Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.4 (2021), pp.15-35
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Modernization, democracy, constitutionalism, state, political parties
Last year, Japan celebrated the one hundred and thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Meiji imperial constitution. As the first constitutional state in Asia, Japan’s experience soon garnered the attention of the world. As in the postwar era where Japan’s model of high-speed economic growth proffered a model for developing countries, in the pre-war imperial world, Japan’s experience with constitutionalism provided encouragement to those nations, then colonies of the European powers. Yet this history of constitutionalism was by no means a story of unalloyed successes. Rapid modernization and economic growth in no short order destabilized Japan’s traditional order, giving birth to an unstable social structure. How to design the relationship between the state, political parties and nation has remained a major question which has continued up to the present. Clarifying how the three parts of the triangle (state, parties, nation) have evolved over the last one hundred and thirty years provides important insights into how the development of Japanese ‘democracy’ has differed from the experience of the Western democracies.