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Saturday, May 5, 2007
Briton bicycles to remind nation about Article 9's ideology of peace
By JUN HONGO
Moments after learning the government is preparing to revise and reinterpret the Constitution's Article 9, Charles Ward felt a sense of duty to oppose the move and make a stand for peace.
"Article 9 is admirable. It's an amazing ideology that no country has except for Japan," the 27-year-old Briton said about the clause, which stipulates that Japan forever renounces war and use of force to resolve international disputes.
Motivated in part to save the 60-year-old peace article, but mainly to learn about organic farming, the former English teacher embarked on a bicycle tour through the country last October and handed out "9-chan" origami cranes to convey his peace message to the people of Japan.
Ward arrived in Japan in August 2004, after being enamored with the nation's Constitution and its nonviolent spirit since he was a high school student.
Inspired by Paulo Coelho's novel "The Alchemist," in which a shepherd boy travels the world to find his treasure, he quit his English teaching job in Nagano Prefecture in April 2006 to pursue another longtime interest — learning organic farming.
Last October during his yearlong nationwide bicycle tour a farmer in Hiroshima told him Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is pushing to have Article 9 amended.
" 'Heiwa' (peace) has become just (the) name of a pachinko parlor for many," Ward said, referring to a major pachinko company, claiming the heart of Article 9 has been lost since most of Japanese have no experience of war. Peace is taken for granted in this country, he said.
Ward rearranged his road map from Hiroshima and headed out on a tour to promote Article 9. He bicycled some 11,000 km through 40 prefectures, stopping at over 40 venues as a guest to speak about preserving the Constitution. He passed out some 5,000 "9-chan" cranes during the endeavor.
Under a tight budget of 300,000 yen for a year, he was at times forced to sleep in baseball fields under scoreboards or to knock on stranger's doors asking for a bed. He also received donations from supporters and managed to survive everyday on under 1,000 yen.
During his journey, Ward also came upon people support revising Article 9 and elderly citizens who experienced the war but had no opinion on saving the clause.
"About three to four out of every 10 people didn't know what Article 9 was," Ward said, adding it was difficult trying to persuade people who supported, with great confidence, amending the Constitution but who could not say if such a move posed the risk of putting Japan on a path to war again.
"Some would say its 'daijoubu' (it's OK) and that they are not worried (that) Japan would go to war even if Article 9 was amended," he said, suggesting even small changes could ultimately lead to Japan's future involvement in a war.
Ward majored in architecture in college and acknowledged he has no expertise in politics or the complicated issues the government faces. But he said he sees no good reason to change Article 9.