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Rallies for, against changes to supreme law held on Constitution Memorial Day

People attend a rally holding placards against constitutional amendment, in Tokyo's Koto Ward on May 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

Constitution Memorial Day, a public holiday in Japan on May 3, was marked with rallies held by those who want to keep the nation's war-renouncing Constitution unchanged, and those who want to see the supreme law amended in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wishes.

In Tokyo's Koto Ward, the group "Heiwa to Inochi to Jinken o! 5.3 Kenpo Shukai" (Peace, life and rights! May 3 Constitution gathering) held a rally attended by 65,000 people, according to organizers.

Kanako Takayama, a professor at Kyoto University who spoke at the gathering, stated, "It's not the Constitution that should be changed now; it's the administration." She added that the four parts of the Constitution that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) aims to change are things that shouldn't be altered and said, "We cannot permit such preposterous constitutional change."

Prime Minister Abe has outlined his aims to revise Japan's Constitution including war-renouncing Article 9 to specifically mention Japan's Self-Defense Forces -- a move backed by the LDP.

A rally was also held in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, where the central government is proceeding with work to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan to reclaimed land off the coast of the Henoko district of the city of Nago in the prefecture. Pointing out that the government is proceeding with the work in spite of a referendum in the prefecture in which over 70 percent of respondents expressed opposition to reclaiming land for the relocation, Jinshiro Motoyama, the leader of a citizens group that collected signatures to call for the referendum, asked, "What exactly is our Constitution, which defines democracy in our country?"

People view a video message from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a gathering of people favoring constitutional amendment, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Motohiro Negishi)

Separately, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward a Constitution-related forum was held by groups including "Utsukushii Nihon no Kenpo o Tsukuru Kokumin no Kai" (People's association to create a Constitution for Beautiful Japan). Organizers said about 1,100 people attended the event, which featured a video message from Prime Minister Abe.

Journalist Yoshiko Sakurai, a joint leader of the association, told participants, "Anybody who reads the current Constitution can see that it is not a Constitution of the Japanese people. Just where is the flavor of Japanese culture?" Referring to the start of the Reiwa era in line with the enthronement of new Emperor Naruhito, she added, "In this age of Reiwa, let us walk on a new Yamato path." Yamato is an old name for Japan.

A 79-year-old resident of the city of Sosa in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, who attended the gathering, commented, "Things that weren't happening before are happening now. The Constitution should be changed to match the times." Another 73-year-old participant from Tokyo's Meguro Ward added, "The current Constitution can't protect the peace and safety of the people. We've entered the Reiwa era, but the circumstances are increasingly becoming such that we must change the Constitution."

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