The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics was on October 10, 1964. To commemorate that date, 10/10 was observed from 1966 to 1999 as a national holiday called Taiiku no Hi (Health and Sports Day in English).
(Since 2000, Sports Day has been celebrated yearly on the second Monday in October.)
A hundred and ten years ago, 10/10 was significant for another reason: The Treaty of Portsmouth, which was signed on September 5, 1905, was ratified by the Japanese Privy Council on October 10 (and in Russia four days later).
The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 was fought between Russia, an international power with one of the largest armies in the world, and Japan, which had only recently emerged from 250 years of isolation. That war is unique in that the warring nations fought over, and only on, the territory of two neutral countries, China and Korea.
That conflict also saw history’s greatest battles between two nations in terms of numbers of troops and ships prior to World War I. (Http://portsmouthpeacetreaty.org/ is an excellent website about the War of 1904-05 and the peace treaty.)
President Theodore Roosevelt helped broker the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the war—and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, the first American to win that prestigious prize.
But the Japanese public was greatly upset. As some historians explain the situation, Japan won the war but lost the peace. Or as James Bradley writes in his book The Imperial Cruise (2009), “For the second war in a row, Japan had won all the battles but afterward was shamed by White Christians” (p. 303).
(Ten years earlier Japan had defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.)
Today, 110 years after the ratification of the Treaty of Portsmouth, is seems that there will not be a lot of peace/anti-war activity going on in Japan. But there were many such protests in August and September.
Last month Japan’s parliament passed a package of eleven bills, dubbed “Peace and Security Preservation Legislation,” allowing the Japanese military (now known as the Self-Defense Forces) to fight on foreign soil, something that has been banned in Japan since World War II.
The upper house of the Japanese parliament gave final approval to the controversial legislation on September 19, despite fierce attempts by opposition politicians to block the move.
Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Japanese are against the changes, and on a scale rarely seen in Japan, before the bills’ passage, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in almost daily rallies showing their strong opposition toward the bills.
|August protest in front of Japan's Diet Building|
Back in 1968 when I joined the faculty at Seinan Gakuin University, there were many student protests against the Vietnam War, against the upcoming (in 1970) renewal of the United States-Japan Security Treaty, and for the return of Okinawa to Japan.
In Aug. and Sept. this year, the protests on campus at Seinan Gakuin against the “security bills” before the Japanese Diet was mostly by faculty and staff and led by Dr. Ichiro Sudo, Dean of the Department of Theology.
Christians in Japan were among the loudest opponents of what are now enacted “security laws.” Most Christians have also been among the most vocal in opposing suggested changes to Article 9 of the Japanese constitution.
Article 9, in the new Constitution adopted in May 1947 and which Prime Minister Abe now seemingly wants to change, outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes.
As of 10/10/2015 many Japanese fear that Article 9 is headed for the dustbin.