A Brief Introduction and Fact Sheet


Courts continue to hear lawsuits filed by survivors who say they haven't received sufficient medical care for ailments caused by exposure to radiation. It is said that the number of officially acknowledged victims of A-bomb is only 0.7 % of the total.

It's more difficult for Hibakusha living outside Japan (most in South Korea) to get Hibakusha aid from Japanese government and the city. Japanese government has refused to apply "Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law (Hibakusha engo Hou)" to the foreign victims of the Atomic Bomb. Giving support to second and third generations of Hibakusha who are out of the aid target is also important.


  • Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations)


To prevent a nuclear calamity from happening again, a total ban and the elimination of nuclear weapons are now more urgent than ever before. The incident that led most directly to the formation of Japan's movement against nuclear bombs was the H-bomb test by the United States at Bikini atoll on March 1, 1954. The incident, which was closely covered by the press, shook the Japanese public.

A signature campaign against atomic and hydrogen bombs began, and the movement spread like wildfire throughout the country. The campaign introduced many Japanese citizens to the voices of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who had already been calling for the abolition of nuclear bombs.

The fear of the "ashes of death" aroused by the Bikini disaster and the anti-war feelings inspired by a new awareness of the terrible reality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined to generate a powerful movement against A- and H-bombs. And it extends to all types of nukes, including the "peaceful use" of nuclear energy.


  • Gensuikin (Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs)


Starting in 1945, during the ground battle in Okinawa, U.S. troops forced thousands of Okinawans off their lands using “bayonets and bulldozers” to build military bases. Although the U.S. officially turned over the island to Japan in 1972, it remains one of the largest concentrations of U.S. forces anywhere in the world, where resulting social and environmental

disruption, including sexual assaults, continues with impunity. The Okinawa prefecture comprises 0.6 percent of Japan's total landmass. However, of all the U.S. military forces stationed in Japan, 75 percent of those forces were located in Okinawa. Japan consists of 47 prefectures and U.S. military bases are located in 27 prefectures from north to south including Hokkaido, Honshyu Island (such as Tokyo, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Hiroshima etc.), Kyushu Island (such as Nagasaki, Oita, Miyazaki, etc.) and Okinawa.

Okinawa is considered the “linchpin” of U.S. military strategy in Asia. The vast U.S. military infrastructure in Northeast Asia is a remnant of the cold war. But it also supports U.S. economic interests like multinational corporations and banks — the primary forces behind globalization.




After the end of WWII, non-Japanese veterans, civilian employees of the army, bereaved families as well as comfort women are omitted from Japan’ s postwar period compensation and support. The consistent attitude of the Japanese government is that compensation issues were brought to a conclusion legally with the San Francisco treaty (effected in 1952).

However, under the cold war circumstances, U.S. policy on Japan was to make it “the factory in Asia”. Most countries mentioned in the S.F. treaty abandoned the rights to demand compensation for the reason that Japan didn’t have the sufficient ability to do so and needed its postwar rehabilitation. In Japan-Korea basic treaty (effected in 1965), the compensation was turned into “economic cooperative system,” which profited just a handful of Japanese dominant corporations and the Korean military dictatorial administration.

The people’s fight in court for the right to demand compensation and for the pursuit of Japanese responsibility began in 1990. But the courts shift the responsibility onto the Diet by saying that it’s about legislative policy not administration of justice, thus it’s about politics. The courts have rejected most of those demands.



Japanese nationalism, which attempts to justify past war atrocities and colonial rule, is on the rise in the country. The history and civics textbooks published by the Society for New History Textbooks (Tsukurukai, which was formed in 1996) are a problem as textbooks for kids.

The history book’s problems:

  1. It attempts to justify Japan's aggression and invasion as a war of liberation, of liberating Asia from Western colonial rule.
  2. It is written from the Emperor's historical viewpoint and glorifies the Emperor.
  3. It questions the actuality of the Nanjing Massacre in China and erases from its records any mention of the Japanese military sexual slavery system or "comfort women" system.
  4. The subject of history is portrayed as only that of the nation-state; the people and minorities are absent and not represented.
  5. It defends the family system and emphasizes the "good wife, wise mother" mould with a traditional gender role-based division of labor. In other words, the textbook is a self-race centered, nation-state centered, power politics centered, male chauvinistic view of history. Such a view of history can also be seen in their civics textbook. It proclaims a nation-centered, anti-foreign and racist philosophy. This nationalism, however, spreads and provokes conflicts and violence all over the world as a counteraction to globalization.



 Those spirits housed in Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo were only those who died "for the Japanese Emperor" and/or "for the country" regardless of their religions. The deaths for the Emperor and/or the country are glorified and considered as the most precious beings - the gods (kami). Thus it worked as a shrewd system to mobilize the army until the end of the WWII.

In 1946 it became a religious establishment and broke off its relations with the state based on the new constitution, although successive Japanese Prime Ministers kept visiting officially. The official visit to the shrine has to come into question from the legal point of view. In addition to that, in 1978 it enshrined the 14 who were hanged for war crimes, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. Since then, each Prime Minister's official visit has been criticized, most especially by Japan’s Asian neighbors.


The Japanese government passed a law legalizing the “Hinomaru” and “Kimigayo” as Japan’s national flag and anthem (effected on August 9, 1999). These were very powerful symbolic devices that have been used by the Japanese state to produce chauvinistic and nationalistic sentiments around the symbols of the Emperor. Therefore, Hinomaru and Kimigayo are national symbols that are intimately associated with Japan's history of military and colonial aggression. The lyrics celebrate and admire the Emperor and the Imperial Family, and wish their prosperity to be continued forever.

Boards of Education have forced schools in their prefectures to hoist and sing Hinomaru and Kimigayo even before the Law was made. And many teachers and students have been punished because of refusing Hinomaru and Kimigayo. And now, the Basic Legislation for Education is being targeted.

It’s said that the aim to make this change is that the state can then control the entire educational system including what is uniformly taught at schools. These moves to change the law have one point in common; make Japan a country that can go to war.



On June 6, 2003, the three bills comprising Japan's proposed emergency legislation, "Yuji-hou" for short, were approved. A discussion of the implications of the bills impact on basic human rights was postponed.

The point is that if the Japanese Prime Minister judges a situation emergency (an estimate is enough), the new legislation authorizes the Prime Minister to command the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), all local governments and citizens. And Japan even can strike first. If you don't cooperate, you will be punished. It allows SDF to fire "warning shots" at the people who resist cooperating or who demonstrate against those actions. Another new bill that will allow Japan to dispatch the SDF to Iraq was approved in July, and the SDF will be sent after the middle of November under new legislation.

The SDF have already been sent to Jordan to cooperate in rebuilding Iraq by providing fuel, medicines, relief goods under the Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) Law that was effected in 1992. In other words, the new Iraq law is unnecessary in terms of cooperation by providing stuff to rebuild Iraq. This series of revisions or broad interpretation of existing laws, and new legislation is seen widely as breaking section of Article 9 that is the peaceful constitution section of which Japanese are very proud:

"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes."

"In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

The Constitution of Japan, Chapter II;
Renunciation of war, Article 9
(effected in 1946)



North Korea relies heavily on international food aid to feed its population, but many people in the country are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, while the state continues to expend resources to maintain an army of about one million. The North Korean nuclear crisis has risen since George W. Bush labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" in January 2002. Tensions really started escalating in October, when the U.S. accused North Korea of developing a secret nuclear weapons program.

It's often very difficult to tell what lies behind North Korea's moves. But it seems possible that North Korea has been trying to use the nuclear issue as a hard-line ploy to negotiate a non-aggression pact and improved economic aid from other countries as they did in the mid-1990s. The way to deal with this nuclear issue has to be peaceful means rather than militarization by new laws such as Yuji-hou and National Missile Defense (NMD) Program etc. in the name of Self Defense.

This militarization could only worsen the situation. What is really needed is peaceful diplomatic efforts and negotiations on all issues of concern to both sides, including dismantlement of DRNK nuclear weapons capabilities, its food and energy needs, and full normalization of political and economic relations. The forced abductions by North Korea issue that Kim Jong-il admitted in 2002 as well as Japanese compensation for the occupation and the Pacific War should be solved as one of the facts in the negotiations.




A fresh wind blew for the Japanese peace movement. Before the war on Iraq started, there were demonstrations in many cities in Japan as well as other countries. Fast communications and sharing information by using the Internet and email with computers and cell pones made it easier to organize demonstrations. Speaking of Japanese movement, the image "demonstrations = dangerous, scary" has spread among the Japanese society since around the middle of 1970s when acts of violence became brutal inside the movement within labor, student, Ampo (Japanese name for Japan-U.S. Security treaty) and anti-Vietnam War movement.

Since then, it's been said that the number of people who keep away from any kind of activism and those who are not interested in politics or social issues has increased and most movements in Japan have been declining. But since September 11, 2001, the Japanese peace movement grew larger involving many young people who have not experienced the movement in 1960-70s, and also those who had not cared about politics or social issues before. Twenty-five thousand people gathered in Tokyo on February 14, and 40,000 on March 8.

Those demonstrations changed its negative images in Japan into peaceful, powerful and diverse. It can be said that those tragic incidents made politically and socially sleeping people in Japan wake up. Hope this is not temporary but the thing connected with the future movement.


  • Beheiren (Peace for Vietnam; citizens coalition -Japanese only)
  • World Peace Now (a network of nonviolent action beyond political parties, religions and citizens groups)

Compiled by Yuka Ogaki, AFSC Summer Intern, August 2003.
Contact: smcneil@afsc.org