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25 April 2023

Is MacArthur a parent who gave birth to Japan’s democracy?


Last Sunday I visited Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa prefecture, an hour train ride from Tokyo. The place is jointly used by both US and Japanese forces. There was an event to exhibit the aircrafts and associate with servicemembers working there.


Near the entrance I saw a very peculiar object. A statue of Douglas MacArthur who was a head of G.H.Q and SCAP organization during U.S. occupied Japan era (1945 to 1952). He entered Japan through this Air Base to occupy the whole of Japan. 


What was very peculiar was the description carved below the statue. It was in Japanese, “Nihon-no-Minshushugi-no-Uminooya, MacArthur”, meaning MacArthur, a parent who gave birth to Japan’s democracy.


Is that so?


As far as my knowledge of history, that is partly true but not all true. In my opinion, FALSE.


Yes, during MacArthur era, a current democratic constitution was drafted and announced. Women’s suffrage was enacted. Freedom of speech and expression is protected in the constitution.

Right after the war, Japan was devastated due to the huge loss caused by the war. A lot of people felt betrayed by their own government and military. So MacArthur looked a savior.

However, such democratic movements had existed even before the war between US and Japan started. In 1920’s universal suffrage for men of 25 or over was enacted in Japan’s national assembly as a result of civil movement. In 1930’s women’s suffrage was enacted in the lower house of the national assembly but was rejected in the upper house. In fact, the amendment of the election law to give women’s rights to vote was announced in the national cabinet a few months after the war ended. That was before MacArthur announced the decree to do so and the constitution which bans gender discrimination was promulgated.


During the occupation era in Japan even after the democratic constitution became effective, when Korean War broke out in 1950, the GHQ and SCAP ordered the red purge in Japanese mainstream media outlets without legislation due to fear of rising communism. That was apparently against principle of democracy.  


So the statement “MacArthur democratized Japan” was highly debatable. 


Japan’s ex-Air Force Chief TAMAGAMI Toshio wrote in his book that he felt very uncomfortable seeing the statue and the description. I felt the same way. Seems like Americans boasting themselves and giving bad impression to us. I would suggest to replace the description plate with one simply stating "In memorial of Douglas MacArthur." That should be appropriate. We don’t respect such arrogant people so the statue did not help better friendship but undermines it.


US military is, in fact doing similar things in Okinawa, Japan as described in this article. I’ve been very angry with them.


In the event I took pictures with Japanese servicemembers and gave a salute to them. I can proudly say “Thank you for your service” to them because they are OUR TROOPS.

military, history, democracy

With US troops, I was being friendly to them because they themselves are individuals and officially so called “Allied Force”, on which we depend heavily although they are not as helpful as Japanese ordinary citizens expect to be. After all, they are “THEIR TROOPS.”

military, history, democracy