“Nippon Nikki” (Japan Diary), an account of the Allied occupation of Japan by American journalist Mark Gayn (1909-1981), describes a scene where GHQ officials show their draft of Japan’s new Constitution to Japanese Cabinet ministers.

The officials waited on a balcony after telling the ministers they had 15 minutes to read the document.

That was the moment the Constitution was “forced” on Japan.

Returning from the balcony, a ranking GHQ official says something to the effect that he was basking in “atomic sunshine.”

The veiled reference to an atomic bomb implies that military might formed a backdrop of the birth of Japan’s postwar Constitution.

If memory serves, I first read about this episode in “Haisengo Ron” (Theories on the post-defeat), a 1997 work by literary critic Norihiro Kato, who died on May 16 at age 71.

Kato valued the pacifist principles enshrined in the Constitution. Precisely because of the preciousness of these principles, he argued, the Japanese people must face up to the fact that their Constitution was forced on them.

I remember being deeply impressed by the novelty of Kato’s argument.

An unapologetic polemicist, Kato ruffled a few feathers with his provocative statements.

For instance, he criticized “goken-ha” (defenders of the Constitution) as marginalizing and shutting their eyes to the fact that the Japanese never fought to write their own Constitution.

He stuck to his conviction that pacifism must not be fragile.

Reading his books, I sometimes feel as if my country’s old wounds are being reopened.

This is not limited to how the Constitution was written.

In “Amerika no Kage” (America’s shadow), his first published work, Kato argued that Japan has remained subordinate to the United States ever since its defeat in World War II, and that the Japanese people have kept their eyes averted from that reality.

When that book was published in 1985, Japan was economically prosperous enough to consider itself an equal of the United States. But Kato hurled a stone, so to speak, to shatter that illusion.

He is gone now, but his “stones” remain in our hands.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 22

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.