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EDITORIAL | Extend Diet Session to Take Up Urgent Constitution Reforms

As it stands, Japan's constitution does not contain any provisions for national defense or the eventuality of an emergency. The Diet cannot put these off.



Free discussion during a June 13 meeting of the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives, with commission chair Eisuke Mori shown in the center. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

The current session of the Diet is scheduled to end on June 23. During the remaining hours, it will be difficult for the political parties to reach a consensus on the most vital issues. These include ensuring a stable framework for imperial succession and drafting constitutional amendments

Both of these are core issues related to the very foundations of the state. Dealing with them should not wait until the next Diet session. Instead, the Diet session should be extended and move forward on these points. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito should make that decision. 

The Emperor and Empress, Princess Aiko, Prince and Princess Akishino, and other members of the Imperial Family attend a garden party at Akasaka Gyoen in Motoakasaka, Tokyo, on April 23rd. (©Sankei by Takumi Kamoshida)

Imperial Succession

When the Special Act on the Abdication of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus was passed, the Diet also adopted a related government report through a supplementary resolution. It represented a "legislative consensus" on measures to ensure stable succession to the throne. Moreover, discussions on the subject have begun between the ruling and opposition parties.

These are being led by House of Representatives Speaker Fukushiro Nukaga and Upper House Speaker Hidehisa Otsuji. Hopefully, they will reach a consensus based on Japan's "history and tradition" of male (patrilineal) succession. That is an important principle of the imperial line. 

Among the proposals in the government report were suggestions aimed at maintaining a suitable size for the imperial family by:

  • allowing female members of the imperial family to retain imperial status even after marriage;
  • allowing male members of the imperial family, as it was previously defined, to become members of today's imperial family through adoption. 

Several political parties, including the LDP, Komeito, Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Democratic Party for the People (DPP), and Yushi no Kai have called for the implementation of a plan containing these two points. Point 2, in particular, is essential for guaranteeing stable imperial succession. 

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan should not pursue the creation of a "feminized imperial family." It is a defiance of hallowed tradition that would include non-imperial husbands. Offspring from such marriages would also be included through female members of the imperial family. This would undermine the accepted principle of imperial succession. Instead, the CDP should cooperate in reaching a consensus. 

Various political parties and factions expressed their views on Imperial succession, including representatives of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors on June 14 in Tokyo (©Sankei by Ikue Mio)

Amending the Constitution

At a June 13 meeting of the House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution, the LDP presented a summary of other important issues. These concerned the extension of terms of Diet members at times when it is difficult to hold an election. It could well serve as the basis for drafting an appropriate constitutional amendment. 

The parties favoring constitutional reform, including the LDP, Komeito, Nippon Ishin no Kai, and DPP, should cooperate. Using this as a starting point, they could craft a bill that they could jointly present to the Diet. 

The time has come to extend the current Diet session and establish a drafting committee to write the actual constitutional amendments. There is an urgent need to prepare for such eventualities as a major earthquake in the Nankai region or directly under the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Other emergencies or terrorist attacks are also possible. We would also like to see codification of agreed emergency government ordinances and emergency financial measures. 

Submarine JS Raigei of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on October 17, 2023. Kawasaki Heavy Industries Kobe Factory in Chuo-ku, Kobe. (©Sankei by Kotaro Hikono)

Legitimizing the Self-Defense Force

The security environment surrounding Japan is exceedingly difficult. As it stands, Japan's constitution does not contain any provisions related to national defense. Furthermore, many constitutional scholars continue to argue that the Self-Defense Force is unconstitutional. This bizarre situation must be rectified and, at the very least, the SDF must be explicitly recognized in the text. 

The CDP is attempting to restrain Diet debate on constitutional reform, citing issues surrounding "politics and money." That is tantamount to calling for the Diet to abandon its role and responsibility. The LDP and other parties favoring constitutional reform must not allow themselves to be manipulated in this fashion. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun