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EDITORIAL | Japan's Postwar Constitution at 77: Reform Is Long Overdue

At 77, Japan's postwar Constitution is no longer able to defend the country. PM Kishida should push for the establishment of a drafting committee.



Members of the ruling and opposition parties attend a meeting of the House of Representatives Research Commission on the Constitution on the morning of April 11 at the National Diet. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

It has been 77 years since the current Constitution of Japan took effect. In light of the increasingly severe security environment, constitutional reform for the protection of Japan and the Japanese people has never been more urgently needed than now. 

It is therefore extremely unfortunate that, despite the glaring need for action, the Diet continues to dawdle concerning reform.

The Diet should quickly move to establish a drafting committee to prepare amendments and move constitutional revision forward. At the same time, the Cabinet itself should establish a specialized organ to deal with constitutional revision. 

The first goal of constitutional reform should be to eliminate the harm caused by Article 9 in the present constitution. Part of that goal should be to explicitly legitimize Japan's possession of "armed forces" capable of protecting Japan and the nation's people and upholding the international order as do other democracies worldwide. 

A preliminary step would be appropriate. It would be significant to clearly state in the Constitution that the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are responsible for national defense. 

(From left) Seiji Osaka of the Constitutional Democratic Party, Eisuke Mori, Chair of the Lower House Committee on the Constitution, and Gen Nakatani of the Liberal Democratic Party. House of Representatives Research Commission on the Constitution at the National Diet on April 11. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Role of the SDF Must Be Clearly Recognized

The view that Article 9 is what has guaranteed the postwar peace we have enjoyed is a gross fallacy. It was the existence of the SDF and Japan's alliance with the United States that deterred invasion and set the stage for our postwar prosperity. 

Left-wing elements who refuse to accept this fact have treated Article 9 as a sacred cow. They have opposed efforts to improve our capacity to defend Japan and its citizens. Article 9, which pleases those who would contemplate invading Japan, does tremendous harm while providing zero benefits. 

Nevertheless, Article 9 is not the only section of the Constitution that calls for urgent amendment. In the last few decades, during the Heisei and Reiwa eras, Japan has suffered a series of natural disasters, major earthquakes among them. 


If faced with a major catastrophe, could the government and the Diet take the actions needed to protect the nation's people? Could they do so if the governance system for normal times has become paralyzed? To ensure they can do so, the Constitution must have a clause dealing with emergency situations. 

Process for Constitutional Reform

Constitutional revision requires a national referendum. However, in the 77 years since the current Constitution came into effect, Japanese citizens have never once exercised this important right. 

Were the Constitution revised, Japan would be reborn as a country committed to defending its own people. But with debate stalled in the Diet, the nation's citizens are being prevented from doing so. Are the members of the Diet not ashamed of their dawdling? 

The debate within the House of Representatives Research Commission on the Constitution has made clear the stances of the various parties and factions regarding how to approach constitutional revision. At a commission meeting on April 11, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) proposed the establishment of a drafting committee to draft constitutional amendments. 

These amendments could be expected to cover the extension of the terms in office of Diet members in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, they could provide clear recognition of the role of the SDF. We also need to introduce emergency government ordinances and emergency fiscal measures. 

Where the Political Parties Stand

Komeito, Nippon Ishin no Kai (the Japan Restoration Party), the Democratic Party for the People, and Yushi no Kai ("Volunteer Association") supported the establishment of a drafting committee. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) and the Japan Communist Party flatly opposed its establishment. 

In justifying its opposition, the CDP has contended that the scandal involving the distribution of party-generated funds within LDP factions disqualifies the ruling party from discussing constitutional revision. 

Moreover, during the first half of the current regular Diet session, the CDP would not agree to deliberations on constitutional revision within the House of Representatives. 

Japan Ishin no Kai leader Nobuyuki Baba on April 11 at the National Diet. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Japan Ishin no Kai leader Nobuyuki Baba hit the nail on the head on this issue. He castigated the CDP as follows: "It is the height of ignorance to continue to put the brakes on holding meetings [of the Research Commission on the Constitution] by bringing up the question of LDP factional slush funds. That issue has absolutely nothing to do with the forum for discussing the Constitution, the bedrock of the nation." 

The LDP and other parties and factions amenable to constitutional revision have shown their sincerity. However, if they seek to curry the favor of the CDP and other groups opposed to constitutional revision, they will never be able to establish a drafting committee. More significantly, they will never be able to reach an agreement on a proposed text. 

As LDP president, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should demonstrate his leadership on this issue. After the Golden Week holidays finish, he should push for the establishment of a drafting committee within the Research Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives.

Too Important to Be Left Just to Diet Members 

Regarding constitutional revision, the Upper House has been even more derelict in its duty than the House of Representatives. Discussions in the Upper House Research Commission on the Constitution have made even less progress than those in the House of Representatives. If Upper House members want to take pride in being equal to their counterparts in the House of Representatives, they need to move forward on drafting amendments. 

A joint Special Committee for Research on the Constitution of Japan with members from both houses of the Diet was established in August 2007. However, because the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) did not nominate any members, it remained inactive for four years. It finally got started again in November 2011. But 12 and a half years later, it still is doing little. 

It is no longer realistic to leave constitutional revision solely to members of the Diet. Rather, the time has come for the Cabinet to directly tackle the issue. 

Article 72 of the Constitution gives the Cabinet the authority to submit draft constitutional amendment legislation to the Diet. The Cabinet has been consistent in this interpretation of the Constitution. Based on the same interpretation, there was a research commission on the Constitution within the Cabinet from 1956 to 1965.

No Alternative

The Cabinet has had to deal directly with the issues that arise when events in the world overtake various laws and regulations. It is therefore in a position to know the issues and limitations in the current Constitution. Furthermore, the Cabinet has far more seasoned officials and legal experts than the secretariats of both the House of Representatives and the Upper House. 

There is really no alternative to utilizing the capabilities of the Cabinet to revise the Constitution and build Japan anew. The Cabinet needs to create an expert body for answering questions on constitutional revision from either house of the Diet. In some cases, the Cabinet itself could also draft constitutional amendments. 


Since the Constitution provides for amendments, establishing such an expert body would not compromise the duty to uphold the Constitution. We urge Prime Minister Kishida to establish such a body. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun