Part 5 Enactment of the Constitution of Japan

Enactment of the Constitution of Japan and the First Session of the Diet

Rally commemorating the new Constitution of Japan

Rally commemorating the new Constitution of Japan (November 3, 1946) From "Yoshida Naikaku"

On May 3, 1947, the Constitution of Japan came into force. A celebration was held in the plaza in front of the Imperial Palace and commemorative speeches were given across the country on this day. Following the enactment of the new constitution, it was necessary to institute or revise various laws. For example, a new Imperial House Law was instituted, along with the enactment of other new laws, among which were the Diet Law, the Cabinet Law, the Court Organization Law, and the Local Autonomy Law. The Criminal Code, the Civil Code, and other laws were also revised to come into line with the new Constitution.

The 23rd general election was held for the House of Representatives to establish the first Diet under the Constitution of Japan, on April 25, 1947 (the first regular election for the House of Councillors was held on April 20). The elections resulted in no single political party gaining a majority of seats as they were called into the first session (special session) of the Diet on May 20, 1947. On May 24, the Socialist Party's Tetsu Katayama became Prime Minister and formed a cabinet to replace that led by Shigeru Yoshida. The opening ceremony for the first session was held in the House of Councillors on June 23, 1947.

Actions of the Constitution Popularization Society

Approximately one month following the promulgation of the Constitution of Japan, on December 1, 1946, the "Constitution Popularization Society " was set up in the Imperial Diet to disseminate the spirit of the new Constitution to the people. Hitoshi Ashida, the Chairman, inaugurated the Society which included members of both the House of Representatives and the House of Peers along with prominent scholars, journalists, and commentators acting in an advisory capacity. Under the centralized organization of the Society, prefectural branches were established. In most cases, Prefectural Governors headed the branches, which were set up in the prefectural offices. This showed that the Society was a semi-governmental organization.

Under the guidance of GHQ, the Constitution Popularization Society carried out a campaign in a variety of formats to popularize the new Constitution. Specifically, legal scholars were enlisted as instructors to train mid-level civil servants in both central and local governments, public lectures were held in all parts of the country, explanations of the Constitution were published, and prize-winning essays were collected. A film depicting the process of formulating the Constitution was produced, as well as songs, such as the "Constitution Song," which were used in the popularizing campaign. More than anything, the twenty million pamphlets, published in 1947 under the title "The New Constitution, Bright Life," and delivered to every corner of the country, were aimed at popularizing the Constitution to all the people in the nation.

Review of the New Japanese Constitution

The FEC, at loggerheads with MacArthur on the process of adopting the new Japanese constitution, had to accept the fact that the deliberations on the constitution had been carried out in the Imperial Diet. However, the FEC accepted the constitution on the condition that it would be reviewed after its enactment. On October 17, 1946, the FEC adopted a policy, based on a proposal from Australia and New Zealand, that "not sooner than one year and not later than two years after it goes into effect, the situation with respect to the new constitution should be reviewed." However, this policy was not immediately announced; not until January 1947 did MacArthur inform Prime Minister Yoshida about it in a letter. In the following year, some in the government and the Diet sought to review the constitution; however, the public showed little interest, except for certain intellectuals. In the end, the constitution remained unreviewed, and the FEC abandoned its request for a review of the constitution in May 1949.

Minutes of the Diet are available from the Full-text Database System for the Minutes of the Diet (Japanese).

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