Main issues

Topic 1 Popular Sovereignty and the Emperor System

1 US Policy

The Japanese Government indicated it would accept the Potsdam Declaration on the understanding that it would not include any demands prejudicing the prerogatives of the Emperor as a sovereign ruler, so as to preserve the kokutai, or national polity through "a line of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal." In response to this, the Allied Powers stated their position as "the authority of the rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers" and "the ultimate form of Government of Japan established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people." ("Records of Negotiations Related to the Acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration"The comment of [Records of Negotiations Related to the Acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration]) At the Imperial Conference on August 14, 1945, the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration was decided and in the "Imperial Rescript of the Termination of the War"The comment of [Imperial Rescript of the Termination of the War] , the Emperor stated that "the kokutai has been maintained."

In January of 1946, Douglas MacArthur received "Reform of the Japanese Governmental System (SWNCC 228)"The comment of [Reform of the Japanese Governmental System (SWNCC 228) for his information from the United States Government describing the US policy regarding the revision of the constitution in direct and concrete terms. This document called for the abolishment of the Emperor System or initiating its reform along more democratic lines, including having all significant actions performed by the Emperor carried out based on the advice of the Cabinet if the Japanese people decided to retain the Emperor System. It was around this time that MacArthur had essentially decided to allow the Emperor System to continue so that occupation policies would be smoothly implemented ("MacArthur's Brief to Army Chief of Staff Eisenhower"The comment of [MacArthur's Brief to Army Chief of Staff Eisenhower] ).

2 Japan's Examination of the Problem

The Constitutional Problems Investigation Committee (Matsumoto Committee) did not intend to change the fundamental principles of the Meiji Constitution, that the Emperor should "combine in Himself the rights of sovereignty" as shown in Joji Matsumoto's "Four-Point Principle for Constitutional Reform."The comment of [Four-Point Principle for Constitutional Reform] However, in Junji Nomura's "Position Paper Regarding Constitutional Reform"The comment of [Position Paper Regarding Constitutional Reform], we see a bold proposal in the Matsumoto Committee to abolish the Emperor System and establish an American style presidency. Yet this idea did not affect the members of the committee, as we see that there were no fundamental changes to the position of the Emperor in their two drafts, "Tentative Revision of the Constitution(A)"The comment of [Tentative Revision of the Constitution(A)] and "Tentative Revision of the Constitution(B)"The comment of [Tentative Revision of the Constitution(B)], one with extensive reforms and the other with more modest reforms.

Along with these, in draft proposals written by political and citizens' groups there were calls for popular sovereignty and the elimination or change of the Emperor System. The Communist Party's drafts aimed for the creation of a People's Republic with popular sovereignty and the abolishment of the Emperor System ( Japan Communist Party "Essentials of the New Constitution"The comment of [Essentials of the New Constitution] and "Draft Constitution of the People's Republic of Japan"The comment of [Draft Constitution of the People's Republic of Japan]). The Socialist Party's draft ("Outline of Constitutional Reforms"The comment of [Outline of Constitutional Reforms]), assuming that the sovereignty lies within the state as a national community including the Emperor, preserved the Emperor System by splitting power between the Emperor and the Diet. There was also the Constitution Investigation Association's draft which set forth the idea of popular sovereignty along with setting up the Emperor with authority limited to that of a national ceremonial position, which might be considered a model for the current Emperor System (Constitution Investigation Association, "Outline of Constitution Draft"The comment of [Constitution Investigation Association, {Outline of Constitution Draft}]).

3 Framing the GHQ Draft

On February 3, MacArthur showed Courtney Whitney , Chief of Government Section at GHQ, a document that would come to be known as the "MacArthur Notes" The comment of [MacArthur Notes]. In it he listed some principles which included: (1) The Emperor is at the head of the state. (2) His succession is dynastic. (3) His duties and powers will be exercised in accordance with the Constitution and responsive to the basic will of the people as provided therein. The "Committee on the Emperor, Treaties and Enabling Provisions" in Government Section wrote in the first sentence that sovereignty over Japan shall reside with the Japanese People (Article 1) ("GHQ Draft ProposalsThe comment of [GHQ Draft Proposals]"). In Article 2, the committee described the position of the Emperor, such that "The Japanese Nation shall be reigned over by a line of Emperors" (first clause), and that "The Imperial Throne shall be the symbol of the State and of the Unity of the People, and the Emperor shall be the symbolic personification thereof, deriving his position from the sovereign will of the People" (second clause). However, the Steering Committee decided that placing sovereignty with the people in the preamble was enough, so Article 1 was ordered struck out. Next, as the term "reign" embraces the meaning of "govern" in Japanese usage, the first clause of Article 2 was deleted. The result of this was that the second clause of Article 2 in the "GHQ Draft Proposals"The comment of [GHQ Draft Proposals] became the first article of "GHQ Original Draft. Finally this article was amended to state "The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the Unity of the People, ..." as Article 1 of the "GHQ Draft."The comment of [GHQ Draft] And, "the sovereignty of the people's will" was declared in the Preamble.

4 Creation of the Japanese Government Draft and Deliberations in the Imperial Diet

The Draft Constitution of Japan, "March 2 Draft,"The comment of [March 2 Draft] created by the Japanese Government based on the GHQ Draft, did not include the Preamble. It also, in Article 1, used the phrase "supreme will of the people" which made the principle of sovereignty of the people ambiguous. During negotiations with GHQ, the Preamble was replaced and Article 1 was returned almost completely to the way it was in the GHQ Draft, but the phrase "supreme will of the people" was preserved ("Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution"The comment of [Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution] ).

During deliberations in the House of Representatives, Minister of State Tokujiro Kanamori argued that the change was being made to the "governmental form" (the political system with the Emperor at its center) and not to the "national polity" (the unification of the people in adoration centered on the Emperor). As a result, Deputy Chief of Government Section Colonel Charles Kades requested an explanation because Kanamori's argument was extremely unclear and difficult to understand. Kanamori explained "national polity" in writing in "Minister Kanamori's Six Principles on Constitutional Reform" The comment of [Minister Kanamori's Six Principles on Constitutional Reform]. In addition, as a result of Kades' request to clarify popular sovereignty either in the Preamble or in Article 1, the Preamble was amended to include "proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people" and Article 1, relating to the Emperor, to read "deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." The deliberations in the House of Peers, as in the House of Representatives, focused on changes to the kokutai and wherein resides sovereign power. These problems were the major point of contention during the creation of the constitution and discussions were not limited to deliberations on constitutional revision in the Imperial Diet. Actually, every level of society was actively debating these issues. Even following the enactment of the constitution, the problems surrounding the "sovereignty of the people and the Emperor as a symbol" were contentious issues.

Copyright©2003-2004 National Diet Library All Rights Reserved.