Culture Society

How Does the Japanese Political System Work ?

With the latest Japanese elections of October 22th, many people wondered how exactly was working the Japanese political system. Is there a President ? A Prime Minister ? What is the role of the Emperor ? Which party is leading the country ? So many questions that we will try to answer in this article. 


Since Emperor Jimmu, who ruled Japan from 660 BC to 585 BC, Japan had always been ruled by Emperors. Even during some periods when the power was held by military generals (Shogun) Japan was always officially ruled by Emperors. Also depending the periods, Emperors had more or less powers but they were revered as the head of Japan because of their status of being divine regarding their genealogy. Imperial power has often been usurped by powerful heads of families, the best known of which are the Shogun. To escape pressure and retain power, some "withdrawn" Emperors accepted to leave the throne to family members, while exercising their control from behind the scenes. The Japanese throne, also known as the chrysanthemum throne, was transmitted according to the patrilineal principle, but with some flexibility. Contrary to the other monarchies, no strict order of succession seems to have been imposed, the transmission being able to be done from brother to brother as well as from father to son, with in this last case priority to the sons of the Empress in title. From the sixteenth century, the transmission of the throne to the eldest son became the most usual mode, without being an official obligation. It was also possible for an imperial princess to ascend the throne, but not to transmit it, which is why the reigning empresses were generally named on hold of a valid male candidate and remained single, unless they were already widowed. Many Emperors abdicated after some ten years of reign, either to direct behind the scenes or to enjoy a comfortable retreat. The imperial function, originally strongly religious, had very constraining ritual aspects unfavorable to the effective exercise of power.

政府は天皇陛下の退位日を2019年3月31日とし、皇太子さまが翌4月1日に新天皇に即位して、その日に新しい元号を施行することで最終調整に入った。新元号は政府が来年中に発表する方針だ。平成は31年3月末日で幕を閉じることになる。. . The government decided on March 31, 2019 that the Emperor 's withdrawal date, the crown prince crowned the new emperor on the following April 1 and entered the final adjustment by enforcing a new era on that day. The new era will be announced by the government within next year. Heisei will close the curtain on the last day of March 31. . #天皇陛下 #天皇陛下万歳 #天皇陛下退位

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During the Second World War, the Japanese Emperor (Emperor Shōwa) was revered as a god as Japan was an absolute monarchy, all powers being held by the emperor. It was only after the defeat of Japan in 1945 that the Constitution was revised and the Emperor dispossessed of his powers. From now on he represents the State but no longer has any legislative, executive or judicial power. Legislative power is provided by Parliament, executive power by the government and the Prime Minister, and judicial power by the judges. Japan is then a parliamentary monarchy with political institutions modeled on the European institutions (Parliament, Senate, Deputies) and the system is very similar to the one in the United Kingdom and Germany where someone represents the State (Emperor) but with the real leader being the Prime Minister elected every 4 years during General Elections. The current Emperor is Akihito and the current Prime Minister is Shinzo Abe. Extremely rare in the history of Japan, the current Emperor having decided to abdicate, his son Naruhito (currently Crown Prince) will succeed his father in 2019.

Current situation 

Government : Liberal Democratic Party (right) & Komeito (center)

Liberal Democratic Party (自民党, Jimintô) in Japan has long been the largest Japanese political party, and remains the main right-wing and conservative force in the country. He has almost always ruled the country since its creation in 1955, except for a ten-month interlude between 1993 and 1994, and for three years after his defeat in the legislative elections of August 30, 2009.  The LDP is a conservative party on social issues and liberal on economic issues. In general, the leaders of this party insist on the need to maintain good relations with the United States of America, the need to reform the pacifist constitution to allow the country to formally establish an army and on the will of give Japan a political weight on the international scene that is equivalent to its rank of great economic power. Its current leader is the Prime minister Shinzo Abe.

The Party of the Enlightened Government (公明党, Kōmeitō), is a centrist party. It supports the strict distinction between religion and the state, while wanting to apply the religious principles of Buddhism to Japanese politics, claiming in particular new concepts such as "Buddhist democracy", thus aspiring to be the Asian counterpart of the Christian Western Democracy. Kōmeitō encourages government reform, in particular supports the government's downsizing proposals. He is also in favor of decentralization. Economically, Kōmeitō is in favor of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and is actively defending the right to vote in local elections for foreigners who are regular residents of Japan. Its current leader is Natsuo Yamaguchi.

Opposition : Democratic party (left) 

The Progressive Democratic Party (民進党, Minshintō,), was one of the two main political parties in Japan, created the March 27, 2016 to be the main opposition force to the government dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party, and dissolved in October 2017 because of divisions as to the strategy to adopt for the parliamentary elections of October 2017. Generally placed in the left center of the Japanese political spectrum, its different tendencies defend ideologies ranging from economic liberalism to social democracy, but share a common vision concerning the criticism of the high state administration, the defense of a gradual exit from civilian nuclear power and the promotion of multiculturalism. The basic philosophy of the new party is "a free society governed by fair rules, fair and transparent, with a diversity of values ​​and ways of life, where human rights are respected," and" a society fulfilling its responsibilities towards the generations to live in the future ". Its last leader before the dissolution of the party was Seiji Maehara.

What's next ? 

With the next election of October 22th Japan is going to enter into a new political cycle. Many new parties are emerging and the LDP is strengthening itself in order to revise the Japanese constitution (article 9). Because of the victory of the current coalition (LDP/Komeito) Japan will have to deal with many problems as the relations with China, Korea (North and South) and the nuclear energy's policy. 

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Fabien Mizart

Author & Translator

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