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76% say Japan should maintain exclusively defensive posture, Nihon Yoron Chosakai poll

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, Nihon Yoron Chosakai conducted a nationwide mail-in survey. Some 47% of respondents said that Japan has not engaged in war since the end of the Pacific War “because of Article 9 in the Constitution.” A total of 32% of respondents said either that there is a “large chance” or “some chance” that Japan will engage in war in the future. Meanwhile, a total of 65% said there is either “not much chance” or “no chance” that Japan will engage in war.

 

The polling results were released on Aug. 1.

 

Pacifism in the Constitution has taken root

 

While “Article 9” was the most frequently given response to the question of why Japan has not engaged in war since the Pacific War, the second most frequently given response was “because those who have experienced war or were impacted by the atomic bombings have shared the tragedies of war” (23%). Asked about the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), 76% said that Japan “should uphold its exclusively defensive posture” while only 17% said that “Article 9 of the Constitution should be revised to explicitly state the SDF is a military.” These findings suggest that the pacifism inscribed in the Constitution has taken root after soul-searching after the Pacific War.

 

Some 46% of respondents said that the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War were “wars of aggression.” A total of 84% said that Japan has either “adequately” or “somewhat” apologized to its neighbors. Pollees were split on whether the Japanese people need to reflect on Japan’s actions during the war and feel remorse, with 50% saying they do and 48% saying they do not. Among those in their 50s or younger, those who thought such a stance is not necessary exceeded those who thought it is necessary.  

 

In 1994, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama became the first Japanese prime minister to refer to Japan as aggressor during the prime minister’s remarks at the annual memorial service for the nation’s war dead. Subsequent prime ministers have also included it, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not mentioned it since he launched his second cabinet in December 2012. Some 38% of respondents said that the prime minister should refer to the aggression and soul-searching and offer words of apology. Meanwhile, 44% said that the prime minister “should mention it but does not need to apologize.”

 

A plurality of 58% of respondents said that the prime minister “should visit” Yasukuni Shrine, while 37% said the prime minister should not. In the public opinion poll conducted by Kyodo News around the time of the 70th anniversary, the figures were 55% and 43%, respectively. Asked which facility is appropriate to honor the nation’s war dead, 47% said “Yasukuni as now,” an increase of 5 percentage points from the 39% found in the poll taken five years earlier. A total of 46% selected another of the choices given, including “Yasukuni if the class-A war criminals are enshrined elsewhere.”

 

Some 41% said that they learned about the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War “from school studies and school textbooks.” Meanwhile, 23% said “from my parents or grandparents” and 22% said “from news reports.”

 

The poll was conducted in June and July of 3,000 men and women nationwide aged 18 or over.

 

33% say that Henoko relocation “should move ahead”

 

Asked about the relocation of the U.S. military’s Futenma Air Station (Ginowan City) to the Henoko district of Nago City, 33% of respondents said that the “relocation construction should go ahead as planned.” A total of 46% do not want Futenma to continue to be used but selected a relocation site other than Henoko.

 

Futenma is said to be “the most dangerous U.S. military base in the world” because it is located in an area packed with houses and schools. It is indispensable for the base to be returned at an early date to ensure the safety of the area residents, but people are split on whether it should be relocated to Henoko.

 

The figures for other relocation sites are as follows: “Futenma should be relocated outside of Japan” (17% of all respondents), “the construction should be canceled and Futenma closed” (13%), “Futenma should be relocated within Japan but outside of Okinawa” (11%), and “Futenma should be relocated within Okinawa to a location other than Henoko” (5%).

 

Some 44% of respondents who said that “Japan needs U.S. military bases” said they back the relocation to Henoko. Meanwhile, 58% of pollees who said that “the Constitution should be revised to explicitly state that the SDF are a military” and 54% of pollees who said that Japan has not waged war since the Pacific War “because of the Japan-U.S. alliance” said they support the relocation to Henoko.

 

Some 55% of pollees who said that the aim of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War was “to free Asia” and 45% who said the war was “self-defense” are in favor of the relocation to Henoko. Some 41% of those who said that the prime minister should visit Yasukuni Shrine back the relocation to Henoko.

 

72% say Japan should participate in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

 

Some 72% of respondents said that Japan “should participate” in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, which the United Nations adopted in July 2017. Of those, 62% said that Japan should join “because it is the only country subjected to atomic bombings during war.” Across all age groups, around 60% gave that response. This suggests that a wide range of age groups think that Japan should fulfill its responsibility in the international community as a nation that has been bombed.

 

The Japanese government has not joined the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. The next most frequently given response as to why Japan should join the treaty was “because it will lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons” (32%).

 

Some 24% of respondents said that Japan “should not join” the treaty. While 20% of those in the 60-and-over age group said Japan should not participate in the treaty, 28% of those in their 30s or below also gave that answer, indicating there is some disparity between the age groups. A total of 42% of those who said Japan should not join the treaty said Japan should not participate “because it will not lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons.” This suggests that respondents doubt the efficacy of the treaty at this time when nuclear nations are opposed to the treaty.

 

A total of 72% said that there is either a “great chance” or “some chance” that nuclear weapons will be used in war, while a total of 25% said either there is “little” or “no chance.” Some 83% of those in their 30s or under said that there is a chance nuclear weapons will be used in war, while 62% of those age 60 or over also gave that response.

 

[Polling methodology: A total of 3,000 men and women aged 18 or over were randomly selected nationwide from 250 locations on a stratified two-stage random-sampling basis to create a cross-section of Japan’s slightly more than 100 million voters. On June 22, questionnaires were sent out by postal mail, and 2,150 completed questionnaires had been returned as of July 27. Valid responses were received from 2,059 people, excluding questionnaires completed improperly or by persons other than the intended voter. The valid response rate was 68.6%. The makeup of the polling sample was as follows: male, 49.7%; female, 50.3%. Sections of Fukushima Prefecture heavily impacted by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake were excluded from the survey pool. 

 

Nihon Yoron Chosakai is a nationwide public opinion polling entity managed by Kyodo News and comprising 38 of its subscribers including the Tokyo Shimbun.]

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