Japan’s move to restore right to collective self-defense worrying high school students: “Do we have to go to war?”

Japan's move to restore right to collective self-defense worrying high school students: “Do we have to go to war?

On July 4 at a regular meeting held by the union at the Education and Welfare Hall in Naha City, teachers reported students’ reactions after the Japanese Government decided to change the interpretation of the Constitution to enable the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense.


July 6, 2014 Ikue Nakaima of Ryukyu Shimpo

“Teacher, do we have to go to war?”

A regular meeting of the High School and Handicapped People’s School Teachers’ and Staff Union was held in Naha City on July 4. The teachers reported that their students were concerned about the Japanese Government’s decision to change the interpretation of the Constitution to enable the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense. They have reacted sensitively to the change in Japan, which many believe poses a risk of leading to war.

At a high school in the northern area, students were forward about their concern and continuously pressed their teachers for answers when classes started. One of them said, “Is war going to occur?” another said, “It is dangerous if there is a military base built in Henoko, isn’t it?”

The teacher was surprised by such reactions from the students, and explained that as 74 percent of the U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, there is a possibility that if the U.S. enters a war with another country, Okinawa will become the target of attacks from enemies.

“Then, what can we do now? Once the government has decided, can it be changed?” the student continued to ask. The teacher told the students, “When you become 20 years old, you will have a right to vote. Think about how you want the Japanese government to be, and go and vote.”

At a school in the central area, students suggested talking about the right to collective self-defense. One teacher said they could sense students were highly interested in this issue because they talked about it in many different classes.  
At a school in the southern area, students told one of their teachers, “Teacher, it’s not the right time to give us a regular lecture.” Students, who had previously not shown any interest in the U.S. military base issues, suggested discussing it. The teacher said students have sensed the Japanese society is about to change.

A regular meeting on July 4 was held under the slogan of “Don’t send students to the battlefield again.” This slogan, made in 1951 by the union, refers to Okinawa’s history. One of the teachers said, “Until now, I have never pondered the meaning of this slogan as much as I am now. I do not want to send any of my students to the battlefield.”

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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