Eighth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Washington, DC USA 2000

Japan Country Report

Submitted by Susumu Ishitani

Name of organization:

Ryooshin-teki Gunjihi Kyohi no Kai (Conscientious Objectors to Military Tax, COMIT)

Address: Kanazawa-ku, Yanagi-cho, 30-8, Yokohama City Japan; 236-0026

Telephone: 045-784-6200, fax:045-784-6200, e-mail: ishitani@kamome.or.jp

Organizational structure:

representative: Susumu Ishitani and Michio Ohno

court case business manager: Michio Ohno

news letter editor: Toshiharu Kamata

accountant: Aki Kamata

Budget:

¥89,000 membership fee: ¥2,000 per person a year

Main goal of organization:

to remind government and people of the important of consciences to spend tax constitutionally for peaceful life, not for war not for military preparation.

Type of activities:

express individual's will to refuse military portion of one's own national tax by filing tax form indicating one's intention to refuse to pay the military portion with explanation why one cannot pay the proportion for the military; make campaign demonstration in front of tax-office; use mass-media to inform the public. As the Japanese constitution forbids the nation to possess fighting forces, we still stick to insisting that Self Defense Forces is unconstitutional, aiming at complete disarmament. We are wondering whether we should acknowledge the reality of present situation of Japan having increased the large military and should compromise and work for the law to guarantee the alternative tax-pay for the conscientious objectors.

Educational activities:

demonstration in front of tax office, open lecture and demonstration to give instruction how to file tax form. Take part in other peace groups' activities to introduce what we do.

Size. Scope. History and Current Status of the Movement:

At first when we begun this campaign in 1974 many citizens and organizations like labors unions were very interested in the tax resistance against the militarization, but as they found out that the money did not come back to them after the toils of filing the forms and the effect of the resistance did not change the policies of militarization by the government, many of them gave up this method, We brought our case into Tokyo Local Court in 1980 as a group of accusers consisting of 22 members of COMIT, our group about the Japanese government violating the constitution which forbids the nation to have fighting forces. In 1994 the supreme court made judgment that we have no right to appeal at courts but we should work through the parliament because collecting tax is made by tax-offices separately from the way how the tax money is spent according to the budget decided by the parliament. 

The supreme court did not recognize the pains of taxpayers' conscience enough. We, however, continue our refusal of military tax and make campaigns every year. But the number of the refusal may be not more than a hundred. We are not getting all the information about the matter. There were three court cases brought by individual pacifists but all cases were treated in the same way.

When the Gulf War started and the Japanese government paid a great amount of tax money for the military actions of US and UN, more than a thousand citizens in several cities brought the accusing to local courts.

All the judgments have been the same with slight differences in nuance.

After that several similar court cases brought by individual Japanese citizens continued as the Japanese government sent SDF abroad in the name of international cooperation of UN??

The relationship with religion:

We have more Christians in our group than any other believers of other religions but we form our group as a citizen's organization because in Japan the number of Christians is limited and not all Christians are the same and we think this is the problem of all the people of the nation regardless with any particular religion.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation of Japan and the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Tokyo Monthly Meeting are the two groups supporting this activity officially.

Involvement in Other Projects

We are involved in different peace, human rights and environment activities in the daily life. For instance, I (Ishitani) am involved in campaigning against military bases in Yokosuka, Yokohama and Zushi as well as in Okinawa not as an organizer but as a participant.

Publications:

We issue newsletter named Sukinoha (Plough Share) four times a year. 300 in number at a time. We started to have membership system - these few years. Only 48 members paid the membership fees last year but possible members are about 80. Regular receivers of the newsletter are 140 in number.

Future Plans:

We think it necessary for us to challenge our government and the public to consider the danger of the militarization in realistic ways by showing the realities of wars. Study on the issue of conscience to persuade judges of the court how it is necessary for them to give more serious consideration on conscience as they perform the roles. We study how we could appeal more effectively to the court individually in many places. We have to challenge the public to become ready to be COs when the drafting system might be adopted by the government in the future. We need to study how we should learn from the experiences of international peace tax law campaigns.