On August 15, 1945, the Japanese people heard the voice of their Emperor for the first time. In an unprecedented radio broadcast at the end of World War II, Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan. JAPAN, THE EMPEROR AND THE ARMY investigates the Emperor's role before that day, and after the war. It examines how Japan's post-war demilitarization (and the Emperor's "demotion" to the level of a "mortal"), continues to resonate today – in Japanese politics, national identity and cultural influence on the international stage.
JAPAN, THE EMPEROR AND THE ARMY follows the transitional aftermath of WWII, when Japan demilitarized in order to regain international confidence and thus adopted Article 9 in its new constitution, famously decreeing that land, sea and air military forces will never be maintained – essentially renouncing war forever. Previously, Emperor Hirohito as sovereign head of state was commander of the army and had full authority to wage war.
The film explores how the vanquished empire established itself as an economic power, and while doing so how Japan set up armed forces, forbidden by Article 9 of its constitution. Today, Japan's "Self-Defense Force" is the fifth largest military in the world, and topics once taboo - such as the primacy of the Emperor – are openly discussed.
Has Japan abandoned the pacifist principles imposed by the victors of the war? Featuring interviews with Japanese and Western historians, as well as activist lawyers, WWII veterans and politicians, JAPAN, THE EMPEROR AND THE ARMY provides much-needed context for the resurgence in Japanese nationalism, its roots in the United States' management of its post-war occupation, the challenges and limitations of Japan's pacifist constitution and the country's evolving role on the world stage.
"Remarkable film... retracing in a fascinating way the contemporary history of Japan." —Télérama
"Director Kenichi Watanabe manages to make us understand the difficulties the Japanese people had in accepting their Emperor and their history, made of traditions anchored in collective memory." —Le Figaro
"Critics have said Watanabe’s film should be used as a criterion for understanding Japan." —The Japan Times
"Technically, this video is outstanding... The controversy over Article 9 leads to profound questions on the nature of what it means to be Japanese in the 21st century. Recommended." —Educational Media Reviews Online
★★★½ "Fascinating documentary... Charting the development of Japan's ever-growing 'self-defense' force, Watanabe captures a critical transitional moment and eventually leads viewers to the state of Article 9 in the 21st century, explaining how the recent surge in Japanese nationalism is specifically directed at gaining independence from the passage's pacifist principles. Informative and thought-provoking, this is highly recommended." —Video Librarian