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Japan: Japan Government Profile 2012





Japan Government Profile 2012

  • Introduction
  • The Executive Branch
  • The Legislative Branch
  • Political Parties
  • The Judicial Branch
  • Conclusion  



    Unlike the American political system and the British political system  which essentially have existed in their current form for centuries, the present Japanese political system is a much additional recent construct dating from Japan's defeat in the Second World War and its subsequent occupation by the United States. The post-war constitution of 1947 is an anti-militarist document which includes the renunciation of the right to wage war and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces although later a limited self-defence force was permitted.

    The constitution was drawn up under the Allied occupation. It is a rigid document and, since its adoption, no major amendment has been made to it.

    Unquestionably Japan is a democratic country, but it is a very different kind of democracy to that prevailing in most of Europe in nations like France   and Germany  The single most significant reason for this is the dominant position of party – the Liberal Democratic Party – which held power almost unbroken for additional than 50 years.


    Japan is a constitutional monarchy (like Britain) where the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the constitution as "the symbol of the national and of the unity of the people". This is a dramatic contrast to the situation prior to Japan's wartime defeat by the Americans when the Emperor was regarded as divine.

    The Prime Minister is chosen for a term of years, although the political turbulence of the Japanese system is such that he rarely serves a full term. He must win a majority in the Diet in a single signed ballot. If the houses cannot reach agreement, the decision of the Home of Representatives always prevails. The official residence of the Prime Minister is called the Kantei (a new building was opened in 2002).

    Yoshihko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) currently serves as the Prime Minister. He is Japan's seventh Prime Minister in years.

    The Prime Minister choses his Cabinet which is limited by a constitutional amendment of 2001 to an additional 14 regular members with the possibility of three special members. At least half of the Cabinet must be members of the Diet.


    The Japanese legislature is called the Kokkai or Diet and is a bicameral structure. Generally decisions are made on a majority vote, but a-thirds majority is required in special cases.

    The lower home in the Japanese political system is the Shugi-in or Home of Representatives. It has 480 seats and members serve a-year term, although only once since the war has a full term been served (the average is and a half years). Of the 480 seats, 300 are elected from single-member constituencies and the other 180 are elected from 11 multi-member constituencies by a system of proportional representation. The Home of Representatives has preeminence over the Home of Councillors and can pass a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet as a whole. The Home of Representatives can be dissolved by the Prime Minister (like the British Home of Commons) or by a Cabinet no confidence vote.

    The upper home in the Japanese political system is the Sangi-in or Home of Councillors. It has 242 seats and members serve a-year term. Only half of its membership is re-elected at each election each three years, using a parallel voting system. Of the 121 members subject to election each time, 73 are elected from the 47 prefectural districts by the single transferable vote method and 48 are elected from a nationwide inventory by proportional representation. This element of proportional representation was introduced in 1982 in an effort to combat the effect of huge sums of money being spent on election campaigns. The Home of Councillors cannot be dissolved.

    If the houses disagree on matters of the budget, treaties, or designation of the Prime Minister, the Home of Representatives can insist on its decision. In amount other decisions (such as the passage of a Bill), the Home of Representatives can override a vote of the Home of Councillors only by a-thirds majority of members present.


    Traditionally the Japanese political system has been dominated by party in a manner unknown in the democracies of Europe and North America. That party is the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Since its founding in 1955, it has been in power at amount times, except for a short-lived coalition government formed from opposition parties for 11 months in 1993 and for the present government which was elected in August 2009. Before the last election, it had 300 seats - typical of the dominant position which it has usually held - but now it only has 119.

    The other major party is the social liberal Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). It was formed in 1998 from a merger of before independent parties that were opposed to the ruling LDP. In the general election of August 2009, it stormed to victory, taking 308 of the 480 seats. At the time, it was athe major party in the Home of Councillors and therefore controlled both Houses, but now the Opposition controls the upper home. This situation, whereby different parties control the houses, is known in Japan as a "twisted Diet".

    Public funding of political parties was introduced in 1994.

    Turnout in elections is low, especially part young voters.

    Historically the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan's political system has profoundly shaped the nature of politics in this country compared to other democracies. Since there was entirely no scope for changing the party in power, the conflicts - frequently very bitter - have been additional within the LDP rather than between political parties. As a result, an elaborate and amount-pervasive system of factions operates in the LDP. This effects both houses of the Diet, but the Home of Representatives additional than the Home of Councillors.

    The factions are based on individuals as much as on policies, usually veteran members of the LDP, a lot of of them former or aspirant Prime Ministers. The number and size of the factions are constantly varying. The number has ranged from to 13, while membership (counting those in both houses) has fluctuated from as few as members to as a lot of as 120.

    There are currently major factions in the LDP. While most factions have official titles, in the Japanese media they are usually referred to by the names of their current leaders. In descending order of influence, the most powerful factions are:

    • Heisei Kenkyukai (Tsushima Faction)
    • Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai (Machimura Faction)
    • Shisuikai (Ibuki Faction)
    • Kochikai (Koga Faction)
    • Kochikai (Tanigaki Faction)

    In amount, there are nine factions in the LDP and almost amount party members of the houses are a member of of these factions.

    The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) does have some factions, or groups as they are additional commonly called, but the party is not as factionalised as the LDP which has traditionally placed high priority on intra-party factional alignment.

    A notable feature of Japanese politics is the influence of family connections. A lot of members of parliament are the child or grandchild of former Kokkai (or Diet) members, usually LDP members. The previous Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama typified this tradition: his grandfather was the first LDP Prime Minister in 1954-56, his father was once LDP Foreign Secretary, he inherited his father's seat in Hokkaido in 1986, and his younger brother was a member of the last LDP Government.


    The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. The Chief Justice is appointed by the Emperor following selection by the Cabinet. Fourteen other judges are selected and appointed by the Cabinet.

    Each 10 years, a justice's tenure has to be confirmed by referendum. In practice, the justices are almost always reselected and are allowed to serve until the age of 70.

    Historically the Supreme Court has played a low-key role, avoiding controversy and maintaining the status quo. As a result, individual members of the Court are virtually unknown to the general public.

    Since the late 19th century, the Japanese judicial system has been largely based on European civil law, notably that of France and Germany. With post-World War II modifications, this legal code remains in effect in present-day Japan.


    The Japanese political system is very different from those of the western democracies, although the institutions may initially look similar.

    The Kokkai or Diet has little real authority; traditionally the factions within the Liberal Democratic Party have been additional significant than the other political parties; Cabinet meetings are brief and largely ceremonial; and the Prime Minister is weaker than his counterpart in other democracies and usually has a relatively brief tenure in office. Power in Japanese society is wielded less by politicians and additional by civil servants and industrialists. This triumvirate of politicians, bureaucrats and large business is known in Japan as "the Iron Triangle".

    However, the general election of August 2009 has changed things. Now that the Liberal Democratic Party is in opposition with only a quarter of the seats in the lower home and the Democratic Party of Japan is the government with a substantial majority can expect profound differences in the conduct of Japanese politics. Having said that, a lot of observers feel that the power of the established civil service bureacracy and the deep economic problems facing the country mean that in practice the changes in policy will not be as major as the election result may have suggested.

    Meanwhile there are some moves in Japan for the constitution to be revised so that it becomes “a normal country” able to maintain and deploy military forces. A lot of in Japan are keen for its economic power to be reflected now in the political structures of the United Nations with the country admitted to permanent membership of the Security Council.

Government type: 

a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy

Administrative divisions: 

47 prefectures; Aichi, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Ehime, Fukui, Fukuoka, Fukushima, Gifu, Gunma, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Iwate, Kagawa, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kumamoto, Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Nagano, Nagasaki, Nara, Niigata, Oita, Okayama, Okinawa, Osaka, Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shimane, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Tokushima, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama, Yamagata, Yamaguchi, Yamanashi


660 B.C. (traditional date of the founding of the nation by Emperor JIMMU; first recognized by Emperor Meiji in 1873)

National holiday: 

Birthday of Emperor AKIHITO, 23 December (1933)



Legal system: 

modeled after European civil law systems with English-American influence; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations


20 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

bicameral Diet or Kokkai consists of the House of Councillors or Sangi-in (242 seats - members elected for fixed six-year terms; half reelected every three years; 146 members in multi-seat constituencies and 96 by proportional representation) and the House of Representatives or Shugi-in (480 seats - members elected for maximum four-year terms; 300 in single-seat constituencies; 180 members by proportional representation in 11 regional blocs); the prime minister has the right to dissolve the House of Representatives at any time with the concurrence of the cabinet. elections: House of Councillors - last held 29 July 2007 (next to be held in July 2010); House of Representatives - last held 30 August 2009 (next to be held by August 2013) election results: House of Councillors - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - DPJ 109, LDP 83, Komeito 20, JCP 7, SDP 5, others 18

Judicial branch: 

Supreme Court (chief justice is appointed by the monarch after designation by the cabinet; all other justices are appointed by the cabinet)

Political parties and leaders : 

Japan Communist Party or JCP [Kazuo SHII]; Komeito [Natsuo YAMAGUCHI]; Liberal Democratic Party or LDP [Sadakazu TANIGAKI]; People's New Party or PNP [Shizuka KAMEI]; Democratic Party of Japan or DPJ [Yukio HATOYAMA]; Social Democratic Party or SDP [Mizuho FUKUSHIMA]

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

other: business groups; trade union

International organization participation: 

ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, APT, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CE (observer), CERN (observer), CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, G-20, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA, MIGA, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SECI (observer), UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Flag description: 

white with a large red disk (representing the sun without rays) in the center