Pázmány Péter Catholic University
Doctoral Degree Program of Law and Political Sciences
Doctoral thesis summary
Csaba Gergely Tamás
THE BIRTH OF THE JAPANESE DEMOCRACY
The historical analysis of the Meiji and the Shōwa Constitutions
István Szabó Ph.D.
Head of Department, University professor
Csaba Gergely Tamás
The start of my researches on Japanese law goes back to my first year university studies
when - on the ground of the lectures on Universal Legal History and the book assigned
for the students1 - I became aware that the Japanese legal system, particularly its
origins, its development was paid insufficient attention.
Following the successful completion of my university studies, I had the impression that
the “shortcomings” of the first year were not completely solved. I found when any
issues concerning Japanese law came up, typically those of the Japanese civil code, (民法
minpō), then it was labelled as a copy or translation of the German civil code
(Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB). Such allegations may apply to its pandectist structure,
but the content of the Japanese civil code was largely influenced by the first draft of the
BGB as well as the French civil code, (Code civil). As a matter of fact, the French
Professor, Gustave Emile Boissonade2 was invited to Tokyo in 1873 to draft the Japanese
civil code. Although his proposal3 relying heavily upon the French model was not
adopted, it was taken into consideration by the final version of minpō 4. It should also be
added that the fourth and fifth books of the minpō concerning family and inheritance
were entered into force by a separate law in 18985, two years after the first three books
HORVÁTH-GÖNCZI-STIPTA-ZLINSZKY (ed.) Egyetemes Jogtörténet, Universal legal history, Nemzeti
Tankönyvkiadó, Budapest, 1997
2 BOISSONADE, Gustave Emile (1825-1910) was a Professor of Criminal Law in Paris, and worked as an
advisor of the Japanese government from 1873 and drafted first the Japanese Criminal Code, then the socalled old Civil Code.
3 BOISSONADE, Gustave Emile Projet de Code Civil pour l’Empire du Japon, Tokió, 1889
4 HYEONG-KYU, Lee Die Rezeption des Zivilrechts in Ostasien, Zeitschrift für Vergleichende
Rechtswissenschaft, 1987. p. 158-163.
5 Books 1-3 of the so-called new Civil Code were promulgated as Law No. 89 of 1896, while books 4-5
were promulgated as Law No. 9 of 1898 and the complete Civil Code was enforced from 16 July 1898.
The code of civil procedure (minji sosho hō), which was heavily influenced by the Germen
Zivilprozessordnung of 1877 entered already into force on 1 January 1891. NAKAMURA, Hideo Die
Rezeption des deutschen Rechts in Japan – insbesondere auf dem Gebiete des Zivilprozeßrechts, Zeitschrift für
Zivilprozeß, 1971, Vol 84. p. 74-90.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
and basically codified the Japanese traditions including the status of the head of the
family or the succession of male descendants.6
Concerning the teaching of Japanese law in Hungary I have to admit that the
abovementioned shortcomings were balanced by some positive exceptions7, like the
seminar on legal families led by Professor Zoltán Péteri or two papers translated to
Hungarian and published in the then compulsory book within the framework of legal
philosophy.8 In this context, the significance of the former seminar on Japanese law led
by Professor István Kállay at Széchenyi István University should also be mentioned.9
Following the above mentioned, my gradual thesis was entitled “The historical
conjunctions in modern Japanese law (1868-1956)” and my old-new supervisor, István
Szabó, head of department, university professor did not want to prevent me from the
selected topic and his experiences regarding the Prussian constitution, the German and
the Austrian legal system10 were particularly valuable with regard to the most
important acts adopted during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
FUETO, Toshoi The discrepancy between marriage law and mores in Japan, The American Journal of
Comparative Law, vol. 5. 1956, p. 256-266.
7 See the subchapter on Japanese legal and constitutional developments of the following university
textbook: KAJTÁR, István Egyetemes állam- és jogtörténet, Universal state- and legal history (Pécs, 2005),
8 VARGA, Csaba (ed.) Összehasonlító jogi kultúrák, Comparative legal cultures, Osiris, Budapest, 2000.
Professor Csaba Varga was the author of the first review in Hungary on the book of NODA, Yosiyuki
Introduction au droit japonais, (Paris, Libraire Dalloz, 1966), which was published in the journal of Államés Jogtudomány (4/1968, p. 619-625.) Other publications and reviews on Japanese law are published in
his book Jogi elméletek, jogi kultúrák, Legal Theories, Legal Cultures (Budapest, 1994, particularly p. 450466.)
9 The first Hungarian translation of the Japanese Civil Code was completed in the framework of the
seminar on the Introduction to the Japanese law led by István Kállay in Győr. See:
10 SZABÓ, István Német alkotmányfejlődés 1806-1945, German Constitutional Development 1806-1945, Szent
István Társulat, 2002.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
The primary object to present the fundamental characteristics and development of
Japanese legal system has not changed yet, since this has been the purpose of my
special course held since 2004 in the framework of the Department of Legal History.11
However, already during the composition of my gradual thesis I became aware of the
following future-oriented recognition: on the one hand, it would be necessary to draw
up a general book on Japanese law for the Hungarian readers. (I consider this thesis as
part of this process.) On the other hand, and I find this more important, during my first
research I discovered numerous legal and constitutional historical characteristics, which
bear not only historical significance. In the past one thousand and five hundred years
Japan has been shaped by three main foreign legal influences:
The first period of the Chinese influence occurred during the 7th century12, which
resulted in the centralised state-system in the framework of the Taika-reform,
(大化の改新 Taika no Kaishin).
In the second period during the Meiji era, primarily with the assistance of FrancoGerman legal advisers, codes based on civil law traditions were adopted, out of which
the Constitution13, released by the Emperor was considered as the most important.
In the third period, during the era of the post-war occupation, the state was
reorganised, the codes of the Meiji period were amended and the Constitution was
adopted in the spirit of democratisation, demilitarisation and decentralisation. 14
Title of the seminar: The Conjunction of Far-Eastern customs and Western norms in the Japanese legal
12 It must be noted that the impact of the written characters with Chinese origin called (kanji) took place in
the 5th century, and Buddhism spread out in Japan from the 6 th century. Confucian ethics were forced in
the Tokugawa-period (1603-1867), while Shinto became a state-religion in the Meiji period 8168-1912).
However, today, Shinto and Buddhist traditions exist parallel and the large majority of the society
observes both numerous Buddhist and Shinto rites.
13 Concerning the Meiji Constitution, the role of Hermann Roesler (1834-1894) should be stressed, who was
an advisor to the Japanese government between 1878 and 1893.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
On the basis of the above-mentioned, it might be concluded, that the ancient customs
and the traditional legal concept - most closely relating to the Chinese concept as a
result of Confucian and Buddhist teachings, - entered into direct contact with the very
different civil law and Anglo-American legal systems.15 It follows that the codes of the
great civil revolutions “fell” on the ground of a society governed by customs radically
different from Western civilisation.
The result of these “three” influences was only touched upon during my gradual thesis,
primarily through the cases of given codes. The question therefore stayed open and
provided enough reason for me to apply to the Doctoral Degree Program of Law and
Political Sciences of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University.
During the Doctoral Programme – although our „everyday bread” derived from EUlaw related jobs of domestic public sector, earned after shorter and longer foreign
scholarships – I undertook further analysis of the three foreign influences of Japan. In
this framework I conducted research not only concerning constitutional law, but also
related to procedural law. However, at a certain point I had to admit that the response
to the fundamental questions required the thorough examination of the Meiji
Constitution (1889)16 and the Shōwa Constitution (1946)17. Accordingly, in the past five
years I focused my research on the modern as well as the democratic Japan. The lessons
of the discussions I had with Professor Yoshida Masayuki, who spent two months upon
my invitation at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University in the spring of 2007, and the
openness of my supervisor contributed to this decision.
TAKAYANAGI, Kenzō A Century of Innovation: The Development of Japanese Law, in: VON MEHREN,
Arthur Taylor (ed.) Law in Japan, The Legal Order in a Changing Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Harvard University Press, 1963, p. 5-40, RÖHL, Wilhelm Rechtsgeschichte, in: EUBEL, Paul (ed.) Das
japanische Rechtssystem, Alfred Metzner Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, 1979, p. 2-16.
15 ODA, Hiroshi Japanese Law, Butterworths, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, 1992, p. 3-8.
16 TAKII, Kazuhiro The Meiji Constitution The Japanese Experience of the West and the Shaping of the Modern
State, (Translated by NOBLE, David), International House of Japan, 2007, p. 149-161.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
Since then my research focused primarily upon the constitutions, particularly the
Emperor, the Diet, the Government, the separation of powers and checks and balances
between the state branches. I found it especially important to take a comprehensive,
historical approach since the diverse foreign influences of the two constitutions were
interpreted differently by the international literature.18 More precisely, I had the
impression that the two constitutions, their enactments and applications should be
examined parallel in order to be aware of the Prussian influence in the case of the
previous, and of the American in the case of the latter constitution.19 The birth of modern
Japan was symbolised by the Meiji Constitution, while the basis for democracy was laid
down by the Shōwa Constitution. It should be pointed out that neither the Prussian, nor
the American influence can be considered as exclusive with regard to the enactment or
the application of the constitutions. Since both constitutions carried the effects of social
environment, norms prevailing at the time of their birth. All these were combined with
the Chinese-origin traditions, since the period of centralised state system and de facto
power of the Emperor goes back to the 7th century.
The aim of the project was to provide response for the following simple-sounding
question: how has people’s sovereignty been realised in Japan?
I attempted to reply on the basis of comparative research of pre- and post-war Japanese
state systems: through the status of the Emperor, the competence of the Diet, the
responsibility of the Government, the independence of the judiciary and the enactment
and amendment of constitutions. My goal was to deliver evidence that none of the
The Pre-war constitutional order is also partly discussed in the following outstanding books: LUNEY,
Percy R. – TAKAHASHI, Kazuyuki (ed.) Japanese Constitutional Law, University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo,
1993. HIGUCHI, Yōichi. (ed.) Five decades of Constitutionalism in Japanese Society, University of Tokyo
19 Regarding the historic approach the following books should be stressed: BEER, Lawrence W. – MAKI,
John M. From Imperial Myth to Democracy, University of Colorado Press, Colorado, 2002, and TANAKA,
Hideo (ed.) The Japanese Legal System, University of Tokyo Press, 1976.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
Japanese constitutions can be declared as a “copy”; although the impact of the Prussian
Constitution of 1850 in the Meiji period and the direct influence of the February 1946
draft produced by the Applied Powers are indubitable.
Moreover, I wanted to make it clear that the two constitutions are not to be separated
sharply from each other in a sense that regarding the application of the current
Constitution the knowledge of the Meiji Constitution is indispensable. Despite the
dramatic changes of the post-war period like the people’s sovereignty, pacifism,
catalogue of fundamental rights and the prohibition of discrimination against women,
in numerous other areas, particularly concerning the status of the Emperor, the
traditions and world of past social norms are still perceptible, which are particularly
difficult to discover for a foreign researcher.
According to Paul Koschaker, an Austrian professor of Roman Law: “For though the law
can be changed from one day to the next, the men to whom it is applied (…) cannot be
changed this way”.20 The research objective was – very briefly – a certain reinforcement
of the above statement, through the example of the Japanese constitutional history.
As a result of the above-mentioned, the cultural and social customs formed a kind of
safety net during the intense legislative works of the 1880’s and the years of 1946-48. My
research wanted to underline that these ancient customs bear relevance not only in the
case of private law, but also in the case of constitutional law. I tried to put emphasis on
the evaluation of these cultural factors particularly regarding the Emperor as a symbol
system (象徴天皇制 Shōchō Tennōsei), and the assessment of a scientific discourse which
evolved between the American and Japanese legal scholars concerning the Japanese
Quoted by NODA, Yosiyuki: Introduction to Japanese Law, (Translated by ANGELO, Antony H.)
University of Tokyo Press, 1992, p. 58.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
It was not the goal of the research to deny either the existence of the three foreign
influences, or the relation of the Japanese legal system to the civil law systems, based on
Roman-German traditions, or the role of numerous Anglo-American doctrines in the
Shōwa Constitution, or the respect for many Chinese origin customs, but wanted to
present the actual relevance of all of these factors upon the Japanese constitutional
Finally, it must be underlined that the research was basically not a comparative one21,
since I am convinced that the first level, in the case of an environment being totally
different from European and Hungarian legal culture should be the historical one. A
comprehensive comparative analysis or the eventual Hungarian-Japanese22 legal
relations would constitute the following level. This is, in my opinion, the indispensable
duty, but at the same time “by-product” of all researches: newer and newer viewpoints,
newer questions waiting for answers have been raised, which overlap the present
Research methodology, use of source
To conduct research and to answer the question stated above is only possible in the
possession of adequate scientific knowledge and experience. The collection of the
necessary sources did not prove to be a simple and brief process.
As self-evidence, I had to search for the authentic sources outside Hungary, since not
only in the domestic legal education but also in the domestic library network limited
numbers of publications on Japanese law were available23. Until recently, the Budapest
More precisely, the comparison covers the Meiji and the Shōwa Constitutions, but does not include the
comparative analysis of the Prussian or the American constitutional order.
22 Regarding the Hungarian-Japanese relations, the research of Ildikó Farkas, (associate professor, Karoli
Gaspar University of the Reformed Church, Faculty of the Humanities, Japanese studies).
23 Contemporary sources of Hungarian authors on Japanese law are focusing on general issues and not
exactly constitutional matters:
Csaba Gergely Tamás
Office of the Japan Foundation, the Library of the Hungarian National Assembly and
the Library of the Central European University has counted to the most important
sources in Hungary. However, the Library of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences
of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University has become member of this small group as a
result of the books awarded to it in 2007 and 2008 through the Library Support Program of
the Japan Foundation. For the time being, in Hungary it offers one of the largest range of
books and edited volumes on Japanese law.
In the first part of the research, I was an active participant of the domestic forums
available for PhD-students, both regarding the intra- and inter-faculty scientific
conferences. Thanks to the exchange of views with fellow legal PhD-students, in many
cases valuable new aspects came up, which revealed the significance of given subquestions. Regarding my research topic, I had the opportunity to be a lecturer at more
than half a dozen conferences, either in Hungarian or in English, which enabled real
progress, and the examination of the newer and newer questions led me to the
specification of the main question.
I have reported regularly on the results achieved to my supervisor, whose hints turned
out to be particularly useful at those stages, when I have become somewhat uncertain
regarding the following steps. I believe, that without this close cooperation, I would not
have been able to compose these lines.
HAJDÚ, József A japán munkaügyi kapcsolatok sajátosságai a kezdetektől 1995-ig, The characteristics of the
Japanese labour relations from the beginnings until 1995. (Pólay Elemér Alapítvány, Szeged, 2006)
MAROS, Kitti A japán, a kínai, a muzulmán, a hindu jogi kultúra és ezek modernizációs lehetőségei, The Japanese,
Chinese, Muslim and the Hindu legal cultures and their modernization opportunities (Pécs, 2008)
BÓKA, János A japán jog, The Japanese law, in: BADÓ, Attila – LOSS, Sándor (ed.) Betekintés a jogrendszerek
világába, 2003, p. 319-327.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
Regarding my research, the year of 2007 can be regarded as a real turning point.
Professor Yoshida Masayuki24 spent two months as a visiting-lecturer of the Pázmány
Péter Catholic University, held lectures and was ready to answer my questions. Later
on, based on this direct contact, he provided me with numerous outstanding
Later on, through my supervisor I had the opportunity to get into contact with another
Japanese professor. I was able to meet Professor Takii Kazuhiro, legal historian for a
weekend in June 2010 in Budapest, who was happy to hear the report on my researches.
In the summer of 2011, ten years after the three-week language course of Kyoto
University of Foreign Studies acquired as an Erasmus-student of an Austrian
University, I was able to conduct intense research on the birth of the Japanese
parliamentary monarchy, as a visiting researcher of the International Research Center
for Japanese Studies (国際日本文化研究センター Kokusai Nihon Bunka Kenkyū Sentā)25 in
the framework of five-week scholarship of the Japan Foundation Short-Term
As an instructor at the Kyoto-center, Takii Kazuhiro regularly provided consultation
opportunities for me and was always ready to answer my never ending questions. He
has particularly reinforced that the historic approach of my research should not be
denied, i.e. both the Meiji and Shōwa Constitutions should be examined.
In the Kyoto-center, an extremely rich literature was available in one place, and I had
the opportunity to conduct scientific conversations on the historical and social
background of my research not just with my instructor but with numerous other
YOSHIDA, Masayuki The Reluctant Japanese Litigant.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
motivated colleagues. Moreover, during my stay in Japan I was able to visit numerous
cities, squares, buildings, which played constitutional historical significance in the past
thousand three hundred years. I believe that this research scholarship took place at the
best moment, since the five-week period was made up along concrete questions and
goals in order to be more effective and authentic.
Regarding the reference processing I have to point out some basic factors. The scarcity
of sources available in Hungary meant not only limited number of references, but that
the majority of legal publications were written in non-Hungarian languages. This in
itself would not have been a major difficulty, but for the interpretation of the original
Japanese language sources I needed, for the time being, the assistance of a lector, which
was only possible in two cases. It follows that in order to make progress I had to rely
especially on English and German and partly on French sources.
However, the linguistic diversity is not unimportant regarding the examination of the
subject-matter. The reason for this is the following: a large part of English language
sources – related to their constitutional historical significance – were written by American
authors, focusing to greater extent on the Shōwa Constitution. The large part of the
German language sources gave, however, priority to the Meiji period, while the French
publications enshrined also in relation to the civil law codifications of the Meiji period.
It follows, that the linguistic differences often represented different concepts as well. At
this stage, the opus of the Japanese authors should be mentioned, out of which more
and more are originally written in English or eventually in German, which help us face
the Japanese, American and German approaches regarding the interpretation of
Japanese constitutional history. That is why, during my research I studied as many
references as possible, and referred to more sources, which meant longer and more
Csaba Gergely Tamás
difficult method regarding the time and effort, but that was the prerequisite for
scientifically grounded conclusions.26
It follows, that neither the availability of sources, nor the selected issue made my life
easy. It has been a certain kind of “white spot” in the area of universal constitutional
history and I do not feel that I have produced another thesis on a particularly popular
issue. It has not been my goal. It required some time, as nearly ten years passed since
the acquisition of my degree in law, but I have the impression that the numerous small
steps – conferences, seminars on Japanese law for Hungarian and Erasmus students,
certain mails and conferences led me to the most authentic place.
The historical analysis does not correspond to the mere representation of the
chronological succession of past events and processes. In the light of the question posed
above and in relation to the necessary scientific research and the knowledge of the
Hungarian lawyers - the most important stages were highlighted following the analysis
of the different American, German and Japanese positions, which are, in my opinion,
crucial to the understanding of the establishment and functioning of the Japanese
Research experiences and scientific results
The lack of sources concern particularly assessments on the Meiji Constitution. Apart from the
abovementioned book of Professor Takii, basically, only Pre-war references are available. See: ITŌ,
Hirobumi, Commentaries on the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, (Translated by ITŌ Miyoji), Chú-óDaigaku, Tokyo, 1906., FUJII, Schinichi The Essentials of Japanese Constitution. A General Survey of the
Japanese Constitution, Tokyo, 1940. Regarding the Meiji period in general, the following valuable works
should be stressed:
BEASLY, W.G. The Meiji Restoration, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1972. KEENE,
Donald Emperor of Japan Meiji and his world, 1852-1912, Columbia University Press, 2002. KIM Kyu Hyun
The Age of Visions and Arguments. Parliamentarism and the National Public Sphere in Early Meiji Japan,
Harvard University Press, 2007.
27 Hereby I express my gratitude to senior-lecturer Attila Gergely (Karoli Gaspar University of the
Reformed Church, Faculty of the Humanities, Japanese studies) for his ongoing hints and help for more
than a decade now, during my gradual and doctoral studies regarding my presentations and papers on
Japanese constitution and particularly regarding my doctoral thesis.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
The constitution-making pertains to the independent and exclusive competence of all
sovereign states, which can be clearly shown through the Constitution of February 11,
1889 released by Emperor Meiji (Constitution of the Great Japanese Empire,
大日本帝國憲法, Dai-Nippon teikoku kempō), which declared independence and statehood
of Japan to its neighbouring countries and to the world.
The examination of Japanese constitutional history cannot be interpreted without the
period of pre-war Japan, i.e. the underestimation of the significance or the unduly
omission of one of the Meiji or Showa Constitutions would lead to a one-sided results.
The aim of the thesis was not the discovery of the eventual “Hungarian influence”
therefore the Japanese constitutional history process has not brought any Hungarian
“Lorenz von Stein”28 or “Douglas MacArthur”29 to the Reader. 30
The Meiji renewal (1867-1868) can be regarded both as restoration and revolution at the
same time. Restoration in a sense, that regarding the Emperor’s power it brought into
life a system of which the golden age was during the Nara period (710-784), since later
on from the 12th century for about seven hundred years the Emperor enjoyed mainly
religious and symbolic powers, whereas the real power was in the hands of the shogun
and the samurai (bushi) subordinated to him. It follows that Emperor Meiji turned back
to the period of real emperor power, as the last shogun, Keiki Tokugawa returned
power to the Emperor in 1867. In this sense, the Meiji period constitutes a kind of
The members of the official Japanese delegation to Europe during the Meiji-period, especially the later
Japanese Prime minister, Itō Hirobumi were impressed by the lectures of the Professor of the Vienna
29 General, Supreme Commander of Allied Powers during the occupation of Japan
30 I should however point out those Japanese professors who have conducted research also on the
Hungarian legal system. See: UEDA, Rieko The Codification of Hungarian Commercial Law in the 19th
Century (一九世紀ハンガリーにおける商法典編纂)http://hermes-ir.lib.hitu.ac.jp/rs/bitstream/10086/12117/1/ronso1150102940.pdf A necrologe on the activities of Professor
Hayakawa, Hiromichi was written by Professor Varga (Iustum, Aequum, Salutare, 1/2011, p. 147-149.)
Csaba Gergely Tamás
restoration to the old system of Emperor’s power. It must, however, be seen, that the
seizure of power by the Emperor was the result of demands formulated by a small
group of samurais against Tokugawa shogun concerning the opening of the country.
That is to say, the restoration of Emperor’s power was prepared by a small group of the
society instead of the people’s will. This was made – not unfoundedly – in the
anticipation that the future imperial reforms required for the country’s independence
would be carried out with their assistance. This was the revolution of the future
The centre of the constitutional monarchy established by the Meiji Constitution was the
Emperor (天皇 Tennō), who was considered as god and possessed all state authorities
“unbroken for ages eternal”.31 The separation of state powers was implemented
partially since the legislative power of the Parliament or the executive power of the
Government were declared as aspects of the Emperor’s sovereignty.32 Moreover the
Emperor was considered not only the sovereign, but being above all limitations,
including acts. The Emperor was sacred and inviolable33 and the Ministers of State were
accountable to the Emperor.34 There were no real checks and balances in the Meiji
Constitution included, which, on the one hand, made possible the nearly 14-year long
Cabinet-government in the Taishō period35, but which, on the other hand, was not able
to thwart the military turbulences. The Meiji Constitution brought about a “ScheinKonstitutionalism” or pseudo-constitutionalism which can be regarded as a “modernized
version of an absolute monarchy”.36
Article 1 of the Meiji Constitution
ITŌ 1906, p. 120-121.
33 Article 3 of the Meiji Constitution
34 Article 55 of the Meiji Constitution
35 DUUS, Peter Party Rivalry and Political Change in Taishō Japan, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
36 OKUDAIRA Yasuhiro Forty years of the Constitution and Its Various Influences: Japanese, American, and
European, in: LUNEY-TAKAHASHI 1993, p. 6.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
Pacifism and peace would constitute the central message of the Shōwa Constitution,
which ensured people’s sovereignty and provided executive power for the Government
being accountable to the Diet, whereby the democratic control of the Government is
ensured. The Diet represents the highest organ of the state power, and the sole lawmaking organ of the State.37 The Emperor is declared as the symbol of the unity of the
Japanese people38 instead of a divine person.39 By virtue of the Constitution, the
Government refrained from abuse of Emperor’s name. Moreover, a large catalogue of
fundamental rights is enshrined in the Constitution, which is observed by the
organically and personally independent courts.
Regarding the Shōwa Constitution, the term of symbol does not only refer to the status
of the Emperor, but the examination of the structure of the Constitution made it clear
that the competences of the Emperor – in accordance with the Meiji Constitution – are
included in Chapter 1 of the Constitution. It follows that the Constitution still begins
with the provisions on the Emperor. Moreover, the declaration of people’s sovereignty
is incorporated in the same chapter and even in the same article with the declaration of
the Emperor as symbol system.
In the examination of the Shōwa period not only the provisions of the Constitution or
the most important codifications of the occupation were highlighted. Through the
interpretation of the status of the Emperor and the peace-clause (Article 9)40, along with
Article 41 of the Constitution
Article 1 of the Constitution
39 The more than two thousand year old myths concerning the divine origin of the Emperor was
considered as a false conception by the Emperor in his New Year’s statement of 1 January 1946 in the so
called Humanity Declaration (ningen sengen). This statement paved the way for the comprehensive
40 (1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever
renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other
war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
(This Article was translated by the author since no official Hungarian version of the Japanese
Constitution has been published yet. It must be noted that the annex of the dissertation of Sándor Zsarnay
Csaba Gergely Tamás
the historical and international legal implications, it was also explored how the
Constitution became respected and rooted in the Japanese society, although at the time
of its adoption it was labelled as “MacArthur’s Constitution”.41
One must bear in mind that the implementation has corresponded to the motto of Meiji
period of Japanese spirits, Western techniques (和魂洋才 Wakon-yōsai)42, i.e. the
Emperor as a symbol system revived numerous pre-war customs, like the
enthronement ceremony of Emperor Akihito in 1990.43 The terminology of “symbol”
that replaced the Emperor-sovereignty was not able44 to grant only as many
competences for the Emperor as was stipulated explicitly by the Constitution.45
Thus, it does not follow from the comprehensive amendment of the Constitution that
the constitutional reality46 (Verfassungswirklichkeit) would correspond in all aspects to
the original objectives of the Allied Powers.
on the characteristics of contemporary Japanese legal development (Budapest, 1983) contains a
Hungarian translation of the Japanese Constitution but the numerous parts of the text should be revised.
For the original Japanese version of Article 9:
41 WARD, Robert E. The origins of the present Japanese Constitution, in: TANAKA 1976, p. 642-653.,
MCNELLY, Theodore American Influence and Japan’s No-war Constitution, Political Science Quarterly, 1952,
42 The assessment on the modernization of the Meiji Period was made by Fukuzawa Yukuchi (1835-1901),
writer, influential philosopher and founder of the University of Keio.
43 YANABU, A: The Tennō system as the symbol of the culture of translation, Japan Review, 1996/7, 147-157. o.
44 Not only the person of Emperor Hirohito was considered as a continuity of the Shōwa Constitution,
since in 1975 during his visit to the United States of America, Emperor Hirohito answered that his duties
had not basically changed in the Post-War period. SCHEER, Matthias Verfassungsrecht, in: EUBEL 1979, p.
45 HIGUCHI, Yoichi The Constitution and the Emperor System: Is revisionism still a live? in: LUNEYTAKAHASI 1993, 57-68.o., TAKEDA, Tsuneyashu Did the Emperor of Japan really fall from being a ruler to a
symbol? 2009, http://www.apa.co.jp/book_report2/02.html
46 TAKAMI Katsutoshi From Divine Legitimacy to the Myth of Consensus: The Emperor System and popular
Sovereignty, in: HIGUCHI 2001, p. 24.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
The question posed at the start of our research was answered through the comparison
of the Meiji and Shōwa Constitutions including the real social and political
circumstances: occupation was the prerequisite for the people’s sovereignty. The
foundations of the functioning and stable democracy in Japan were established by the
occupation. The first equal and general elections granting all Japanese citizens above
the age of 20 the right to vote took place in April 1946. 47
Modern Japan experienced its rise through industrialization and militarism: Enrich the
country and strengthen the military (富国強兵) Fukoku kyōhei.48 In the Meiji period, in
1895, the old enemy, China was beaten; in 1905 a European power, Russia was defeated,
later the colonization policy against Korea started.
Under the auspices of „Leaving Asia and becoming European” (脱亜入欧 Datsu a nyū
ō)49 Japan was positioned among the Western Powers at the time of the establishment of
the League of Nations. Following the temporary peaceful periods of the Taishō period
and territorial expansions following World War I; in order to implement the Imperial
dreams, Japan started war against China in 1937, then against the United States of
America through the attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The occupation led by the Allied Powers could be briefly characterised as “becoming
American”. The Japanese democracy is based on the drafts inspired by the American
democratic traditions, but its realisation required also the economic turnover, for which
the ongoing contribution was demanded by Emperor Hirohito (1926-1989) during its
The general elections for adults, including women was introduced by the amendment of the Law on
Election in December 1945, http://www.ndl.go.jp/modern/e/cha5/description05.html (Based on the
database of the National Diet Library)
48 This motto of the Meiji-period also stems from Fukuzawa Yukuchi
49 SZERDAHELYI, G. István Japán és a környező világ az újkorban – Gondolatok Japán geopolitikai helyzetéről,
Japan and the Surrounding World in the Early Modern Times, Some Thoughts on Geo-political Position of Japan,
in: JAMADZSI, Maszanori (ed.) Irodalom, kultúra és társadalom a közép- és kora újkori Japánban, Literature,
Culture and Society in Medieval and Early Modern Japan, ELTE Japán-tanulmányok, Budapest, 1997, p. 72.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
numerous visits throughout the country. This established real unity, which constituted
the prerequisite for the performance accomplished later.
In addition, pacifism constitutes a fundamental character of the Japanese democracy. It
follows that the birth of democracy brought about peace, unconditional peace.
Although the expressively pacifist definition of Article 9 declares that Japan forever
renounces war and no army is maintained, following the outbreak of the Korean war
not only the National Self-Defense Force (自衛隊 Jieitai)50 was set up, but Japan became
a member of the United Nations in December 1956. Moreover, in June 1992 the Act on
Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations51 was
finally adopted by the Diet, which paved the way for more active participation in UNmissions, although Article 9 has never yet been amended.
Regarding the amendment of the Constitution, at this stage, both the Meiji and Shōwa
Constitutions bear similar characteristics. Article 73 of the Meiji Constitution was
applied in one case, between June and October of 1946, when the parliamentary
discussions and adoption of the Shōwa Constitution took place. Since the entry into
force of the Shōwa Constitution, 3 May 1947 – called the national holiday of
Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpō Kinenbi) – the Constitution has not been amended.52
A separate Chapter of the Shōwa Constitution deals with amendments, whereby not
only a concurring vote of two-thirds of all the members of each House is required but
also the ratification of people at a special referendum or at an election determined by
For the sources of kanji, see: HADAMITZKY, Wolfgang – KAZÁR, Lajos Kanji és Kana A japán
írásrendszer kézikönyve és szótára, Kanji and kana, The dictionary and manual of Japanese characters, Scholastica
kiadó, 1995, Informative Japanese Dictionary, Schinchaosha, 1995, Denshi jisho, http://jisho.org/kanji/ and
some pages of Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/
51 Law No 79 of 1992. See: http://www.pko.go.jp/PKO_J/data/law/pdf/law_e.pdf
52 The Constitution of November 1946 was considered to be amended following the completion of the
Occupation period by many experts of the Allied Powers. See: BAERWALD, Hans H. Japan’s Parliament:
An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 1974, p. 14.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
the Diet. This later condition extends the entry into force of an eventual constitutional
amendment, which ensures that the constitution-making would not be driven by shortterm political interests. As Article 96 of the Constitution provided no information about
the right to initiate amendments to the Constitution, until recently there was no answer
to such questions.53
It is one of the final conclusions of the thesis that it is not only a scientific work on the
birth of the Japanese democracy. It should also be recognised, that the pacifist Japan is
in a position to be an authentic supporter of a new global constitutional system based on
democracy and peace. The Japanese experience has shown its exact constitutional
historical conditions. I believe that constitutional history is on the right track if it puts its
findings in the service of incoming constitutional systems: it provides a mirror that at
the same time might show the way for the future.
The (日本国憲法の改正手続に関する法律, Nihonkoku kempō no kaisei tetsuzuki ni kansuru hōritsu) Act
adopted in May 2007 – and entered into force in May 2010 – stipulates that the Members of the Diet are
entitled to initiate amendments to the Constitution.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
The birth of the parliamentary democracy in Japan (under publication, Zeitschrift für
Törvényhozás és parlamentarizmus Japánban. Egy történeti megközelítés. (Legislation
and parliamentarism in Japan. An historical approach) (under publication, Iustum,
Some aspects of the concept of sovereignty in pre and post-war Japan. Iustum, aequum,
salutare. 2011/1. p. 166-172.
A jog szerepe Japánban. [The role of law in Japan] in: FEKETE, Balázs – SZABÓ, Sarolta
(szerk.) „Monumentum aere perennius” – Tanulmányok Péteri Zoltán tiszteletére.
Budapest, 2005. p. 231-245.
Jogalkotás a Meidzsi-korszakban. Tanulmány a kontinentális jogok japán recepciójának
szükségességéről és menetéről. [Legislation in the Meiji-period. Study on the necessity
and process of civil law reception in Japan]
Idegen jogi hatások és az 1890. évi japán polgári eljárásjogi törvény, [Foreign influences
and the Japanese act of 1890 on civil procedure law], Jogtörténeti Szemle, 2005/1. p. 3135.
URATA, Kenji: Reflections on Global Constitutionalism. Perspectives based on the
Constitution of Japan. The Institute of Comparative Law, Waseda University, Japan.
2005. Iustum, aequum, salutare. 2008/1. p. 193-196.
Some Characteristics of the Japanese Tennō-System, 6th International Conference of PhD
Students, Miskolc, 2007, p. 305-310.
A jog szerepe a modern Japán kialakulásában. [The role of law in the formation of
modern Japan] in: VAGDALT, Judit, WASEDA, Mika, YAMAJI, Masanori (szerk.)
Magyarország japán szemmel, Japán magyar szemmel. (Nihon no me de mita Hangarí,
Hangarí no me de mita Nihon) ELTE Japán Tanszéki csoport, Budapest 2006, p. 135-144.
Csaba Gergely Tamás
Conciliation in the Japanese law. 5th International conference of PHD Students. Miskolc,
2005. p. 139-144.
A japán családjogi mediáció fejlődésének irányai. [Tendencies in the development of
mediation in Japanese family law] Tavaszi Szél konferencia, Debrecen, 2005. p. 396-400.
A japán császár és a parlament közjogi kapcsolatáról. [The relations between the
Japanese Emperor and the Parliament from public law perspective] Károli Gáspár
Egyetem, Jogász Doktoranduszok Országos Szakmai Találkozója, 21 November, 2009.
A közösségek szerepe a japán jogban, [The role of communities in Japanese law] I.
Szegedi Összehasonlító Jogi Napok, 25 April, 2008.
A nyugati jogrendszerek hatása Japán nemzetközi jogi kapcsolataira, [The influence of
Western legal systems upon Japan’s international legal relations] I. Fiatal Jogászok
Tudományos Konferenciája, Budapest, 27 April, 2006.
A Ptk. kodifikációjának okai, mozzanatai hazánkban és Japánban a XIX. század
második felében, [The reasons and stages of civil code codification in Hungary and
Japan in the second half of the 19th century] Emlékkonferencia Bónis György és Both
Ödön halálának 20. évfordulója alkalmából, Szeged, 23 September, 2005.
A japán jog alapjai, [The foundations of Japanese law] Károli Gáspár Református
Egyetem Bölcsészettudományi Karának Japanológia Tanszéke, Gergely Attila egyetemi
adjunktus szakszemináriuma, September 2004.