The Birth of Japan's Postwar Constitution

The Birth of Japan's Postwar Constitution

The Birth of Japan's Postwar Constitution

The Birth of Japan's Postwar Constitution


"No account of this fascinating story is more intimate & authoritative, from both the Japanese & American perspectives, than Koseki's splendid prize-winning study. This is history & history writing at the highest level." John W. Dower Author of War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War


When I was finishing the writing of this book at the beginning of 1989, the Shōwa period (1926-1989) came to an end. The death of Emperor Shōwa revealed to me clearly that the Japanese people's feelings toward their emperor had not changed much since before the war. With the emperor's death all the television channels were offering programs related to him. All the employees of Japanese automobile companies, which represent Japan, were shown on television bowing most reverently toward the imperial palace.

For most Japanese intellectuals and especially for those who had put their faith in democracy, the half year surrounding the emperor's death was without doubt a melancholy time. Needless to say, I was holding my head in my small study.

Until at least the 1970s most of the books written by Japanese, both those on postwar Japanese history and those on postwar legal history, depicted Japan's prewar and postwar political systems as completely different, that is, depicted a sharp break between the prewar and postwar periods. Many of the books published between 1945 and the 1960s especially emphasized this break in modern Japanese history. I recall clearly as a student being taught by a progressive professor that "there is only a very slight difference between the symbolic emperor system and a republican form of government."

Certainly the reforms carried out by the American occupation forces immediately after the war rivaled the Meiji Restoration in Japan in terms of their significance. Of these reforms, the Japanese Constitution drafted by General Douglas MacArthur's staff was epoch-making and was greeted by most Japanese with great surprise. But for about ten years after it was adopted, the constitution was not an important political issue. Those in the conservative camp were unhappy with this constitution but, being under a foreign military occupation, were unable to raise their voices in protest; they also had no political ideas for preparing a different constitution to replace this one. Those in the progressive camp under Marxist influence had much greater interest in a "people's revolution" than in this constitution. Most people who belonged to neither camp had . . .

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