Classification & Role of Government
Japan's regime is classified as a constitutional monarchy however the power of the Emperor is very limited as he serves mainly as a ceremonial figurehead or symbol. His role is defined by the constitution as "the symbol of the state and of unity of the people". The current Emperor of Japan is Akihito and the Crown Prince, Naruhito stands next in line to the throne. It is the Prime Minister of Japan that chiefly holds the power along with other members of the National Diet. The Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government and is appointed by the Emperor after being designated by the Diet. Although the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Emperor, the Constitution of Japan explicitly requires the Emperor to appoint who the Diet puts forth. The Prime Minister's responsibility is his role as the head of the Cabinet and appoints and dismisses the Ministers of State. However sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people themselves.
Separation of Powers
Japan's legislative branch consists of a bicameral parliament, the National Diet. The Diet is divided into a House of Representatives (480 seats) and the House of Councillors (242 seats). Members of the House of Representatives are elected by popular vote every four years OR when dissolved versus the a voting system for the House of Councillors where members are elected by popular vote every six years. In 2009, the social liberal Democratic Party of Japan took power following the Liberal Democratic Party's 54 year rule. The Japanese legal system developed independently during the Edo period with heavy influence from Chinese Law. However since the late 19th century, the judicial system has been largely based on the civil law of Europe. The Constitution requires that the Emperor promulgate legislation passed by the Diet, without specifically giving him power to oppose legislation. Japan's court system is divided into four basic tiers: the Supreme Court and three levels of lower courts. The main body of Japanese statutory law is called the Six Codes.
Japan's legislative branch consists of the National Diet of Japan which has two houses, the House of Representatives of Japan and the House of Councillors which are both directly elected under a parallel voting system. The Diets function is to table and pass bills and most of its powers are not given but voted down by the House of Councillors. The House of Representatives can override the decisions made by the other chamber however for treaties, budget and selection of Prime minister the House of Councillors can only delay passage and not block legislation.
The executive branch chief is the Prime Minister who is appointed by the Emperor as directed by the Diet. He must be a member of either house in the Diet and a civila. The Prime Minister's responsibility is to organize the Cabinet which must also be civilian.
The judicial branch is independent of the legislative and executive branch but its judges are appointed by the Emperor as directed by the Cabinet. It consists of several levels of courts, with a Supreme Court (drawn up on May 3, 1947) which includes a Bill of Rights including that of which of judicial review. Japan does not have administrative courts of claims courts and because of the judicial system's basis, court decisions are the final judicial authority.
Japan has a non-Wester but highly modern, national bureaucracy which has played a central role in planning and implementing of major changes in Japan. Japanese bureaucracy has been so closely linked with political leadership it exemplifies Japans unique ability to limit the size of its government bureaucracy while employing its benefits.
Japan consists of a unitary system of government where local jurisdictions depend on the national government financially. Many local government jobs need the funding initiated by national ministries and very often intervene significantly in local government. This results in a high level of organizational and policy standardization among different local jurisdictions to preserve the uniqueness of their prefecture, city or town.
Japan is divided into 47 administrative divisions: one metropolitan district - Tokyo, two urban prefectures - Kyoto & Osaka, 43 rural prefectures and one district, Hokkaido. Large cities are subdivided into wards, then split into towns or precincts. Cities are self governing units administered independently of larger jurisdictions. In order to attain city status, it must have at least 30,000 inhabitats (60% of which must be engaged in urban occupations) All prefectural and municipal governments are under the Local Autonomy Law, a statue applied nationwide in 1947. Each jurisdiction has a chief executive called a governor (chiji) in prefectures and a mayor (cho) in municipalities. Most juridictions have a unicameral assembly (gikai) and towns and villages have the option for direct governance through a citizen's general assembly (sokai) Both the exectuvie and the assmebly are elected by popular vote every 4 years.
Local governments follow a modified version of the separation of powers used in the national government. An assembly may pass a vote of no confidence in the executive, in which case the executive must either dissolve the assembly within ten days or automatically lose their office. Following the next election, however, the executive remains in office unless the new assembly again passes a no confidence resolution.
Local governments also generally have multiple committees such as school boards, public safety committees personnel committees, election committees and auditing committees. These may be directly elected or chosen by the assembly, executive or both. All prefectures are also required to maintain departments of general affairs, finance, welfare, health, and labor. Departments of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, commerce, and industry are optional, depending on local needs. The governor is responsible for all activities supported through local taxation or the national government.
Purpose of the Constitution
The Constitution of Japan is the fundamental law of Japan and was enacted on May 3, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan. It establishes a parliamentary system of government in which the Emperor carries out most of the functions as head of state but his role is mostly ceremonial and unlike in most forms of constitutional monarchy, he does not possess any reserve powers. The Legislative authority comes from the bicameral National Diet and whereas due to the previous constitution the upper house consisted of members of nobility the new constitution provided that both chambers be directly elected. Executive authority is exercised by a Prime Minister and the judiciary branch is headed by a Supreme Court.
The constitution is approximately 5,000 words and consists of a preable and 103 articles grouped into 11 chapters.
The Constitution of the Empire of Japan of 1890 (also known as the Meiji Constitution) is the foundation for Japan's current constitution. It provided for a form of mixed constitutional and absolute monarchy based on both the Prussian and British Models. Following the Potsdam Declaration, Douglas MacArthur drafted a new Constitution which encouraged the Japanese to initiate democratic reforms of their own. However in adopting the new document it was dictated that the Meiji Constitution would not be violated but rather the 1946 constitution would be adopted as an amendment so the legal continuity would be maintained. Under Article 73, the new constitution was formally submitted to the Imperial Diet by the Emperor where it came into effect on May 3, 1947.
The constitution contains a firm declaration of the principle of popular sovereignty in the preamble. This is proclaimed in the name of the "Japanese people" and declares that "sovereign power resides with the people" and government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. The purpose of including such a statement is to refute the previous constitutional theory that sovereignty resided in the Emperor. The constitution asserts that the Emperor is merely a symbol and that he derives "his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power" (Article 1).The postwar constitution prominently features the rights and duties of the people, devoting 31 of its 103 articles to describing them in full.