 – Former Naha Mayor Onaga Takechi won the gubernatorial election in Okinawa. He was known for his anti-US base political argument.
November 17 – The Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives held a public hearing event in Morioka. Takemasa Kōichi (DPJ) played the role of sub-leader and reported the details of the event at the commission meeting on the 19th. The detailed report is available on the website of the Commission on the Constitution of House of Representatives. In addition to the representative commission members of eight parties, scholars, a legal representative, a member of the prefectural assembly and a union leader joined the discussion. According to Takemasa, they gave various ideas on constitutional revision, including importance of political education, protection of basic principles of the current constitution, complete revision rather than step-by-step modifications of individual articles, and the necessity of improvement for conditions which have violated human rights.
November 18 – PM Abe called a snap election and stated that the planned sales tax increase to 10% should be delayed. He originally planned to enforce the tax increase in October 2015.
November 20 – Professor Jeff Kingston published his new article in Japan Focus, Extremists Flourish in Abe's Japan. In the article, Prof. Kingston expresses anxiety that rightwing extremists, provoked by the Abe administration, are threatening academic freedom in addition to civil liberties.
November 21 – The House of Representatives was dissolved. A general election was planned for December 14.
November 25 – According to the Japanese Coast Guard, Chinese ships broke into Japanese waters for the first time since the Sino-Japanese summit to relax tensions took place on November 10, 2015.
November 25 – The McGraw-Hill publishing company rejected the Japanese government’s request to change the description that ‘comfort women’ were moved forcibly by Japanese military during World War II in the textbook they publish. On the 18th, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kishida Fumio, had declared that the description was wrong and the Japanese government asked the publisher to revise it in his press conference.
November 28 – Your Party leader Asao Keiichirō had a press conference and stated that The Your Party (Minna no Tō) dissolved. Watanabe Yoshimi founded Your Party in 2009, leaving the LDP. However, the party had struggled with internal conflicts in the last few years. At the end of 2013, Eda Kenji and other lawmakers left the party to protest that the party followed the Abe administration’s Special Secrecy Law, and established a new party called the Unity Party (Yui no Tō). Watanabe resigned as president, due to suspicion about his income and expenditure reports of political funds in April, 2014. Asao took over as leader of the party after Watanabe’s resignation. The Unity Party joined the Japan Resonation Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai) and they founded the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin no Tō) in September 2014.
November 28 – Yomiuri Shimbun apologized for using “misleading expressions”, including “sex slaves”, to describe World War Two comfort women on its English website, The Japan News.
November 29 – Eight opposition party leaders questioned PM Abe during an online debate over “Abenomics”, the reinterpretation of the constitution and other political issues in July, 2014.
December 7 – Asahi Shimbun published an article focusing on a women’s meeting called “We have had enough of politics conducted by ‘ossan’ (old men)!” which was held on December 7th in Tokyo. In the meeting participants discussed gender-related issues, especially the low ratio of female politicians in the parliament. According the article, the ratio of female Lower House members was 8.1 percent as of November 21 in 2015, which is extremely low comparing with other counties. In the ongoing campaign for the general election planned on December 14th, there are 198 female candidate that is only 16.6 percent of the total 1,191 candidates. In this context, the article introduced some female groups for promotion of women’s political activities such as Project of Japan Women's & Human Rights Network and the All Japan Obachan Party (AJOP).
December 11 – The Wall Street Journal published an essay about PM Abe and his family, especially his grandfather, former PM Kishi Nobusuke. The essay points out that PM Abe is trying to rebuild the Japanese military, following his grandfather’s will, in his third administration after the snap election on the 14th.
December 14 – The LDP and Komeito coalition has won two-thirds majority in the Lower House general election.
December 14 – The 47th general election PM Abe’s leading party, the LDP, developed the election campaign, defining the snap election as the verdict of the people on the Abe administration's economic policy, “Abenomics”. The JCP won twice as many seats as before the election, 21, and the chairman Shii Kazuo said unaffiliated voters and people who criticize the Abe administration supported the JCP in this election. According to the poll by Yomiuri Shimbun, 65% people chose the LDP because they thought the LDP is better than other parties and that there were no alternatives. The election brought tough results for the DPJ and third parties such as the Party for Future Generations, the People’s Life Party and Japan Innovation Party. The DPJ leader, Kaieda Banri failed in the election and resigned his post. The former DPJ leader, Kan Naoto, lost in his election district but won a seat in a proportionally represented constituency. He held an anti-nuclear power position and expressed worries that the LDP’s overwhelming victory would allow the revision of Article 9 in his campaign. On the 15, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released the voting rate of the general election. It was the lowest recorded post-war voting rate, at 52.66% in the small district constituency. According to Mainichi Shimbun’s questionnaire survey, 83% of the elected members are in favor of constitutional revision. The number is over the two-thirds of the House of Representatives required to submit a proposal to revise the constitution. However, 57% of members are against the revision of Article 9.
December 15 – Kato Tatsuya, the Seoul bureau chief of Sankei Shimbun, had his second hearing at the Seoul Central District Court. He was charged with defaming South Korean president Park Geun-hye in October 2014.
December 18 – A Korean group (including dignitaries) started supporting a Japanese signature-collecting campaign that argues that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
December 24 – The third Abe cabinet started. PM Abe expressed passion for constitutional revision after the inauguration of his third cabinet.
December 26 – Okinawa governor, Onaga Takeshi had a meeting with state minister Yamaguchi Shunichi, who is in charge of promoting Okinawa at the Cabinet Office in Tokyo. According to the newspaper, the Abe administration might cut the promotional budget for Okinawa to counter Onaga’s policy to prevent the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station in Futenma to Ginowan.
December 26 – Asahi Shimbun president, Watanabe Masataka, apologized for poor reporting about the comfort women issue in the Asahi Shimbun, responding to a third-party report released on the 22nd.
January 1 – Emperor Akihito released a statement for the new year. In the statement, he mentioned both continuous struggling from the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and also the 70th anniversary of World War II. He said “I think it is most important for us to take this opportunity to study and learn from the history of this war, starting with the Manchurian Incident of 1931, as we consider the future direction of our country.” The full statement is available on the official website of the Imperial Household Agency.
January 1 – Professor Jeff Kingston interpreted the Emperor’s statement as having a deliberate meaning to restrain the government led by PM Abe, which is regarded as revisionist, despite the Emperor’s use of very careful and ambiguous expressions in order to avoid a political stand.
January 5 – PM Abe said that he will reflect on the essence of the Murayama statement in his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Murayama statement is known for expressing apologies for Japan’s wartime aggression.
January 9 – Former Asahi reporter Uemura Takashi filed a libel lawsuit against Bungei Shunjyū and Nishioka Tsutomu, a large publisher and a scholar of Korean studies. According to Uemura, he has been threatened by right-wingers and historical revisionists for his 1991 report on comfort women that Asahi Shimbun officially recognized as poor coverage in 2014.
January 9 – It was reported that Sūken Shuppan, a Tokyo-based publisher, deleted some descriptions of comfort women such as “military comfort women (jūgun ianfu)” and “forcibly moved (kyōsei renkō)”, from text books the publisher made for high school students. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, MEXT, approved the textbooks in December 2014.
January 10 – Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide appeared on a TV program on BS Asahi and said that the discussion about constitutional revision should start with ‘environmental protection’ and governmental aid to private schools before Article 9. He suggested the importance of the creation of a new article to obligate the government and people to protect the environment and revision of Article 89, which prohibits using government money to support private schools.
January 13 – Professor Jeffrey W. Hornung published an article, Japan’s Discomfort Women, in Foreign Affairs magazine. In the article, Prof. Hornung said “Arguments that counter the Korean version of the story only support the Korean narrative that the Japanese are denying history” and that PM Abe needs to realize that any efforts for historical revision about comfort women is “a lose-lose issue” for Japan. Prof. Hornung proposed some effective actions to resolve the comfort women issues as diplomatic reconciliation: officially reaffirm the Kōno statement in the planned Abe statement for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, reopen the Asian Women’s Fund and visit the memorial statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Prof. Hornung also said “South Korea should refrain from playing politics with Abe’s outreach, as it has in the past, and acknowledge Japan’s past apologies, reparations paid, and postwar record of peace” and should welcome when the PM makes efforts for rapprochement between the two countries.
January 14 – The Abe administration decided not to submit a controversial conspiracy bill in the upcoming Diet season. The bill would have enabled the state to punish people who were involved with serious crimes, such as international terrorist groups, in the planning or preparation stage of an attack.
January 14 – According to the Jiji Press, PM Abe appeared on a TV show on Kansai TV and said that the Japanese people should create a new constitution by their own hands, mentioning ideal national vision of Japan in the 21st century. He also expressed hope to gain support from other parties, such as the Japan Innovation Party.
January 15 – The Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau started installation work on a new base in Henoko, district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. Anti-base protesters clashed with Japan Coast Guard officers in waters there and also with police outside of Camp Schwab. Governor Onaga said the restart of the base relocation is “profoundly regrettable” and the work should be halted.
January 15 – According to a Japanese lawmaker, PM Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye indirectly exchanged messages and expressed hope to ease tension in bilateral relations.
January 16 – Professor Alexis Dudden released an article entitled The Shape of Japan to Come that discussed the Abe administration over Japan’s territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors in the New York Times. In the article, Prof. Dudden pointed out Japan’s past revanchism and aspiration over disputed islands in the context of the Abe administration’s policies, including constitutional revision.
January 18 – Okada Katsuya was elected president of the DPJ. Okada defeated Hosono Gōshi to won the election. Okada, 61, headed the party between 2004 and 2005.
January 18 – PM Abe gave a speech at the Japan-India Business Co-operation Committee held in Cairo, Egypt. He stated that Japan will provide an additional $2.5 billion of support to stabilize the Middle East region in non-military fields such as humanitarian aid and infrastructure.
January 20 – A terrorist group, likely ISIL, published a video of two Japanese hostages and demanded that the Japanese government pay ransom money of $200 million within 72 hours. It is speculated that the two Japanese hostages are Yukawa Haruna, kidnapped by ISIL in northern Syria in August, and journalist Gotō Kenji.
January 20 – PM Abe had a press conference and spoke about the Japanese hostages captured by ISIL. He regarded it as an unforgivable and regrettable act of terrorism. Extending condolences to victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, he stated that Japan will cooperate with international society against terrorism. Also, he said that the Japanese government will not retract the financial support toward Middle East he declared in Cairo, which ISIL mentioned as a reason why they seized the two Japanese hostages.
January 22 – Reuters published an article entitled Islamic State Threat Could Stiffen Japan PM Abe’s Stance on Security. The article argued that the capture of two Japanese citizens by ISIL would polarize Japanese public opinion on the Abe administration seeking legislation to exercise Japan’s right to collective self-defense. According to the article, PM Abe emphasized the necessity to loosen the limitation on Japan’s military action abroad, citing the Algerian Hostage crisis of January 2013 in In Amenas that killed 10 Japanese citizens. Also, PM Abe proposed additional large financial support to the Middle East despite the Japanese government recognizing that ISIL captured at least one Japanese civilian, Yukawa Haruna at that point. Supporters of PM Abe’s security policy say that the captive shows a situation that requires Japan to have more flexibility on military actions and contribute in international society to the excursion of terrorism. However, critics of PM Abe’s changes to Japan’s security policy insist that Japan has been involved in conflicts between the US and anti-American Islamic groups because of the recent changes. They also argue that Japanese citizens, such as Yukawa Haruna and Kenji Gotō, are involved, and that Japan’s security has been threatened because of Japan’s departure from its postwar fundamental principle, ‘pacifism’, under PM Abe.
January 24 – A new ordinary 150-day session started in the Diet. The upcoming session would focus on the legislation of Japan’s exercising its collective self-defense right.
January 25 – A new video announced that Japanese hostage Yukawa Haruna was killed by ISIL. PM Abe published a statement criticizing the act of terrorism by ISIL. In the statement, PM Abe said the Japanese government will keep working to get the other hostage, Gotō Kenji, released and will cooperate with international groups to stabilize the world without yielding to terrorism.
January 25 – During a press conference, NHK Director-General Momii Katsuto’s comments about controversial political and diplomatic issues, especially comfort women and territorial disputes over islands, aroused controversy. He said that it is natural for NHK to support Japan’s stance on international broadcasts and that NHK cannot oppose the government. Also, as a personal opinion, he criticized Korea’s pursuit of Japanese apologies about taking comfort women during World War II, saying the same situations occurred in other countries involved in wars in those days.
January 26 – Okudaira Yasuhiro, a jurist and one of the founder of the Article 9 association (Kyujyō no Kai) died at 85. He was known as a defender of the constitution.
January 29 – PM Abe criticized the textbook published by an American publisher, McGraw-Hill that included a description that comfort women were forced to work in brothels for the Japanese military during World War II. According to an article in the Japan Times, PM Abe said “I just looked at a document, McGraw-Hill’s textbook, and I was shocked.”
January 30 – According to an article in Reuters, U.S. Would Welcome Japan’s Patrols in South China Sea, Admiral Robert Thomas, commander of the Seventh Fleet and the top US Navy officer in Asia, said "I think allies, partners and friends in the region will look to the Japanese more and more as a stabilizing function," in an interview. Although Japan has never declared any intention of surveillance in the South China Sea, it is speculated that Japanese and US officials have started negotiations to make a new bilateral security guideline, giving Japan a more productive role in the alliance. According to the article, PM Abe has pushed for Japan’s robust military activities based on using its right of collective self-defense. On the 29th, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Tuvera Gazmin and Japanese Defense Minister Nakatani Gen had a meeting in Tokyo. They signed a memorandum on cooperation that covers military exchanges. The Philippines has a territorial dispute over the Scarborough Shoal with China.
February 1 – ISIL released a new video to indicate that they killed the second Japanese hostage, Gotō Kenji. PM Abe denounced ISIL and said that Japan will cooperate with international society to repudiate terrorist groups and never give into terrorism.
February 9 – The Washington Post reported that a group of American historians will release a letter to show support for scholars in Japan and other areas, concerning the current Japanese government’s conservative suppressive attitude toward academia. The group cites the Japanese government’s attempts to interfere in textbook descriptions, for example in an American textbook published by McGraw Hill, especially about comfort women. The letter will be published in the March issue of the American History Association’s magazine Perspectives and History. According to the Washington Post’s article, one of the organizers of the letter, Professor Alexis Dudden of the University of Connecticut said “We do not want this to be seen as Japan-bashing,” and “It’s the opposite of Japan-bashing. It’s a statement in support of our Japanese colleagues.” The Washington Post’s article declared that there was personal oppressive contact to Professor Herbert Ziegler, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii and co-author of the textbook, from the Japanese government. In addition to the Washington Post’s article, the Japan Times wrote an article about the letter, entitled U.S. Historians Slam Abe Effort to Change Textbook Dealing with ‘Comfort Women’. The article quoted a part of the letter that mentioned McGraw Hill’s textbook: “We support the publisher (McGraw-Hill) and agree with author Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history. We stand with the many historians in Japan and elsewhere who have worked to bring to light the facts about this and other atrocities of World War II.”
February 18 – Matsuda Kōta, a member of the House of Councilors and leader of the Assembly to Energize Japan (Nippon o Genki nisuru Kai) questioned PM Abe about the constitutional revision during a supportive stance for same-sex marriage in the parliament. PM Abe expressed negative impressions for the revision of Article 24 to approve same-sex marriage.
February 18 – The NIKKEI Shimbun (the Nihon Keizai Shimbun) promptly reported that the Supreme Court would make a decision on the constitutionality of two key provisions in family law for the first time. One prohibits married couples from using different surnames and the other says women cannot remarry within six months of a divorce.According to an Asahi Shimbun article, in 2014 the Tokyo High Court said that choosing one surname after marriage was a practice accepted by society for many years and that the Constitution’s law was valid. In 2012, the Okayama District Court turned down a plaintiff’s lawsuit seeking 1.65 million yen in compensation for psychological duress caused by the delay in the timing of her remarriage. The Okayama District Court stated that the constitutional provision is intended to prevent legal battles connected to the father-child relationship and is therefore rational. The Okayama branch of the Hiroshima High Court also upheld the district court ruling in 2013.
February 18 –The DPJ has questioned the suitableness of NHK Director-General Momii Katsuto as the head of a national broadcast company. On the 18th, the DPJ asked Momii about his understanding of modern history related to diplomatically controversial topics in Japan and its Asian neighbors in a section meeting. On the 20th, DPJ lawmaker Shina Takeshi criticized Momii and requested that he resign in a parliamentary session.9
February 19 – Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide named the members of the advisory panel for his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The 16 members include Nishimuro Taizō (president of Japan Post), Kitaoka Shinichi (president of the International University of Japan) and Kojō Yoshiko (professor of Tokyo University).
February 23 – Crown Prince Naruhito called on the nation to consider the past in the 70th anniversary year of the end of World War II in his statement to mark his 55th birthday.
February 25 – PM Abe attended the first meeting of the advisory panel for his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. At the beginning of the meeting, PM Abe gave a speech. According to the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet (Kantei), in the speech, PM Abe emphasized that Japan has contributed to peace and development in the Pacific region as a pacifist country and an alliance partner of the US, and that Japan has supported developing counties through various aid programs, peace keeping operations and promotion of democracy. PM Abe also said that Japan will play an important role in world peace and welfare with a principle of ‘proactive contribution to peace (Sekkyokuteki heiwa shugi)’ based on international cooperation.
March 5 – The NIKKEI Shimbun published an interview with the leader of the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin no Tō), Eda Kenji. In the interview, he said that he agrees with the LDP’s principle on constitutional revision, which gives priority to creation of articles determining ‘environmental protection’ and authority of the government in emergencies, such as serious national disasters, ahead of Article 9.
March 9 – Kitaoka Shinichi, deputy chairman of an advisory panel on the statement for the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II, implored Abe to clearly state that Japan “invaded” neighbor countries in his statement.
March 9 – PM Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at the Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo. They agreed about Japan and Germany cooperatively working on the Ukraine problems and economic ties between the two counties.During a joint news conference after their meeting, Merkel also touched upon the importance of historical recognition for reconciliation.
March 13 – It was declared there was an argument over the definition of “aggression” inside of the expert panel that was discussing Prime Minister Abe’s statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The panel released the record of their second meeting on the 13th.
March 16 – The Asahi Shimbun published an interview with former PM Murayama Tomiichi. The statement he made in 1995 to remark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War offered “deep remorse” and a “heartfelt apology” for the suffering Japan caused during the war especially in Asian countries, and it is known as “Murayama statement”. In the interview, Murayama talked about his 1995 statement and PM Abe’s one remarking the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II. Murayama expressed worries that the new statement might deviate his statement. He concluded the interview, quoting a phrase from his statement, “It is said that one can rely on good faith”.
March 19 – Japan and China agreed to cultivate recovering bilateral ties in the security talks, which had been halted for four years mainly for the historical issues.
March 19 – The ruling coalition parties, the LDP and Komeito, officially made an agreement based on the document on national security. The coalition partners released a joint document which allow the SDF to perform its missions abroad and enable Japan to exercise the right of collective self defense.
March 20 – The Nagoya High Court decided that the disparity in the value of votes between large and small districts is unconstitutional.
March 21 – The Seventh Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting between Japan, China and South Korea convened in Seoul. Three foreign ministers, Fumio Kishida (Japan), Wang Yi (China) and Yun Byung-se (South Korea) attended the meeting. After the meeting, they had a joint press conference. They positively recognized that the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) has made efforts for the promotion of cooperative relationships among the three countries and agreed to cooperate in the fields of disaster prevention, environmental protection and the exchange of young people, and to restart joint discussion on policies regarding the Middle East, Africa and terrorism. They also agreed to work together for stability in Northeast Asian affairs, support for Southeast Asia, countermeasures to terrorist groups (such as ISIL) in the Middle East, and nuclear disarmament. They pledged to keep making efforts to set up a trilateral summit of the three countries as soon as possible.
March 22 – Thousands of protesters chanted outside the Diet building in Tokyo, holding up placards that read “Abe administration NO”. They opposed the Abe administration’s policies on security and nuclear issues.
March 22 – It is speculated that the DPJ will more strongly pursue the liability of NHK chairman Momii for using NHK’s money for his private chauffeur‐driven hired car, in addition to his current controversial statements, especially about the comfort women issue. According to the Jiji Press, the DPJ regards the parliamentary session to resolve NHK’s budget for next year as an opportunity to question Momii. The Jiji Press also pointed out that the DPJ has tried to unsettle the Abe administration by criticizing Momii, because the DPJ understands that PM Abe and his cabinet has protected Momii.
March 22 – The Kōmeitō has started thinking of removing ‘environmental protection’ from the list of new articles expected to be added to the constitution. This decision might influence the future of revising the constitution, because the LDP gained the Kōmeitō’s support to modify the constitution based on the agreement of adding that article as part of the LDP’s proposed changes. The Kōmeitō is worried about economic damages from an increase in lawsuits over unconstitutionality of development and investment when the constitution determines ‘environmental protection’, referring to cases in countries where the right was already regulated such as Greece and Portugal. The Kōmeitō has insisted on the importance of ‘environmental protection’ since the 1990s. However, according to the Mainichi Shimbun, a leading member of the Kōmeitō said public enterprises would be impeded because of ‘environmental protection’ and the Basic Environmental Law based on Article 13 already described basic environmental protection in the determination of right to pursuit of happiness. The same member of the Kōmeitō said the discussion on the constitutional revision should be directly started with Article 9. The Mainichi Shimbun’s article concludes that the Kōmeitō will focus on other new articles, such as those regarding exposition of local autonomy and the government’s authority in emergencies. About Article 9, the Kōmeitō intends to keep the first and second clauses and add a third to specify ‘international contribution of the Self Defense Forces’.
March 22 – At a fund-raising campaign party, Secretary General of Liberal Democratic Constitutional Reform Promotion Headquarters Isozaki Yōsuke said that in order to revise the constitution, a two-step approach is ideal. According to the Sankei Shimbun, he argued that the discussion on the constitutional revision first should focus on less controversial issues, for example the creation of new articles which define ‘environmental protection’, ‘financial discipline’ to not allow the government to expand national debt without limit, and the government’s authority in emergencies. He also explained that Articles 9 and 96 should be covered in a second, following national discussion. The Sankei Shimbun’s article reports that he expected that the proposal of the bill or national referendum to modify the constitution would occur in the next year, or at latest, the year after next.
March 23 – Japan and China agreed to avoid provocations in the 70th anniversary year of the end of World War II at the first top-level political exchange since February 2009. The Japanese side persuaded China that it should not have any concerns about PM Abe’s statement to mark the anniversary. The arrangement was achieved between Japanese lawmakers and Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He ranks No. 4 in the Communist Party hierarchy. Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Yoshihisa Inoue, secretary-general of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, explained the Japanese government’s thoughts.
March 23 – Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said it has been decided that PM Abe will have a week-long US tour next month. Mr. Abe will address the U.S. Congress during the visit. Japanese Asian neighbors, especially China and Korea are closely watching what Abe says in his statements in the 70th anniversary since World War II ended in 1945.
March 25 – A committee of the LDP discussed a local governmental ordinance proposal in Shibuya Ward,Tokyo, to issue certificates approving same-sex couples. The regulation will not provide the certified couples legal rights including inheritance rights, which conventional married have. The LDP special committee aims to protect traditional "family value" and it declared wariness on the case in Shibuya Ward. The committee members indicated that the act might contradict the Article 24 of the Constitution that states “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes."
March 26 – The Washington Post published an interview with PM Abe in which he expressed that comfort women had been “victimized by human trafficking”.
March 27 – Koga Shigeaki, a commentator of a popular news show, Hodo Station, insisted that he was leaving the program under pressure from the prime minister’s office. Mr. Koga formerly worked at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as a bureaucrat and he is famous for his criticism against the Abe administration. He claimed his arguments on air, hindering the moderation of the host, Furutachi Ichiro.
March 29 – Yoshino Bunroku, former chief of the American Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, died at 96. He testified that Japan and the US concluded a secret pact over the 1972 revision of Okinawa in court.
March 29 – In parliament, PM Abe declared that he had a brief conversation with South Korean president Park Geun-hye at the funeral for former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who is known as the founding father of Singapore. According to the Asahi Shimbun, PM Abe expressed to President Park his hope to realize a trilateral meeting of the top leaders of Japan, Korea and China following the trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of the three countries, which was held on the 21st and was organized due to President Park’s leadership.
March 31 – The assembly of Shibuya Ward in Tokyo l approved the ordinance to recognize same-sex partnership. The ordinance does not have legal force but it aims to protect the rights of sexcual minorites. In the assembly session, members of the Japanese Communist Party, Komeito and the DPJ voted for the ordinance. On the other hand, the LDP members voted against it.
April 2 – The first Commission on the Constitution of House of Representatives was held since the general election last year. According to the Jiji Press, the commission discussion made slow progress because of the complication of each political party’s position. The LDP intends to move according to a specific procedure for constitutional revision, starting with the three new articles: ‘environmental protection’, ‘financial discipline’ and ‘emergency situation’. The leader of the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin no Tō), Eda Kenji, said he basically agrees with the LDP about this point at a press conference on the same day. However, the DPJ and Kōmeitō did not modify their deliberate and careful attitude towards constitutional reform, which is being promoted by the Abe administration for the revision of Article 9, throughout the commission. The full version of the meeting notes are available on the website of the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives.
April 2 – The Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives held a meeting. In the meeting, Yasuoka Okiharu (LDP), chairman of the commission, explained the sequence of events that the commission has organized, providing the commission’s report released in 2005 and a handout of the chronology of the commission’s activities. The detailed summary of the meeting and the two documents are available on the Commission’s website. In the meeting, Yasuoka acknowledged the commission’s contribution to the constitutional discussion since it was founded under the leadership of the commission’s first chairman and LDP parliamentary member, Nakayama Tarō. Yasuoka stated that traditions and customs since the commission was founded should be considered successes: free-style discussion, equal right to speak of all of the parliamentary groups including small ones, and fair conduct of the commission.
April 3 – Former PM Murayama Tomiichi declared that he would attend the ceremony to mark Chinese 70th anniversary of the end of the World Ward II in September. Mr. Murayama released a statement for the 50th anniversary of the war’s end, which has been favorably accepted by China and other countries. In the so-called Murayama statement, he expressed apologies to the people in neighbouring countries for Japan infecting suffers concerning its war- time initialization and aggression. Japanese government has officially followed the statement until now, but Japan’s Asian neighbors are anxious whether PM Abe might change the spirit of the statement in the 70th anniversary year.
April 3 – Official campaigning started for assemblies in 41 prefectures and 17 ordinance-designated cities. All of the first nationwide local election campaigns have begun and the votes will be counted on the 12th. The campaigning had been permitted for prefectural governors on March 26th and for mayors in 5 ordinance-designated cities on the 29th.
April 3 – Approximately 600 intellectuals and activists assembled in Chōfu, Tokyo, mourning the death of Okudaira Yasuhiro. Okudaira is a well-known constitutional scholar for his leading effort to protect of the Constitution, mainly stressing the importance of the war-renouncing article 9. Nobel-winning novelist Ōe Kenzaburo sweared to tread Okubayasi’s footsteps in his speech.
April 4 – PM Abe met relatives of victims of abduction by North Korea for the first time in a year. The families of the abductees have been frustrated since there has not been any improvement in getting the victims back from North Korea to Japan. According to the Asahi Shimbun, North Korea reopened its investigation on the issue and said it expected to provide new information within a year in July, 2014. However, nothing valuable has emerged. PM Abe also expressed disappointment about that. The two counties made an agreement to normalize their relationship in Stockholm in May, 2014. The agreement said that Japan would lift a part of its sanction against North Korea and that North Korea would investigate the Japanese abductees in the country. However, recently the situation between the two nations has been more complicated. On the 2nd, the Japanese government received a message from Pyongyang that protested that the Japanese police searched the home of the chairman of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), related to his son’s smuggling of Matsutake mushroom. North Korea has implied that the search on the chairman would have a negative effect on progress of the investigation on the abductees. On the 2nd, the Nikkei Shimbun reported that the Japanese government decided to continue the sanction against North Korea.
April 7 – Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said that the Japanese government rejected Korean criticism on a Japanese textbooks’ description which insists that Takeshima belongs to Japan’s territory. Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the Japanese government provoked Korea on the territorial issue, approving the textbook on the 6th. The result of the Japanese government’s approval on textbooks was released on the 6th. According to the Sankei Shimbun, nine of ten textbooks say that Korea has “illegally occupied” the island based on the Japanese government’s official views and a textbook has two feature pages on Japanese territorial issues. Overall, descriptions of the territorial issues in the textbooks approved in this year became less constructive compared with textbooks before last year.
April 7 – Minister of Foreign Affairs Kishida Fumio announced that MOFA published Diplomatic Bluebook 2015 in a cabinet meeting. The bluebook’s full version and summary are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. An English edition will be released in August. On April 2nd, the Sankei Shimbun reported that MOFA would remove the phrase “share fundamental values (kihontekina kachi o kyōyū suru)” from the description of the relationship between Japan and Korea. According to the article, MOFA had already deleted the same phrase on its official website at the beginning of March. In the bluebook of 2015, MOFA also expressed some new views on the Japan-Korea relationship, which recognized that Japan and Korea have difficulties but Japan would tenaciously continue to make efforts with Korea to create a future-oriented and cooperative relationship of the two countries in a big-picture perspective. According to the Sankei Shimbun’s article, the description assumed comfort women issues.
April 8 – The Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko arrived at Republic of Palau. The Emperor made a speech at a dinner party. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, in his speech, he acknowledged the close relationship between Japan and countries in the Micronesian region since they became Japanese mandatory territory after World War I, mentioning Japanese immigrants to these counties too. He also expressed sorrow regarding every struggle that the Micronesian people experienced in World War II. On the 9th, the Emperor and Empress visited Peleliu and mourned the people who died there during World War II with leaders and first ladies of the Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Marshall Islands.
April 12 – Nationwide Local Election (Part I) Counting of the votes of the first nationwide local election started and the results were finalized next day, the 13th: governors of 10 prefectures and members of the assemblies in 41 prefectures were elected. Also mayors of 5 ordinance-designated cities and members of the assemblies of 17 ordinance-designated cities were chosen. The LDP, Kōmeitō and the JCP solidly increased or kept seats but the DPJ faced a bitter result. According to the Yomiuri Online, the LDP gained more than half of the seats (1153) of all seats (2284) in the 41 assemblies for the first time in 24 years and became the most dominant party in 40 prefectures except Osaka. In Osaka, a local party, the Osaka Restoration Association (Osaka Ishin no Kai), is the leading party. As reported by the Yomiuri Online, the LDP previously released a proposal of its preponderant disciplines for the nationwide election on February 7th. The proposal stated three overriding points of the disciplines are economic recovery, promotion of local rebirth and women’s activities, and guarantee of safety and security. The Yomiuri Online reported that the LDP won the election for all governors of 10 prefectures. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide stated that the Abenomics’ successful influence in local economics provided the LDP the victorious outcome in this election. Here is the numbers of the seats that major parties won in the assemblies of 17 ordinance-designated cities; LDP (301), Kōmeitō (174), JCP (136), DPJ (126), SDP (3) and Japan Innovation Party (34). The number of female members of the 41 prefectural assemblies is 207 and recorded the highest point, 9.06%, historically. In the 17 ordinance-designated cities, female candidates won 178 seats. The JCP increased their seats from 80 to 111 seats in total in the 41 prefectural assemblies. The JCP won 136 seats and became the biggest nongovernment party in the 17 ordinance-designated cities. General secretary of the JCP Shii Kazuo said that many of the people are getting angry and anxious more and more at the assertive Abe administration. In that, people have a new interest in the JCP and have hope for them. According to Yomiuri Online, there are different views of the LDP’s decline inside of the party. Edano Yukio, the secretary-general, said the situation would not get worse. On the other hand, Nagashima Akihisa, former Vice Minister of Defense, showed a more negative understanding.
April 16 – Professor Jeff Kingston published a new article in the Japan Focus, “Testy Team Abe Pressures Media in Japan.” In the article, he pointed out that some Japanese news coverage systems, including the Japan Press Club (Nihon Kisha Kurabu), are traditionally government-centric. However, he additionally emphasized that the Abe administration has meddled with media, including journalists from foreign counties, in Japan in a more direct way. He concluded the article saying that Team Abe’s assertive monitoring to tarnish histories during the war would never provide any merit to Japan and would worsen the relationship with American and European counties and abet China.
April 17 – The DPJ summoned the executive vice president of Japan Broadcasting Corp. and Toshio Fukuda, senior managing director of TV Asahi over specific TV programs which were aired: “Close up Gendai” (NHK) and “Hōdō Station” (TV Asahi). According to the Asahi Shimbun, the DPJ’s real target was “Hōdō Station” because Koga Shigeaki, a commentator of the news show, insisted that he was leaving the program under pressure from the prime minister’s office. The article express worries of the government’s “suppression” violating freedom of speech.
April 21 – Official campaigning was permitted for mayors and assemblies in wards of Tokyo. Now all of the second nationwide local election campaigning have started. Ahead of that, campaigning had begun for mayors and assemblies in towns on the 21st. The votes are planned to be counted on the 26th.
April 22 – PM Abe attended the ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. The full version of his speech is available on the website of Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet (Kantei). In the speech, he appreciated “it was our friends in Asia and Africa who propelled Japan after the Second World War to make possible our reentry into the international community” and expressed “feelings of deep remorse over the past war”. Also he stated “I say to you that Asian and African nations are no longer Japan's aid recipients. They are Japan's partners for growth”, pledging that Japan would contribute for cooperative prosperity in Asian and African regions. As Reuters reported, on the 20th, PM Abe had said he was ready to meet President Xi in Jakarta, aiming to mend the Japan-China bilateral relationship. At the Jakarta summit, PM Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met each other in person for the first time in 5 months. According to the Asahi Shimbun, they exchanged opinions about some controversial agendas including historical issues, territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) founded under China’s leadership. They agreed to improve the tense relationship between Japan and China.
April 24 – Reuters reported that PM Abe is going to clearly tell President Obama that Japan will take more security responsibility on the world stage. According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s security operations will be expanded to five areas: “1) Cooperation under normal circumstances; 2) Responding to latent threats against Japan’s peace and security; 3) Responding to an armed attack on Japan; 4) Actions against armed attacks on nations other than Japan, based on the precondition of exercising Japan’s right to collective self-defense; and 5) Cooperation to deal with a major natural disaster in Japan.”
April 26-May 3 – PM Abe’s visit to the US PM Abe visited four cities in US: Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The detailed summary of the visit is available on the Website of Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet (Kantei). The Wall Street Journal released an article which says that PM Abe needs to provide his new vision of the US-Japan relationship in the future and that he is also expected to make a statement to American people to wipe out doubts about his views on the past. In Boston, PM Abe went to Kennedy Library and later had a private meeting to exchange opinions with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry. PM Abe also had a speech at the Kennedy School of Harvard University and visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As the Japan Times already reported in March, the Abe administration has budgeted more than $15 million to fund Japanese studies at nine universities overseas, such as MIT and Georgetown, in a “soft power” push to counter the rising influence of China and Korea. The script of his speech at Harvard is uploaded on the website of Kantei and the video is available on the Youtube channel of Harvard University. In the speech PM Abe focused on Abenomics and Womenomics. As the Japan Times reported, during the question session after the speech, a sophomore asked the PM if he recognizes that the Japanese government and military were directly involved in forcing “hundreds of thousands of women” into “sexual slavery.” Abe did not answer the question directly, trying to dodge the politically controversial issue but said “When it comes to the comfort women issue, my heart aches when I think about those people who were victimized by human trafficking, who were subjected to immeasurable pain and suffering beyond description”. Abe also stated “My feeling is no different from my predecessors” at the event. According to Reuters Japan, there were some people gathered to protest Abe on the comfort women outside of the building where the talk was held. On the 28th, PM Abe and President Obama had a press conference. Kantei released the video of the conference on its website. The two leaders recognized that Japan and the US share the same basic values, including democracy, and developed a mutual trustworthy relationship. They positively expressed that the current revision of the alliance guideline expecting Japan to enforce its collective security would significantly develop the mutually supportive alliance. According to New York Times, the two leaders emphasized the progress of the TPP negotiation but they could not provide a conclusion. On the 29th, PM Abe had a speech at Congress in Washington DC. The script of the speech and video are available on the website of Kantei. In the speech, PM Abe acknowledged the cooperative history of the Japan-US alliance leadership which started between the two former hostile counties after World War II and evaluated that the US leadership has contributed to the peace and security in the world. He went on to emphasize the importance of the alliance in the future, regarding it as “an alliance of hope”. The New York Times reported that PM Abe spoke of Japan’s “remorse” regarding World War II and positively evaluated Japan’s new security role. PM Abe spent time in San Francisco and Los Angeles between April 30th and May 2nd. In San Francisco, he visited Silicon Valley and promoted Shinkansen (bullet train) technology. In Los Angeles, PM Abe and his wife laid a wreath at the Go For Broke Monument which commemorates Japanese-American World War II soldiers, and visited the Japanese American National Museum. During PM Abe’s visit in the US, former comfort women and citizen’s groups supporting them had demonstrations in various places in the US, demanding Japanese government apologies. Some of the former comfort women traveled from Korea to join the demonstrations. NBC News interviewed two US representatives, Rep. Mike Honda and Rep. Judy Chu, who support former comfort women. They emphasized the importance of a true apology in PM Abe’s statement while many former comfort women have passed away. Referring to PM Abe’s visit in Washington DC, an article published in the Washington Post pointed out three reasons why PM Abe has been given pressure to make a public apology for Japan’s wartime behaviors: the comfort women issue, American veterans’ anger for Japan’s inappropriate treatment of US prisoners during the war and an unclear stance toward history. According to the article, Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, argues that Abe has shown some flexibility with regards to history, concerning that he has hesitated to visit Yasukuni Shrine after he got criticism from foreign countries including the US. She also went on to say "This represents an effort to assume a compromise position between right and left […] between domestic and international audiences."
April 26 – Nationwide Local Election (Part II) The opening of the votes of the second nationwide local election was finalized. The official campaigns for the second nationwide election started for mayors of 89 cities and 11 wards in Tokyo and for assembly members of 295 cities and 21 wards in Tokyo on the 19th. The campaigns for mayors and assembly members of towns were allowed on the 21st. According to the Yomiuri Online, 27 city mayors were elected without voting. Also, 3.6% of the city-assembly elections require no voting. In Shibuya ward in Tokyo, an assembly member of the ward Hasebe Ken was elected for the new mayor. He submitted the bill of partnership of same-sex couple in the assembly. He is known as a contributor to the partnership law. The Japan Times said the two nationwide election pushed diversity in Japanese politics, focusing on some candidates, including Hasebe Ken, who won the mayoral race in Shibuyra ward. A deaf candidate, Rie Saito, was elected for a new member of the assembly in Kita ward in Tokyo. Another deaf candidate, Atsuko Yanetani, won a seat in the assembly in the municipal assembly in Hyogo prefecture. The article pointed out some difficulties that deaf candidates have during the campaigns. For example, distribution of fliers is not allowed, so the ways they tell their thoughts to voters are very limited. On the other hand, another candidate in Shinjuku assembly, Lee Komaki, was born in China and just nationalized as a Japanese citizen. He is known as a writer to introduce Kabukichō in Shinjuku and gained support from young people and foreign people. Unfortunately, many of his supporters did not have voting rights and he lost the election. Lee said some people yelled at him with inconsiderate words such as “Go home” and felt that Japan was still closed. In an article of the Huffington Post, Lee went on to say that his coming forward as a candidate in Japanese election appeals to the value of democracy to people in both of Japan and China. As the Nikkei Shimbun said, in the second round of nationwide local elections in 2015, the LDP sturdily added seats in the city assembly from 514 to 634. Although, the LDP lost in two districts of the ward-mayor elections (Setagaya and Shibuya) where candidates supported by the LDP and the DPJ competed directly. The JCP also increased its number of seats in city assemblies from 627 to 672. As the Asahi Shimbun reported, in Osaka, candidates recommended by the LDP won in three city mayor elections. The candidates of the Osaka Restoration Association campaigned on exercising the Osaka Metropolis Plan but could not gain enough support from the citizens. The Asahi Shimbun pointed out that female assembly members elected in this nationwide local election, including the first and second, was the historically highest point, 14.1% in total. However, the article said the rise of the ratio has been slow and the record is still low. Focusing on city assemblies, excluding ordinance-designated city assemblies, the percentage of female members is 16.1 %, the Nikkei Shimbun indicated.
April 27 – New guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation were approved at the "2+2" Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (SCC) meeting in New York on April 27, 2015. The full version of the new guidelines and the joint SCC statement in English are available on the website of the Ministry of Defense. According to CNN, a US senior officer said that the release of the new guidelines is a "big deal" and a "very important" moment in the U.S.-Japanese alliance but explained that "the guidelines are not aimed at any single country other than strengthening the defense of Japan". Introducing the interview with the senior officer, the CNN article reports that the new guidelines allow Japan to defend the US and other countries. On the 30th, the Japan Times published an article to introduce the result of Kyodo News’ poll. According to the article, 47.9 % people are against the new guidelines while 35.5% are in favor of them.
April 27 – Reuters reported that a key party lawmaker Funada Hajime said that the LDP aims to revise the constitution to give more flexibility to Japan’s defense strategy by late 2018.
April 28 – The Jiji Press reported that the LDP published a comic book which explained the revision of the Constitution. The title is “What is the Revision of the Constitution? (Kenpō Kaisei-tte Naani?)” In the comic book, a grandfather explains the problems of the current constitution. The comic book mentions an “imposed constitution (oshitsuke kenpō)” and it is speculated that the contents reflect PM Abe’s ideas on the constitution. The secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Constitutional Reform Headquartera, Isozaki Yōsuke said the comic book should be acceptable for all generations. Professor Jeff Kingston wrote about the comic book in the Japan Times on May 11th. He pointed out that the government released the comic book targeting young people who will vote the future referendum on the constitutional revision, regarding that voting age will be also lowered from 20 to 18 by that time.
April 29 – The Yomiuri Online opened a special website, “From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who was Responsible? (Kenshō Sensō Sekinin)”. According to the website, Yomiuri Shimbun founded a committee under the leadership of Watanabe Tsuneo, the president and chief editor of Yomiuri Shimbun to investigate the responsibility of WWII in 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. The committee published the outcome of the examination as a book, “Kenshō Sensō Sekinin (Examining War Responsibility)” from Chūō Kōron Shinsha in 2006. Later the book was translated into English and Chinese. The Yomiuri Shimbun uploaded the contents on the website to mark the 70th anniversary. The foreword says “we hope our making the book public once again on the website will help the public discussion on historical issues become deeper and more fruitful”. Japanese and English versions are both available on the official website of the Yomiuri Online. The Jiji Press also has a special website to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The website provides testimonies of people about their personal experiences regarding the war, for example the nurses attached to the Japanese Army, the battle on Peleliu Island and the ongoing project to collect ashes of the war dead in Okinawa.
April 29 – The New York Times reported that Japan is considering to join US air patrols in the South China Sea over sea resources.
May 1 – According to the Asahi Shimbun, a group of high school students attended a discussion about the constitution between two politicians who had opposite ideas on the constitutional discussion, Funada Hajime (the LDP) and Takeshi Miyamoto (the JCP). One of the students emphasized the importance of high school students thinking about political issues, expecting that the voting age would be lowered to 18 from 20. The legislation about the voting age was proposed in the Diet in March. Funada said "if a party that takes power does not recognize the presence of the SDF, there is a possibility that they will conclude that the SDF cannot exist through their interpretation of the Constitution". On the other hand, Miyamoto indicated "it is our duty to make the world closer to the ideals of Article 9”. A student expressed difficulties to have a clear stance on this debate, saying "I can understand the idealism of being unarmed, but there is a risk of other nations attacking Japan".
May 2 – The Asahi Shimbun published a survey on the constitutional discussion. According to the survey, while 48 % said there was no need to change the constitution, 43% said there was a need. Focusing on Article 9, 63% said it should not be changed and 29% answered it should be changed.
May 3 – The Japan Times pointed out that the constitutional discussion has heated up while the revision is becoming concrete and read within the DPJ’s leadership. According to the Japan Times, more than 30,000 people gathered at Rinko Park in Yokohama to join an event to protest the Abe administration’s change on the pacifist constitution and to mark the 68th memorial day of the constitution. The event was organized by the Antiwar Committee of 1000. On the other hand, the Sankei Shimbun reported that there were events by groups which support the constitutional revision too. The Minkan Kenpō Rincho and the Atarashii Kenpō o Tsukuru Kokumin Kaigi held events to push the constitutional reform. The Minkan Kenpō Rincho attracted about 900 people, according to its website. Also, the Atarashii Kenpō o Tsukuru Kokumin Kaigi had a conference with some LDP politicians, such as Funada Hajime, the chairman of Liberal Democratic Constitutional Reform Promotion Headquarters. According to the Asahi Shimbun, Funada said the party is seeking to rewrite Article 9 to specify Japan’s right to collective self-defense and to maintain “a national defense or self-defense military.”
May 3 – According to the Japan Times, three Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Senkaku Islands. It is the 31st intrusion by a Chinese government ship this year.
May 5 – The Asahi Shimbun reported that President Park Geun-hye criticized PM Abe for not apologizing to former comfort women or for Japan’s wartime behavior during World War II in his speech at the US congress. In addition, the article said that some of the ruling party fear that South Korea’s “two-track” diplomacy toward Japan could end up isolating South Korea: the voices emphasize the importance of South Korea promoting the bilateral relationships on trade and security while working on historical issues.
May 5 – Contributors to Forbes, Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder, published an article about PM Abe’s visit to the US. He evaluated that PM Abe’s speech was productive for the promotion of the US-Japan alliance but pointed out some problems. 1) In order to deepen the US-Japan alliance, PM Abe needs to make an effort to improve the relationship with South Korea, which has been tense for historical issues: the alliance aims to stabilize East Asia with multilateral security and defense cooperation among allies with the US, especially between Japan and South Korea, which are necessary for the regional stability. 2) There are some gaps between PM Abe’s words and general reactions in Japan: “I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers” was rendered in Japanese as “I feel exactly the same way as the previous prime ministers.” 3) It is required that the leaders of the both countries will continue to pay attention to the joint vision of the US-Japan alliance, turning their words and photos into more concrete actions with the public.
May 5 – The Japanese government held a symposium entitled “On Human Rights Violations Including Abductions by North Korea” in New York. The symposium called for international support for the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea. At the beginning of the symposium, Yamatani Eriko, Minister for the Abduction Issue, gave a speech to gain international understanding and cooperation on the abduction issue, pointing out North Korea’s human rights violations reported by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Human Rights Council of the UN. The commission’s report was released in February 2014.
May 5 – 187 Japanese studies scholars, mainly from the US and some other English-speaking countries, released an “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan”. According to the Dispatch Japan by Peter Ennis, the letter aims to “warn against what they see as a worrisome trend of intolerance in Japan toward journalists and scholars who express disagreement with the Abe government’s view of history issues”, particularly “comfort women”. Many notable scholars who have devoted themselves to Japanese studies for a long time signed the letter. The statement originated from the discussion at the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting held in Chicago in March. The discussion for the open letter was triggered by the Japanese Foreign Ministry giving pressure to an American publisher, McGraw-Hill, to revise its textbook about comfort women in January. The original text of the open letter and an interview with the co-coordinators of the open letter, Professor Jordan Sand and Professor Alexis Dudden, is available on the Dispatch Japan. According to Reuters, as of May 19th, more than 450 western scholars supported the letter.
May 6 – According to Reuters, Philippine and Japanese coast guards held anti-piracy drills. The article says that Captain Koichi Kawagoe of Japan's coast guard said that Japan was ready to help Southeast Asian nations, even in the disputed South China Sea. China has gotten assertive over territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, threating countries which have overlapping claims: Japan, The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
May 7 – According to the Japan Times, the city of Seoul made an announcement that it will erect a monument to comfort women as a part of the commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese coronial rule in 1945.
May 7 – The Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives had a meeting to start the first constitutional discussion in this parliament. Funada Hajime, the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Constitutional Reform Promotion Headquarters called for giving priority to the constitutional discussion regarding ‘environmental protection’, ‘financial discipline’ and ‘emergency situations’. The DPJ agreed with the proposal but emphasized the importance of discussion, seeing PM Abe’s idea on the constitution as a worrisome trend to ignore constitutionalism. The Japan Innovation Party (Ishin no Tō) pushed the revision of the constitution at an early point and insisted on adoption of new policies that they have held such as Dōshū-sei, the direct election of Prime Minister, and the single chamber system. Komeitō took a stance to “add to” instead of “revise” the constitution and restrained the DPJ’s aggression. The JCP said that the Japanese people do not need the constitutional revision. A detailed summary is available on the website of the commission. The Party for the Future Generations (Jisedai no Tō) indicated that it was important to find topics people can make consensus on and move on to constitutional revision.
May 9 – Reuters reported that the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party criticized Japan for a lack of WWII contrition. According to Reuters, the People’s Daily said "The German people's profound acknowledgment of war crimes stands in contrast to the dangerous trend in Japan's right wing" in an article following the military parade in Moscow to commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, which Chinese President Xi Jinping attended.
May 11 – The Japanese ruling coalition parties, the LDP and Komeitō, made an agreement on the package of security bills on the 11th. According to Reuters, after that the two parties’ meeting Komeitō deputy chief Kazuo Kitagawa told "The most important thing is to win the public's understanding as the government explains the new legislation in parliamentary debate. In that sense, we still have quite a long way to go".
May 12 – Reuters pointed out Japan has developed maritime cooperation with the two countries which have waterway disputes with China: the Philippines and Vietnam. According to Reuters, the Japanese coastguard held its first joint naval exercises in the South China Sea with the Philippines on the 12th.
May 14 – The Japanese cabinet approved the security bills and PM Abe had a press conference. Reuters reported on the conference with a headline entitled “PM Abe: New Security Legislation Would Boost Deterrence, Decrease Risk of War”. The video and transcript of his talk are available on the website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet. Reuters pointed out that the public is divided and wary over the changes in the new legislation. According to BBC News, the legislation would allow Japan to fight overseas when three conditions met: (1) when a close ally is attacked and the result threatens Japan's survival, (2) when there is no other appropriate means to repel the attack and protect Japan, (3) provided that the military uses only minimum force. A BBC News article said that hundreds of protesters against the proposal got together in front of PM Abe's office on the 14th. PM Abe’s press conference can be summarized below: The Government made a Cabinet Decision on the “Legislation for Peace and Security” for ensuring the peace and security of Japan and the world. In addition to diplomatic efforts, Japan needs to prepare for contingencies. The ties between Japan and the US have been getting stronger as allies. However, under the current laws, Japan cannot do anything unless Japan itself is attacked even if the U.S. Forces on duty to protect Japan are attacked. The exercise of the right of collective self-defense will be permitted under very limited circumstances. Japan and the United States share the recognition that Japan will use its force to protect its people. Labelling the security bills as “war legislation” is completely misguided. Regarding Japanese past’s PKOs, especially in Cambodia, the activities of the SDF have undoubtedly contributed to global peace and are hugely appreciated. The cabinet decided to revise the Act on Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations (PKO Cooperation Act) and newly establish the International Peace Support Law in order to broaden the scope of Japan’s international contribution. These activities for international contribution are all unrelated to the right of collective self-defense. Japan will cooperate with the international community in areas in which Japan excels such as conflict prevention, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and fuel and food supply. Japan is determined to contribute even more actively to global peace and stability under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace”. There were strong criticisms against the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the establishment of the PKO Cooperation Act, saying that Japan would be entangled in war. However, the evaluations on these changed historically, and it has turned out that such criticisms were entirely misguided. PM Abe tweeted with his Twitter account on the legislation: the bills avoid repeating tragic wars and certain peace and security of Japan and the world, boosting deterrence. The Asahi Shimbun reported that non-governmental parties argued that the Abe administration put forward bills which had fundamentally different backgrounds and elements in a package.
May 14 – On the 14th, in addition to the new security legislation, the cabinet approved expediting announcements for public security operations and marine guard activities in the situation of a so-called ‘gray zone’, a situation where it is not clear if an attack targets Japan or not. The cabinet decision would make it possible for the cabinet to make an announcement by phone in the case that armed groups land on Japan’s isolated islands or foreign military ships go into Japan’s waters.
May 17 – The Japan Times reported that Osaka city held a “historic” referendum to decide if the city government would implement a new administrative reform called the ‘Osaka Metropolis Plan’, which would abolish the city by dividing it into five special wards. According to the Sankei Shimbun, the voting rate was 66.83%. 705,585 voters said No and 694,844 voters said Yes. Accepting this result, Hashimoto Osaka mayor stated that he would resign and retire from his political career. The Asahi Shimbun pointed out that more than 60% of young voters in their 20s and 30s supported the plan and, on the contrary, approximately 61% of the voters who were older than 70 years old opposed the plan. A sociologist, Nishida Ryosuke, said in his blog that the referendum has significant implications for the future national referendums which determine if the constitution should be revised or not. He insisted on the necessity of careful investigation of referendum campaigns which do not have candidates: campaigners are supporters and opponents of the issue.
May 18 – Former PM Murayama had a speech in Tokyo and criticized PM Abe for diluting his war apology. According to the Japan Times, he said “if it had just been my personal statement, it would have had little value, but it was adopted by the Cabinet and so its weight is different” regarding his statement in 1995.
May 19 – Inside Higher Ed reported that the Japanese government recently announced it would provide $5 million each to support the study of contemporary Japanese politics and foreign policy at Columbia and Georgetown Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The announcement was made during PM Abe’s visit in the US. According to the three universities, the Japanese government will not have any input on the selection of the professors.
May 20 – Some of the LDP executives gave speeches on a street in front of the JR Yurakucho train station and explained the meanings of the constitutional revision. Tanigaki Teiichi, the secretary-general of the LDP said that Article 9 does not clearly define the SDF and that the constitution should be clearer.
May 21 – PM Abe had a speech at the banquet of the 21st International Conference on the Future of Asia. In his speech, he said “this year is also the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Together with feelings of deep remorse over the past war, Japan has told itself in the post-war era that it must make all-out efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia”. He concluded the speech stating “Asia, with its ongoing dynamic growth, is no longer a recipient of assistance. It is instead our partner for growth. In this Asia, it is also a partner generating innovation.”
May 22 – PM Abe’s wife, Abe Akie, visited Ysukuni Shrine and Yūshūkan, a war museum which belongs to Yasukuni Shrine. She posted photos of her posing in front of Yasukuni Shrine and Yūshūkan on her Facebook. According to the Japan Times, she wrote “I’m really thankful for being able to live in a peaceful, rich Japan, and again have come to feel I should do what I can do for world peace”. Yasukuni enshrines the souls of Japanese soldiers who “dedicated their lives to the state”, including A-class war criminals from World War II. Exhibits at Yūshūkan are sometimes criticized for glorifying Japanese wars in the 1930s and 40s.
May 23 – The Washington Post published an article about Isozaki Yosuke, a LDP lawmaker and leader of a group pushing the constitutional revision. He was quoted as saying “there are some misunderstandings that the Liberal Democratic Party is trying to deny history, but we don’t intend to do that at all”. The article focuses on voices which are worried about the Japanese government’s “back door” approach to changing the interpretation of the constitution. The Abe cabinet approved that reinterpretation to allow Japan to enact its collective self-defense right in July last year.
May 26 – The Japan Times reported that the Historical Science Society of Japan and 15 other groups related to historical studies released a statement, criticizing some politicians and media not facing up to the comfort women issue. According to the Asahi Shimbun, the statement expressed anxiety because some politicians and media have behaved like there is no proof that comfort women were forced into sexual slavery since the Asahi Shimbun retracted its past coverage on comfort women as a false report.
May 26 – The Lower House started discussing the package of security bills that would expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ missions overseas. According to PM Abe, the legislation would make the Japan-US alliance stronger and raise deterrent to secure Japan.
May 27 – PM Abe repeatedly explained that Japan would not send the SDF overseas or other countries’ territorial waters if the security bills are approved by the Diet.
May 28 – The Mainichi Shimbun released an interview with two historians, Professor Andrew Gordon from Harvard University and Onuma Yasuaki from Meiji University, over the open letter by mainly western scholars who called for the Japanese government to face up to the war-time historical issues, such as the comfort women issue. In the interview, Prof. Gordon said that he was disappointed at criticism on the letter from Japanese side regarding the scholars who signed the letter as “anti-Japan (hannichi/反日)”. He emphasized that his empathy toward Japan as “a second home” motivated him to join the statement and the 70th anniversary would be a chance for Japan to make its relationships with Korea and China better if Japan moved on with reconciliation. Professor Onuma called for both Japanese people and scholars who worked on the letter to pay attention to positive reactions of each other based on common understanding on historical issues in general. He recognized it might be natural that the letter sounds condescending to some Japanese people and the western scholars might feel alienated by Japanese people. However, he said these senses to be victimized would not provide anything productive. The Mainichi Shimbun also interviewed Prof. Gordon in January. In the interview, he mentioned labor issues in contemporary Japan in addition to the war-time historical issues which have hindered the development of the relationships between Japan and East Asian counties such as China and Korea. He suggested the old system that men work for a long time every day to show their loyalty toward their companies be changed to empower women and provide good work-life balances of employees.
May 28 – The Japan Times reported that PM Abe denied the possibilities of the SDF being allowed to uses force on another nation’s territory in support of the US military but he suggested that there might be exceptions. The Huffington Post said that according to PM Abe, for example, removal of land mines would be implicated to be an exception
May 29 – According to the Japan Times, about 58.1 % of South Koreans regard Japan as a military threat. The percentage increased from 46.3 % the previous year. It is estimated that the reason for the raise is the ongoing legislation of security policies by PM Abe.
May 30 – Defense chiefs of Japan and South Korea had a meeting for the first time in four years at the 14th conference hosted by IISS (the International Institute for Strategic Studies). According to the Ministry of Defense, Japan made some proposals: inviting South Korean fleet(s) attending the SDF Fleet Review in October and holding joint SAREX (search and rescue exercises) this year.
May 31 – The Japan Times reported that 81% of those surveyed in a recent poll the found the government’s explanations on the security bills “insufficient”.
May 31 – The Japan Focus released articles regarding a symposium at Central Washington University; a movie about comfort women, “Scottsboro Girls”, was screened there on April 28 and 29. According to feminist activist / writer Koyama Emi, the movie was filmed by a director, Taniyama Yujiro, who is known as a historical revisionist. A discussion panel had Japanese language instructor Mariko Okada-Collins, Taniyama Yujiro, Koichi Mera of GAHT (Global Alliance for Historical Truth), and University of Wisconsin graduate student Jason Morgan (via Skype). Chung Daekyun, a scholar who is a naturalized Japanese citizen of Korean descent also sent a statement. Although Okada-Collins recognized that some parts of the Taniyama’s file was too “offensive” to her, she came to the conclusion that "comfort women" were "simply prostitutes", after her research on the issue. Koyama pointed out that the “major battlefield” of “history war” on the comfort women issue shifted to the US and revisionists are interested in recruiting “barely qualified American ‘experts’ to their side.
June 1 – The Wall Street Journal introduced surveys in Japan and South Korea regarding people’s impressions about each country. In Japan, Genron NPO asked 1,000 adults about their impression of South Korea in April. In South Korea, the local East Asia Institute conducted the survey in April and May with 1,010 adults. The result showed that negative feelings toward each country still run high under the influence of the disputes over historical and territorial issues between the two: 52% in Japan and 73% in South Korea had negative feelings.
June 1 – The Tōyō Keizai Online published an interview with Prof. Richard J. Samuels regarding the reinterpretation of the constitution to let Japan exercise its collective self-defense right. Prof. Samuels pointed out that there have been two groups in the dominant conservative stream: revisionists and realists. He explained that the reinterpretation was generally beneficial to both Japan and the U.S. because it strengthens the alliance and provides the legitimacy of cooperative defense strategies. However, he also mentioned that there is some risk to raise tensions, considering the principle of security dilemma. He emphasized that the security legislation does not need to take revisionists’ logic, which would make Japan's Asian neighboring counties cautious.
June 2 – TThe Japan Times and the Sankei Shimbun reported that the police and the Japan Coast Guard had their first joint drill around one of Ogasawara islands, Chichi-jima. The joint drill aimed to strengthen their cooperation for patrolling for foreign ships, such as Chinese ships smuggling coral in the region.