Part 1 Military Defeat and Efforts to Reform the Constitution

Formulating the Occupation Policy for Japan

Soon after the beginning of the War in the Pacific, the United States Government, mainly the Department of State, began a study of post war policy toward Japan. Within the Department of State, some experts on Japan envisioned a lenient post war strategy that among other things would retain the Emperor system. However, some in the Department of War and the Department of the Navy proposed extensive changes which included the elimination of the Emperor system and broad economic reforms. There was a strong opposition between these two groups, and they confronted each other in the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) and elsewhere. The political leaders of the government sought to settle the problem. Finally, the Allied Powers set the policy in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, that the occupation policies would be carried out through the Japanese Government, without referring explicitly to the Emperor system.

Acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration and the Start of the Occupation

MacArthur lands at Atsugi Airdrome

MacArthur lands at Atsugi Airdrome (August 30, 1945) From "Gaho Kindai Hyakunenshi" Vol.17

The Japanese government had ignored the Potsdam Declaration, which had been signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. However, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with the Soviet Union's entrance into the war, led to its acceptance on August 14, bringing an end to the Second World War. With its defeat in the war, Japan came under the Allied military occupation, which was in practice dominated by the United States under the leadership of Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), who had been invested with absolute powers to implement the Potsdam Declaration.

The Japanese government, while accepting the Potsdam Declaration, demanded the condition that the Emperor retain his sovereign authority in order to protect and maintain the "National Polity." But the Potsdam Declaration called for "establishing a peacefully inclined and responsible government," "revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies," and "establishing respect for fundamental human rights." The introduction of these precepts made fundamental reforms to the Meiji Constitution inevitable.

Activities of the Japanese Government Immediately Following the War

The cabinet headed by Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni, which was established immediately after the war, had neither the inclination nor sufficient leeway for constitutional reforms to adequately respond to General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP). Along with this, the issue of the memorandum "Civil Liberties Directive" was instrumental in the en bloc resignation of the cabinet less than two months after its formation, and its being replaced with Kijuro Shidehara's cabinet.

During this short period right after the war, two governmental sections, the Bureau of Legislation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quickly became aware of and began a study of the constitutional problem. A group led by Toshio Irie, Director of the First Department of the Bureau of Legislation, informally carried out ministerial level studies on revision of the Constitution. The Treaties Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having determined that it was necessary for Japan to formulate a democratic framework of its own volition, implemented independent studies with that aim. However, the cabinet's negative stance hindered any productive results from arising from these efforts.

Fumimaro Konoye and the Matsumoto Committee

On October 4, the same day the "Civil Liberties Directive" was issued, MacArthur met with former Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye to discuss constitutional reforms. Following the proffered suggestions, Konoye together with Soichi Sasaki, a former professor from Imperial University of Kyoto, set about a study of reforms to the Constitution as the Commissioners for the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal.

On October 11, MacArthur met with Shidehara, the newly appointed Prime Minister, to broach the subject of "liberalization of the Constitution." The Shidehara Cabinet had, like its predecessor, a negative view of constitutional reform. However, criticizing the Office of the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal for taking on the problem of constitutional reform, the government responded to the issue by appointing, on October 25, Joji Matsumoto, a Minister of State, as the Chairman of the Constitutional Problem Investigation Committee (which became known as the Matsumoto Committee) to initiate an examination for the government.

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