When Asō Tarō Speaks, People Listen

Peter Durfee [Profile]

[2013.07.31]

Asō Tarō, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, has become known for his gaffes as well as for his fashion sense.The latest came in a speech he delivered in Tokyo on July 29, which seems likely to attract global attention for its references not just to Yasukuni Shrine, but to Adolf Hitler as well. 

The Tokyo Shimbun has the full text of his comments as follows:

日本が今置かれている国際情勢は、憲法ができたころとはまったく違う。護憲と叫んで平和がくると思ったら大間違いだ。改憲の目的は国家の安定と安寧だ。改憲は単なる手段だ。騒々しい中で決めてほしくない。落ち着いて、われわれを取り巻く環境は何なのか、状況をよく見た世論の上に憲法改正は成し遂げられるべきだ。そうしないと間違ったものになりかねない。

ドイツのヒトラーは、ワイマール憲法という当時ヨーロッパで最も進んだ憲法(の下)で出てきた。憲法が良くてもそういったことはありうる。

憲法の話を狂騒の中でやってほしくない。靖国神社の話にしても静かに参拝すべきだ。国のために命を投げ出してくれた人に敬意と感謝の念を払わない方がおかしい。静かにお参りすればいい。何も戦争に負けた日だけに行くことはない。

「静かにやろうや」ということで、ワイマール憲法はいつの間にか変わっていた。誰も気がつかない間に変わった。あの手口を学んだらどうか。僕は民主主義を否定するつもりもまったくない。しかし、けん騒の中で決めないでほしい。

The above translates to:

The international landscape Japan faces today is totally different from that in place when the Constitution was written. The people who are screeching “we’ve got to defend the Constitution from change” and expecting that peace will come of this are gravely mistaken. The goal of constitutional amendment is to secure the stability and security of the nation. Amending the Constutition is merely a means to this end. But it isn’t something we want to do in the midst of a lot of raucous argument. We need to calm down, get a grip on the conditions surrounding us, forge public consensus on the basis of this understanding, and then revise the Constitution. Otherwise we run the risk of making a mistake.

In Germany, they saw the rise of Hitler despite having the Weimar Constitution—the most progressive constitution in Europe at the time. Such things can happen even when you’ve got a good constitution in place. 

I don’t want to debate the future of Japan’s Constitution in an uproar. It’s like Yasukuni Shrine, too: this is a place where people should worship quietly. It’s ridiculous to keep ourselves from expressing respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives for the country. Just quietly go to the shrine. There’s no reason to do that on the day that marks Japan’s loss in the war. 

Now if you say “let’s do it quietly,” you need to look back at the Weimar Constitution, whose amendment went unnoticed. It was changed before most people realized it had happened. We need to learn from this. I have absolutely no intention of rejecting democracy. But I don’t want to see us make these decisions in the midst of an uproar.

It all hinges on the interpretation of 学んだらどうか (the italicized “we need to learn from this” above). Smart money is on Asō clarifying his remarks, stating that he meant “we need to learn from this [dangerous example in order to avoid it],” but parts of the global press—particularly in Korea—are already running with the “we need to learn from this [and do it the same way]” angle.

However it plays out, one hopes that Asō will learn at least the lesson that bringing up the Nazis and Yasukuni in the same passage of a speech on constitutional reform is not a recipe for favorable press coverage of the LDP’s motives. (Check out our look at what the LDP’s first amendment to the Constitution would entail right here.) (PD)

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  • [2013.07.31]

Translator and editor, Nippon.com. Came to Japan in 1985. After graduating from the American School in Japan, earned his degree in Japanese from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1996 joined Japan Echo Inc., where he produced translations for Japan Echo and the Japan Review of International Affairs, as well as for governmental and private-sector clients. Translator of Dr. Noguchi’s Journey, a biography of the medical researcher Noguchi Hideyo. Director of the Nippon Communications Foundation.

website:@Durf

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