Democracy in Japan – Takeshi Ishida and Ellis S. Krauss
Japan is the first industrialized democracy in the non-Western world.
Japan’s Democracy was implanted by American Occupation after WWII, and Occupation forces
also tried to implant Democratic culture and society to support the Democratic political system.
Japan was able to, in 40 years, become successful and prosper.
Historical Background of Democracy in Japan
The Tokugawa regime (1603-1868), a national government led by a shogun. This was
monarchic rule, with a hierarchical class set in.
The Mandate of Heaven was pseudo-Democratic. It allowed for revolution if the
ruler did not rule properly. It came from Confucianism.
Samurai were to be loyal to their leaders, but not expect anything in return. It was
not a right, but a cultural expectation.
Democratic Tendencies: 1) The shogunal government never established a centralized
system. Local feudal lords continued to administer their own domains with some
autonomy as long as they observed Shogunal regulations. 2) within a system of
hierarchical status and local power, there were collective and consensual aspects.
The Meiji Restoration
Samurai fought against the Tokugawa to restore authority to the emperor and to
protect Japan from colonization from the West. They created a centralized state
under the symbol of an emperor.
The Freedom and Popular Rights Movement argued that the Meiji was an oligarchy,
and not imperial or democratic.
Because of this, The Meiji created a constitution, national assembly (the
diet), elected by limited suffrage for the first time in 1890.
The Oligarchs monopolized the major cabinet posts under the new
constitution. They chose the prime minister and influenced him.
The constitution was modeled off Prussian statism. The cabinet and
bureaucracy, civilian and military, were responsible to the emperor, not to
the Diet. The Diet had limited power. The system worked because of the
ideology of obedience, loyalty and sacrifice to the emperor taught to the
Emperor Meiji died in 1912, and Emperor Taisho took his place. Political parties
rose, and there was to be reform.
Yoshino Sakuzo coined the term “minponshugi”, which means “government for
In the mid 1920’s, universal manhood suffrage widened the electorate, a
two-party political system developed, and the prime minister was to be
the head of one of the major parties in the Diet.
The end of Pre-War democracy
Early 1930’s, Japan struggling along with world economy. Political parties began to
attack each other with “insufficient loyalty to the emperor”. European fascism