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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Oration by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Ceremony to Commemorate the Anniversary of Japan's Restoration of Sovereignty and Return to the International Community

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28, 2013, Memorial Hall of Constitutional Politics
[Provisional translation]

Today, in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, and in the presence of many distinguished persons from various fields, on behalf of the Government of Japan I would like to offer an oration at this Ceremony to Commemorate the Anniversary of Japan's Restoration of Sovereignty and Return to the International Community.

It was sixty-one years ago today that Japan again began to stride forward under the power of its own people. On this day, the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, restoring sovereignty and making Japan the possession of the Japanese people alone.

Sixty-one years have passed since that day. I wish to mark this day as a major milestone and make this a day on which we renew our hopes and our determination towards the future, as we reflect upon the path we have followed until now.

In the summer of 1945, in our country, now war-torn, only the hills and rivers endured. Food was scarce, people starving. The seven subsequent years were the first and indeed the most profound disconnect and ordeal that Japan had ever experienced in its long history.

The late Emperor Showa sang a tanka song, reflecting upon the hardship the people in Japan were coping with, which reads,


The gallant pine tree
ever green, stands stalwart
'neath snow-laden boughs.
Resolute and valiant
Dauntless too, must ye now be.

Snow falls silently, forming a thick carpet amidst the tranquillity. The branches of the pine tree appear to be at the brink of bending, yet patiently endure the weight of the snow. As the tree endures this, it still retains its greenery, the only vivid colour to greet the eye. This poem states that we too should follow its example.

This poem was composed at the New Year in 1946, when a great many of the Japanese people were on the verge of starvation and were earnestly trying to endure a bitterly cold winter.

I believe many among the Japanese people were of the same mind as the lines of this poem.

What were our grandmothers, our grandfathers, our mothers, and our fathers thinking when 1952 arrived not long after and sovereignty was restored? I believe that today is a day for each of us to reflect deeply on that matter.

Sixty-one years ago today, the Diet adopted a four-point resolution in the plenary sessions of both Houses in response to Japan's sovereignty being restored.

  1. Japan will consistently contribute to maintaining world peace and promoting the welfare of humankind, and wishes to accede to the United Nations at the earliest possible time.
  2. Japan will establish relationships of neighbourly friendship with other Asian countries and use these relationships to contribute to the attainment of world peace.
  3. Japan will promote the fair resolution of territorial issues and become self-supporting economically by establishing equal-opportunity international economic relationships characterized by equality and mutual benefit.
  4. The Japanese people will consistently uphold democracy, enhance morals among the people, promote the spirit of autonomy and self-defence, and become a promising and responsible member of the international community both in name and in deed.

We can say that these resolutions adopted at that time expressed a determination to forge a fully independent nation and to become a nation respected by the international community.

From this, we can appreciate the spirit of this pledge that our forebears made to themselves on this day on which Japan sought to arise through its own strength and enter the international community once more.

The power station that Japan constructed as part of its war reparations the year after sovereignty was restored in what was then called Burma provides power to Myanmar splendidly even today.

In 1958, six years after sovereignty was restored, Japan provided its very first post-war ODA loan, to India.

Japan took a mere 12 years from the restoration of its sovereignty to holding the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It needed less than 20 to attain the ranking of the free world's second-largest economy.

All of these achievements are none other than the crystallization of the tireless efforts of our grandmothers and grandfathers and our mothers and fathers.

From ancient times, we Japanese have had a rich tradition of working together to cultivate the fields, sharing water, helping each other supplement for what is scarce, and praying for a huge harvest for all.

It was exactly because we have had that elegant manifestation that Japan rose from the ashes to achieve rapid progress in such a short time.

And yet, just as the Diet resolution states, even though Japan's sovereignty had been restored, it was unable to join the United Nations for some time. Japan had to wait almost four years and eight months until it acceded to the United Nations, -- that is, until it restored its full-fledged diplomatic capacity.

Moreover, on the day that sovereignty returned to Japan, administrative rights over the Amami Islands, the Ogasawara Islands, and Okinawa were severed from Japan.

We should particularly bear in mind the fact that the administrative rights over Okinawa, which experienced brutal ground battles and suffered an immense toll, were separated from Japan for the longest period of time.

"Until Okinawa returns to the fatherland, Japan will not have completely emerged from her post-war period,"Former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato said.

Okinawa reverted to Japan on May 15, 1972. It took a long 20 years from the restoration of sovereignty to finish, for the first time in actuality, the post-war period for the entirety of Japan.

Any casual statement would be meaningless in light of the sufferings that the people of Okinawa endured, and were forced to conceal, both during and after the war. I call on younger generations in particular in urging people to make an effort to care deeply about the hardships that Okinawa has experienced.

Now, Japan once again faces a great challenge in its reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake. And yet, we also know that, saddened by the tragedy that struck Japan, a tremendous number of people all around the world extended to us a helping hand.

After the war, the path that Japanese people trod and the acts they engaged in together with people around the world cultivated a fountain of cordial good will. It may be said that we were not very deeply cognizant of it.

Above all, in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. Forces rendered assistance to the disaster-stricken areas, shedding their sweat and, at times, their tears together with the Japanese people. Both historically and in the present day, it is rare to see cases in which countries that had fought each other fiercely in years past now enjoy good rapport with each other.

We have a duty to do good and strive after virtue for the future of the world.

This is because 61 years ago, our forerunners made a profound pledge, wishing to make Japan exactly that kind of nation.

And for that very reason, I believe we have an obligation to make Japan strong and robust and make it a country that the people of the world are able to depend on.

It may be that there are no easy matters on the path that lies ahead of us, much like it was for Japan after the war.

However, as we now look back on 61 years, we should consider the determination of those who went before us, who rose up from a devastated land to cultivate a national character that places importance on universal freedom and democracy and human rights, and who, even amidst their poverty, concentrated their efforts on educating the next generation. That is courage. I find it to be an act of great tenacity.
However great the challenges that now await our generation, we will not avert our eyes. Instead, we are taking upon ourselves the responsibility to make Japan, our precious country, even better and more beautiful, just like that pine tree that, undaunted, maintains its colour even amidst mounting snowdrifts.

I believe that we have a responsibility to make Japan a nation of which we can be proud, that makes contributions as it goes forth, in order to create a better world.

I will end my oration by expressing my sincere appreciation to those who kindly helped prepare for today's ceremony and to the distinguished people in attendance.

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