Washington International Law Journal


This article was written by Annen Junji and translated into English by Lee Rousso.


Translator's Forward: These are not happy times in Japan. Its economy, at one time the most dynamic on the planet, has been in the dumps for over a decade. The population is both aging and declining. A "lost generation" of young Japanese has come of age amid diminished, and diminishing, expectations. The government, controlled as always by the Liberal Democratic Party ("LDP"), is rigid, bloated, corrupt, and deeply in debt. And there is no real reason to believe that the next decade will bring improvement in any of these areas. Not surprisingly, as Japan's economic juggernaut has faltered, the tone of Japanese writing on Japan has moved from self-celebration to self-doubt. It was against this background that in 2000 Kamiya Masako compiled a collection of essays entitled "Rereading the Japanese National Constitution." Included in the collection was Professor Annen's "Constitutionalism as a Political Culture." Professor Annen's essay stands out because it confirms the widely held suspicion that the commitment of the Japanese people to their national constitution is tenuous at best. He argues that the peace and prosperity of postwar Japan made the Constitution a tolerable, if only marginal, piece of Japan's social and political fabric. With prosperity fading and patience with Japan's security arrangements growing thin, Annen asks whether the Constitution itself could become a casualty. He answers the question more or less in the affinmative. For an American reader, both the discussion and the conclusion are stunning. While Americans may disagree over any number of political issues, the discourse always assumes the continued validity and vitality of the United States Constitution. It is simply unthinkable that the Constitution would be discarded due to changing economic conditions or public apathy. Indeed, the Constitution and the national identity are so firmly intertwined that to abandon the former would be to extinguish the latter. Not so in Japan. There are two explanations for the shallow roots of constitutionalism in Japan. First, Japan, unlike the United States, has a long national history that predates its constitution. For example, the genealogy of Japan's Imperial family can reliably be traced back almost two thousand years. Japan's political infrastructure was sufficiently developed by 710 A.D. that a great Imperial capital could be built at Nara. More recently, Japan was "reunified" in 1600 by the military government of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Thus the Constitution, promulgated in 1889, is a real latecomer.

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