Let's start this look at Japan with a map...Looking at the map, you can see that Japan is geographically proximate to the Koreas, China and Russia, among others. You can also see that it is actually made up of four islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu...
Japan is a liberal democracy with many of the same political institutions and processes as the US and GB.
-First Japanese Emperor Jimmu -Emperor Jimmu's "heavenly" mandate
Despite being members of the oldest dynasty in the world, with a continuous line said to go back more than two thousand years (first emperor Jimmu in about 660BC supposedly descended from the
Shinto deity Amaterasu ), Japanese emperors have rarely personally ruled the country—a “dignified institution” (McCormick 141)
in Shogun era, shoguns really ruled; in Meiji era, Genro really ruled.
After WWII, Constitution stripped emperor of all political power and emperor’s aura of near divinity was also destroyed
Emperor Hirohito was forced to issue a statement renouncing the notion he was divine and under the postwar constitution the emperor was deprived of all powers related to govt and war and the maintenance of armed forces were banned
The Japanese PM is probably best seen as just one among many important faces in the Diet rather than as captain of the ship (NOT like Brit PM).
Few Japanese PMs even leave a personal stamp on govt—unlike the stamp left by Thatcher or Blair.
The new Japanese PM (in office for only a few weeks) Fukuda is obviously a VERY new, fresh Prime Minister following in the VERY large footprints left behind by Junichiro Koizumi, a widely respected, very well liked, long-serving (2001-2006) PM.
Since Koizumi left office in 2006, Japan has seen three PMs. That is more in line with its post-WWII history.
The previous two PMs, Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, lasted only one year each. How long will Mr. Aso last? About a year as it turns out. The revolving door continued until 2009, when a candidate outside the LDP, Yukio Hatoyama, became the new Japanese Prime Minister.
And, the plot thickens...PM Hatoyama only lasted 9 months! He fell to another faction led by Naoto Kan within his party...
*Former PM Taro Aso*Former PM Junichiro Koizumi
*"New" Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama *Looking slightly Elvis-like doo wise...no?
Some Important Information to know about the office of the Prime Minister, Japan
Limits are placed on PM power by the bureaucracy, by factions w/political parties, and by the consensus style of Japanese politics.
Unlike the US Prez (directly by the people via electoral college) the Japanese PM is selected from w/n the Diet--their tenure doesn’t depend on popularity w/voters. Rather, it depends on retaining the loyalty and respect WITHIN their party...
PMs are changed very often—changes can happen almost overnight or as result of several weeks of negotiation w/n the party (usually scandal)
In fact, since 1945, Japan has had35 PMs while the US has had only 13 presidents and the UK only 13 PMs. Hence the avg tenure of the Japanese PM is slightly above two years--Koizumi is therefore seen as an exception to this rule.
According to Theodore McNelly (2005), these short tenures weaken their influence and make it difficult for PMs to enforce long-term policies and conduct efficient diplomacy.
Most bills are crafted in the bureaucracy (90% of all bills originate there)—in the ministries—and then sent to the PM/Cabinet for approval and then to the full Diet. So the bureaucracy is the key player in PM rather than the office of PM/Cabinet
-Supreme Court building. -Inside: aha! Looks like a Supreme Court!
One of the legacies of the US role in designing the postwar Japanese political system is the existence of a new federal court system, including one Supreme Court, 8 High Courts, 50 district courts, 50 family courts, and 438 summary courts. Most important is the SCT that has the power of judicial review
Two interesting Legal Justice system facts: (1) The right to trial by jury does NOT exist in Japan...no jury system in Japan as Judges make decisions w/o the assistance of juries or ordinary citizens; (2) Japanese Supreme Court has held that capital punishment IS constitutional (hanging is the method of execution)
Although similar in their goals, the US and Japanese courts are different in their details:
where the US Supreme Court has 9 justices appointed by the POTUS, the Japanese S. CT has 15 justices, 14 of whom are chosen by the cabinet from lists submitted by the Court itself. The Chief Justice is appointed by the emperor on the recommendation of the cabinet
Where US S. CT Justices have jobs for life, new members of the Japanese Court must be confirmed by a popular vote at the next general election, and every 10 years thereafter. No judge has ever been turned down though
Most notably the court was given the power of Judicial Review, although the courts have been reluctant to strike down legislation (deference to tradition of Diet and concern for political consequences of a highly controversial decisions)
The Confucian tradition exhalts the role of bureaucrats, & bureaucrats regulate much of Japan’s economy by “administrative guidance”
In pre-war Japan, bureaucrats were selected thru competitive exams & were regarded as servants of the revered emperor and enjoyed more prestige than elected politicians
Short terms of office for Cabinet Ministers make them unusually dependent upon bureacrats for advice in matters of policy
Despite the enhanced power of elected politicians in the postwar system, power/prestige of bureaucracy remains overwhelming, though in recent years this prestige has been compromised by the exposure of serious instances of corruption in the ministries of finance and foreign affairs
Most bills originate in the ministry of the govt (90% of ALL legislation originates in Ministries—12 main ministries. McCormick 2005) and then passed to the Cabinet for approval
The short terms of the PM and cabinet officials make them unusually dependent on bureaucrats for advice in matters of policy and after retiring most cabinet officials become politicians or take lucrative positions in private or public corporations.
Most of Japan’s postwar PMs are former career bureaucrats
Most Impt Ministry: METI—in charge of virtually ALL microeconomic policy, including trade, resource management, development of new technology