Living Article 9 of the Constituion: Never forget the heaviness of pulling the trigger

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a9     When they gasped for air, the ground cracked and revealed their naked chests.

     It happened in June, 1941, half a year before Sino-Japanese War extended to the Pacific War. Katsumi Nishio, 93, was an army soldier at that time. He was having a break near the Great Wall when other soldiers brought two Chinese farmers there. The unit to which Katsumi belonged was chasing their enemies in the front line of the northeast area in China. The two farmers were forced to lie on their backs on the ground and were covered with dirt from the neck down.

     “Tell everything you know!” When the two men said nothing, Katsumi’s fellow soldiers hit their faces and heeled their bodies. The troops had to set out soon. Then the platoon leader said, “I’ll fix them,” and took a shot to the head of one of the farmers. “Shoot another,” said the leader and gave Katsumi the gun. Katsumi pulled the trigger quickly. The first bullet missed the vital point, and then the second one took the farmer’s life. Katsumi must have been shot to death if he had disobeyed the order.

     Katsumi had fought in China and the Kurile Islands, and then was taken to the prison camp in Siberia when the war was end. He worked at a coal mine with some 1500 other prisoners. The Soviet government gave them their original “Japanese newspaper” three times a week.

     “Is this true?” On the sooty paper issued on March 9 in 1946, there was a headline of “To renounce war forever” with a basic outline of new Japan’s constitution. Some believed the article, but Katsumi did not. “It must be the Soviet’s false info!” He could not think about the article calmly in the condition he needed to worry about the day’s water and food.

     After a-five-year detention in Siberia, Katsumi was sent to the war criminal office in China, where he had shot a farmer. “I just did a right thing in the battle field.” Katsumi thought that and saw the Chinese officials as enemies. But there were no Chinese people who blamed Japan’s behaviors during the war.

     How come they can be kind to us? Katsumi began regarding the Chinese officials as human-beings, not his enemies. One day he got to know that China was preparing for their new constitution. He thought a new constitution had already been proclaimed in Japan and one day he requested an officer a copy of the Constitution of Japan.

     “That was true!” The basic principles of the war renunciation, which he had thought false info in Siberia, were written in Preamble and Article 9. After that he started having nightmares in which the farmer he had killed appeared. He was scared of what he had done and he confessed his secret to Chinese officials.

     Katsumi came back to Japan in August, 1956, 11 years after the end of the war. He was very surprised to see Japan’s reconstruction because he had heard that his country had been burned to ground. The government had published in July of the year an economic survey that said “It is no longer termed postwar.” Japan looked like a new country in its high economic growth period for his eyes.

     However, Shinsuke Kishi became a prime minister half a year later and started claiming that the present Japan’s constitution was an obtrusion from GHQ (General Headquarters of Allied Forces) and that Japan needed its own constitution. Moreover, the prime minister tried to amend the security treaties between Japan and the U.S. Katsumi was very shocked at the government’s attitude and wondered if Japan forgot about the misery of the war after just ten years.

     “Japanese people should never have guns!” Katsumi thought that strongly. He never forgets the farmers. He can say this because he knows the heaviness of pulling the trigger. “Wars have neither justice nor injustice. So we should preserve Article 9!”

(From The Chunichi on August 13 in 2013, translated by moshimoshimo)

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