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Japanese Conceptions

The Japanese reception of Western constitutionalism, following the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunal regime (1603–1867), was motivated by the diplomatic and military needs of national independence. The strengthening of the military needed to be augmented by "the concord of the People's mind (jinwa or jinmin kyôwa)," which could be achieved through the introduction of Western constitutional government. One of the pressing tasks in domestic politics was to settle the conflict between powers by entrusting supreme authority to parliament. Hence, in his Tonarigusa (1861; Grass next door), the first treatise on constitutionalism in Japan, Katō Hiroyuki (1836–1916) proclaimed the establishment of parliamentary politics. The perception of a constitution as the symbol of a modern Western-style state was widely shared by the political leaders of the new Meiji government, which led to the speedy creation of the Meiji Constitution, the first constitutional law in East Asia. Yet, the adoption of a "Westernized" constitution, officially an imperial gift to the Japanese subjects, was not accompanied by wide acceptance of the idea of controlling the power of the state. The prevalent Confucian language that equated the private with the evil and the public (namely, the state, not the civil society) with justice undercut the constitutional idea of the protection of individual liberties.

After Japan's defeat in World War II, constitutionalism, which had experienced a serious setback during the war, was rehabilitated under the new Constitution of Japan. This Constitution, however, was created not by popular demand, but by the initiative of the occupation authority. Ever since, Article 9, which proscribes the use of military means in diplomatic conflict, has been the focal point of post-war constitutional debate.


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Takashi Shogimen

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Condensation to CoshConstitutionalism - Ancient Conceptions, Medieval Conceptions, Early Modern Conceptions, Modern Conceptions, Islamic Conceptions, Chinese Conception