The Constitution has a deeper meaning for Kenpo Yagami than for most people in Japan.
He was born on Nov. 3, 1946, the day the Constitution was promulgated. And his first name means "Constitution."
Now 65 and living in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, Yagami continues to defend the war-renouncing Constitution.
Kanoya was the base for a kamikaze unit during World War II. For Yagami, a memorial service shown on a TV news program this spring brought back memories of his father.
Yagami’s father, who was a policeman, was drafted and sent overseas during the war. He developed tuberculosis and lost many of his friends in battle. After returning to Japan, he discovered that a junior had been appointed as his boss, so he quit the police force.
Until the day he died, Yagami’s father said very little about what he went through on the front line. But his mother told Yagami: “The war spoiled everything for your father.”
Yagami said he heard that his grandfather chose his name, but he believes the thoughts of his father, who hated war, were included in the decision.
“There should never be victims like my father,” Yagami said. “We will never go to war, no matter what happens.”
Yagami gave his only son the name “Takanori.” His grandson was named “Hironori.” Both names have a kanji character from “Constitution.”
Yagami says he hopes to talk with his son and grandson about how their names came about.
Kazunori Tomonaga, a 61-year-old business consultant in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, said he learned about the meaning of his first name, which can also be read as “Constitution,” when he was at junior high school.
He repeated aloud the articles of the Constitution he was taught in school. He said he thought at the time, “It would be a shame if I didn’t know them.”
The port city of Sasebo has a long military history. The Imperial Japanese Navy had a stronghold there before and during World War II, and the U.S. Navy has maintained a base in Sasebo since the war ended.
In 1964, a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine made a port call at Sasebo for the first time in Japan, triggering a clash between hundreds of protestors and riot police.
Tomonaga said he thought that Sasebo could not survive without the base, but he believed that the existence of the base contradicted Article 9 of the Constitution, which states that Japan renounces war and will never maintain a military.
From a hill overlooking Sasebo Port, Tomonaga pointed at reddish-brown warehouses of the U.S. Navy and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.
“See, there’s another there,” he said.
Tomonaga said it was difficult learning the articles of the Constitution, but one that was easy to remember was Article 25, which states that all people have the “right to maintain a minimum standard of wholesome and cultured living.”
He is now the leader of a civic group that promotes town development using old brick buildings in Sasebo. His motto is: “Bright and enjoyable life.”
Tomonaga included the word “Kenpou” in "romaji" in his name card six years ago. “It’s not bad being called “Kenpou-san,” he said.
The struggle over the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in the 1960s is long gone, and the military base remains in Sasebo. However, Tomonaga said he believes the spirit of the Constitution has not faded at all.
Toshimichi Hiyama, 62, in Tokyo’s Chofu was born on May 3, which is Constitution Memorial Day, a national holiday to celebrate the 1947 enforcement of the Constitution.
His first name, which can also be read as “Constitution,” was given by his grandfather.
After graduating from junior high school, Hiyama worked in the delivery section of a post office in Tokyo and joined the union at the urging of a colleague.
Amid the nation’s high economic growth, Hiyama and his colleagues staged a demonstration demanding higher pay. They received a 30,000-yen ($374 in current exchange rates) raise the following month.
He said he also threw rocks at riot police during the conflict over the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
Hiyama said he has benefited from the Constitution, but he said politics can no longer be changed by demonstrations and clashes. He said there are now hardly any opportunities to fully appreciate the Constitution.
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