Japan has been a functioning democracy for all the seven decades since the end of World War II.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the revised Constitution of Japan.
The occasion was acknowledged at the University of Wollongong this week during the 20th biennial Conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA).
About 200 international academics and experts were in town to debate Japan’s post-war democracy.
The most controversial part of the Constitution is the so-called ‘Pacifist Clause', Article 9, which renounces the right to wage war.- Professor Vera Mackie
Conference convener, UOW Senior Professor of Asian Studies Vera Mackie, said the JSSA focused on Japan’s constitutional and legal system, democracy and civil society, the political economy of post-war Japan and the cultural imagining and reimagining of Japanese society over this period.
‘’The Constitution of 1947 talks about freedom from discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin,’’ Prof Mackie said.
‘’This was very progressive in 1947, but these days we would probably want to add something about freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
‘’The most controversial part of the Constitution is the so-called ‘Pacifist Clause', Article 9, which renounces the right to wage war.
‘’There is huge popular support for the 'Pacifist Clause', but the current Liberal Democratic Government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would like to change this clause of the Constitution.’’
Changes after the end of the Second World war meant that Japan became more democratic than in the prewar or wartime period, with women, for example, voting and standing for office for the first time in 1946.
It’s an honour to be hosting so many prominent international academic experts in the field, and sharing their knowledge.- Professor Vera Mackie
But Prof Mackie said several experts at the conference expressed concern the Abe government now has a majority of both houses of parliament, and is in a position to embark on reform of the Constitution.
The conference from June 27-30, was of ‘’great significance’’ to the UOW, which has offered Japanese studies since 1990, from undergraduate to PhD level, from academics in cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, history, linguistics and literary studies.
‘’It is a significant gathering of esteemed experts in Japanese studies, which enables us to collectively consider how global shifts impact on the country’s politics and culture,’’ Prof Mackie said.
‘’It’s an honour to be hosting so many prominent international academic experts in the field, and sharing their knowledge.’’
The JSSA also saw Agnieszka Golda curate an exhibition of young Australian, Japanese and diasporic artists on the theme ‘Shadow Worlds’ in TAEM Gallery at UOW.