The Logic of Japanese Politics

The Logic of Japanese Politics

The Logic of Japanese Politics

The Logic of Japanese Politics


Widely recognized both in America and Japan for his insider knowledge and penetrating analyses of Japanese politics, Gerald Curtis is the political analyst best positioned to explore the complexities of the Japanese political scene today. Curtis has personally known most of the key players in Japanese politics for more than thirty years, and he draws on their candid comments to provide invaluable and graphic insights into the world of Japanese politics. By relating the behavior of Japanese political leaders to the institutions within which they must operate, Curtis makes sense out of what others have regarded as enigmatic or illogical. He utilizes his skills as a scholar and his knowledge of the inner workings of the Japanese political system to highlight the commonalities of Japanese and Western political practices while at the same time explaining what sets Japan apart.

Curtis rejects the notion that cultural distinctiveness and consensus are the defining elements of Japan's political decision making, emphasizing instead the competition among and the profound influence of individuals operating within particular institutional contexts on the development of Japan's politics. The discussions featured here -- as they survey both the detailed events and the broad structures shaping the mercurial Japanese political scene of the 1990s -- draw on extensive conversations with virtually all of the decade's political leaders and focus on the interactions among specific politicians as they struggle for political power.

The Logic of Japanese Politics covers such important political developments as

#149; the Liberal Democratic Party's egress from power in 1993, after reigning for nearly four decades, and their crushing defeat in the "voters' revolt" of the 1998 upper-house election;

#149; the formation of the 1993 seven party coalition government led by prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa and its collapse eight months later;

#149; the historic electoral reform of 1994 which replaced the electoral system operative since the adoption of universal manhood suffrage in 1925; and

#149; the decline of machine politics and the rise of the mutohaso -- the floating, nonparty voter.

Scrutinizing and interpreting a complex and changing political system, this multi-layered chronicle reveals the dynamics of democracy at work -- Japanese-style. In the process, The Logic of Japanese Politics not only offers a fascinating picture of Japanese politics and politicians but also provides a framework for understanding Japan's attempts to surmount its present problems, and helps readers gain insight into Japan's future.


Over the last half of the twentieth century, Japan emerged from wartime defeat and devastation to become a stable political democracy with a powerful economy second in size only to the United States. Success not only made it a key leader in global economic affairs, but also led to predictions in the 1980s, by Japanese and foreigners alike, that Japan was on track to becoming the world’s dominant economy.

Now, not much more than ten years later, as it stands at the threshold of a new millennium, Japan is faced with formidable problems. Its economic performance in the 1990s was the worst in half a century. Its political stability, a hallmark of the long period in which governmental power was dominated by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, has given way to political uncertainty and to a rapid succession of weak coalition governments. Even Japan’s elite government bureaucrats, long accustomed to being admired and treated with respect, are now roundly attacked for corruption and blamed for policy mistakes that made a bad economic situation worse.

With the end of the cold war and the development of a society in which nearly the entire adult population saw itself as middle class, the ideological underpinnings of nearly four decades of one-party dominance in Japanese politics collapsed. the politically relevant ideological spectrum contracted, making possible political alliances across a conservative-progressive divide that would have been unthinkable only a few short years earlier. the ldp lost power in 1993, only to return a year later in alliance with its longtime rival, the Japan Socialist Party. Politics subsequently has been punctuated by party splits and shifting party alliances, low voting rates, and short-lived coalition governments that hesitate to make bold policy choices. This . . .

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