Washington Law Review


The articles in this symposium are concerned with several major problems encountered en route from the promulgation to present social realization of the new style of Japanese constitutionalism. We have taken this opportunity to reflect after twenty years upon the problems of structure, political milieu, and continuity with the past. To some, continuity with the Meiji Constitution (1889-1947) might seem farfetched until we remember that it had several characteristics in common with the new Constitution: both followed foreign models (German and Anglo-American); both were far in advance of the social realities which they sought to transform; both were thus a product of an elitist ideal and granted from the top down (by Meiji oligarchs and SCAP/ Japanese drafters); neither was produced by a social upheaval, or granted in response to popular clamorings for power. Paradoxically, then, in the sweep of a century, the growth of the living constitution has been rather continuous, though there has been a rapid rate of achievement. Emphasis on continuity in this sense is important in focusing on the underlying contribution of the Japanese people to living constitutionalism. For it would be easy to see only elitist paternalism and popular passivity in the major historical events and overlook the almost unique social capacity of the Japanese for collective effort, even to insure individual rights to all in the routines of social and political life. This quality has been called "creative followership," but in the more recent political process, it has become a "creative participation," maximizing popular support of the Constitution, as befits a country whose major resource has always been its remarkable people. Both Japanese constitutions were, in this perspective, exciting experiments in a gamble for popular self-fulfillment based on the hope that there would develop enough right consciousness as leverage so that the people could pull themselves up by their own constitutional boot straps. To an encouraging degree they have.

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