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Japan - The Politics and Government


AS THE 1990S BEGAN, Japan's oldest living person was Fujisawa Mitsu, 113 years old. In the year of her birth, 1876 (the ninth year of the 1868-1912 Meiji era), the government ended the special status of the samurai, taking away their stipends and prohibiting them from wearing swords. Members of the new ruling elite traveled to Europe and the United States to study Western political ideas and institutions. Mitsu was thirteen when the Meiji Constitution was promulgated, a document combining traditional nationalistic thought with German legal and political concepts. The most influential Meiji-era advocate of Anglo-American liberalism, Fukuzawa Yukichi, died in 1901 when Mitsu was twenty-five. She was middle-aged when political parties controlled the government during the "Taisho democracy" era of the early to mid-1920s and revolutionary Marxism was popular among university students and intellectuals. The "Showa fascism" of the 1930s and 1940s was in large measure a reaction against these Westernizing trends. When General Douglas MacArthur landed in Japan and began the United States occupation in 1945, Mitsu was sixty-nine years old. Her robust old age witnessed the reintroduction of Western-style liberalism, the emergence of a stable parliamentary system under the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP--Jiyu-Minshuto), the rise of the new left, and postwar Japan's most dramatic episode of romantic rightist theater, writer Mishima Yukio's selfimmolation during his effort to initiate a rebellion among SelfDefense Forces units in 1970.

That the lifespan of a single person could encompass such dramatic and abrupt changes suggests the heterogeneity of contemporary Japanese political values. The country has been host to a wide range of often conflicting foreign influences: Prussian statism, French radicalism, Anglo-American liberalism, Marxism and Marxism-Leninism, and European fascism. Mitsu lived to see the kokutai (national polity) ideology enshrined in the Meiji Constitution and then overthrown in the postwar constitution. The fact that a person living in 1989 had been born in the twilight of Japan's feudal regime suggests that some of the older values remained viable. Certainly Japan's economic dynamism is often explained in terms of the coupling of feudal values with the efficiency of modern organization. Political scientists seeking to describe the distinctive features of Japanese politics also point to the feudal legacy behind them. These features include the nature of decision making, the generally pragmatic spirit of Japanese politics, and, especially, the post-1955 successes of the conservative LDP, which has epitomized feudal personalism.

Maintaining power uninterruptedly for nearly four decades, the LDP was able to promote a highly stable policy-making process. Its leaders functioned as brokers, joining the expertise of the elite civil service with the demands of important interest groups. The role of these leaders, however, was not passive. Since the 1960s, the party's policy-making power has increased, while that of the bureaucracy has declined. Although political scandals were frequent, tarnishing the general image of politicians, the system succeeded in providing most groups in society with adequate representation and a share of prosperity. The Japanese middle class is large and stable.

The scandal-shaken LDP was able to obtain a stable House of Representatives majority in the February 18, 1990, general election. However, the failure of the LDP government of Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi to get political reform legislation passed disappointed the electorate and many members of his own party, leading to a June 18, 1993, no-confidence vote in the lower house, bringing an end to thirty-eight years of LDP majority rule. The government formed after the July 18, 1993 lower house election was led by Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro's Japan New Party. This party, which had broken off from the LDP in the spring of 1992 formed a coalition with the Shinseito (Japan Renewal Party) and Sakigake (Harbinger) parties, which had separated from the LDP just prior to the election, as well as with the Komeito and three socialist parties. The primary goal of the coalition was to pass effective political reform legislation, but the members of the coalition also promised to maintain LDP national security and foreign policies.





On July 26, 1945, Allied leaders Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, and Joseph Stalin issued the Potsdam Declaration, which demanded Japan's unconditional surrender. This declaration also defined the major goals of the postsurrender Allied occupation: "The Japanese government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established" (Section 10). In addition, the document stated: "The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government" (Section 12). The Allies sought not merely punishment or reparations from a militaristic foe, but fundamental changes in the nature of its political system. In the words of political scientist Robert E. Ward: "The occupation was perhaps the single most exhaustively planned operation of massive and externally directed political change in world history."

The wording of the Potsdam Declaration--"The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles..."--and the initial postsurrender measures taken by MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), suggest that neither he nor his superiors in Washington intended to impose a new political system on Japan unilaterally. Instead, they wished to encourage Japan's new leaders to initiate democratic reforms on their own. But by early 1946, MacArthur's staff and Japanese officials were at odds over the most fundamental issue, the writing of a new constitution. Prime Minister Shidehara Kijuro and many of his colleagues were extremely reluctant to take the drastic step of replacing the 1889 Meiji Constitution with a more liberal document. In late 1945, Shidehara appointed Matsumoto Joji, state minister without portfolio, head of a blue-ribbon committee of constitutional scholars to suggest revisions. The Matsumoto Commission's recommendations, made public in February 1946, were quite conservative (described by one Japanese scholar in the late 1980s as "no more than a touching-up of the Meiji Constitution"). MacArthur rejected them outright and ordered his staff to draft a completely new document. This was presented to surprised Japanese officials on February 13, 1946.

The MacArthur draft, which proposed a unicameral legislature, was changed at the insistence of the Japanese to allow a bicameral legislature, both houses being elected. In most other important respects, however, the ideas embodied in the February 13 document were adopted by the government in its own draft proposal of March 6. These included the constitution's most distinctive features: the symbolic role of the emperor, the prominence of guarantees of civil and human rights, and the renunciation of war. The new document was approved by the Privy Council, the House of Peers, and the House of Representatives, the major organs of government in the 1889 constitution, and promulgated on November 3, 1946, to go into effect on May 3, 1947. Technically, the 1947 constitution was an amendment to the 1889 document rather than its abrogation.

The new constitution would not have been written the way it was had MacArthur and his staff allowed Japanese politicians and constitutional experts to resolve the issue as they wished. The document's foreign origins have, understandably, been a focus of controversy since Japan recovered its sovereignty in 1952. Yet in late 1945 and 1946, there was much public discussion on constitutional reform, and the MacArthur draft was apparently greatly influenced by the ideas of certain Japanese liberals. The MacArthur draft did not attempt to impose a United States-style presidential or federal system. Instead, the proposed constitution conformed to the British model of parliamentary government, which was seen by the liberals as the most viable alternative to the European absolutism of the Meiji Constitution.

After 1952 conservatives and nationalists attempted to revise the constitution to make it more "Japanese," but these attempts were frustrated for a number of reasons. One was the extreme difficulty of amending it. Amendments require approval by twothirds of the members of both houses of the National Diet before they can be presented to the people in a referendum (Article 96). Also, opposition parties, occupying more than one-third of the Diet seats, were firm supporters of the constitutional status quo. Even for members of the ruling LDP, the constitution was not disadvantageous. They had been able to fashion a policy-making process congenial to their interests within its framework. Nakasone Yasuhiro, a strong advocate of constitutional revision during much of his political career, for example, downplayed the issue while serving as prime minister between 1982 and 1987.

<>The Status of the Emperor
<>The Article 9 "No War" Clause
<>Rights and Duties of Citizens


Japan - The Status of the Emperor


In the Meiji Constitution, the emperor was sovereign and was the locus of the state's legitimacy. The preamble stated, "The rights of sovereignty of the State, We have inherited from Our Ancestors, and We shall bequeath them to Our descendants." In the postwar constitution, the emperor's role in the political system was drastically redefined. A prior and important step in this process was Emperor Hirohito's 1946 New Year's speech, made at the prompting of MacArthur, renouncing his status as a divine ruler. Hirohito declared that relations between the ruler and his people cannot be based on "the false conception that the emperor is divine or that the Japanese people are superior to other races."

In the first article of the new constitution, the newly "humanized" ruler is described as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." The authority of the emperor as sovereign in the 1889 constitution was broad and undefined. His functions under the postwar system are narrow, specific, and largely ceremonial, confined to such activities as convening the Diet, bestowing decorations on deserving citizens, and receiving foreign ambassadors (Article 7). He does not possess "powers related to government" (Article 4). The change in the emperor's status was designed to preclude the possibility of military or bureaucratic cliques exercising broad and irresponsible powers "in the emperor's name"--a prominent feature of 1930s extremism. The constitution defines the Diet as the "highest organ of state power" (Article 41), accountable not to the monarch but to the people who elected its members.

The use of the Japanese word shocho, meaning symbol, to describe the emperor is unusual and, depending upon one's viewpoint, conveniently or frustratingly vague. The emperor is neither head of state nor sovereign, as are many European constitutional monarchs, although in October 1988 Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed, controversially, that the emperor is the country's sovereign in the context of its external relations. Nor does the emperor have an official priestly or religious role. Although he continues to perform ancient rituals, such as ceremonial planting of the rice crop in spring, he does so in a private capacity.

Laws relating to the imperial house must be approved by the Diet. Under the old system, the Imperial Household Law was separate from and equal with the constitution. After the war, the imperial family's extensive estates were confiscated and its finances placed under control of the Imperial Household Agency, part of the Office of the Prime Minister and theoretically subject to the Diet. In practice remains a bastion of conservatism, its officials shrouding the activities of the emperor and his family behind a "chrysanthemum curtain" (the chrysanthemum being the crest of the imperial house) to maintain an aura of sanctity. Despite knowledge of his illness among the press corps and other observers, details about the late Emperor Hirohito's state of health in 1988 and 1989 were tightly controlled. The use of the masculine pronoun to describe the emperor is appropriate because the Imperial Household Law still restricts the succession to males, despite the fact that in earlier centuries some of Japan's rulers had been females.

The emperor's constitutional status became a focus of renewed public attention following news of Hirohito's serious illness in late 1988. Crown Prince Akihito became the first person to ascend the throne under the postwar system. One important symbolic issue was the choice of a new reign title under the gengo system-- borrowed originally from imperial China and used before 1945-- which enumerates years beginning with the first year of a monarch's reign. Thus 1988 was Showa 63, the sixty-third year of the reign of Hirohito, the Showa Emperor. The accession of a new monarch is marked by the naming of a new era that consists of two auspicious Chinese characters. Showa, for example, means bright harmony. Critics deplored the secrecy with which such titles were chosen in the past, the decision being left to a governmentappointed committee of experts, and advocated public discussion of the choice as a reflection of Japan's democratic values. Although the gengo system was accorded official status by a bill the Diet passed in June 1979, some favored the system's abandonment altogether in favor of the Western calendar. But on January 7, 1989, the day of Hirohito's death, the government announced that Heisei (Achieving Peace) was the new era name. The first year of Heisei thus was 1989, and all official documents were so dated.

Still more controversial were the ceremonies held in connection with the late emperor's funeral and the new emperor's accession. State support of these activities would have violated Article 20 of the constitution on the separation of state and religious activities. Rightists, such as members of the Society to Protect Japan (Nihon o Mamoru Kai), a nationwide lobbying group, demanded full public support of the ceremonies as expression of the people's love for their monarch. Walking a tightrope between proconstitution and rightist groups, the government chose to divide Hirohito's state funeral, held February 24, 1989, into official and religious components. Akihito's accession to the throne in November 1990 also had religious (Shinto) and secular components: the Sokuino -rei, or Enthronement Ceremony, was secular; the Daij sai, or Great Thanksgiving Festival, traditionally, a communion between the new monarch and the gods in which the monarch himself became a deity, was religious. The government's decision to use public funds not only for the Sokui-no-rei but also for the Daijosai, justified in terms of the "public nature" of both ceremonies, was seen by religious and opposition groups as a serious violation of Article 20.

In the early 1990s, an array of such symbolic political issues brought attention to the state's role in religious or quasireligious activities. Defenders of the constitution, including Japanese Christians, followers of new religions, leftists, and many members of the political opposition, considered any government involvement in religious aspects of the enthronement to be a conservative attempt to undermine the spirit, if not the letter, of the constitution. They also strongly criticized the 1989 Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture's controversial directive, which called for the playing of the prewar national anthem ("Kimigayo," or "The Sovereign's Reign") and display of the rising sun flag (Hinomaru, the use of which dates to the early nineteenth century) at public school ceremonies. Although since the late 1950s these activities had been described by the ministry as "desirable," neither had legal status under the postwar constitution.

Another issue was state support for the Yasukuni Shrine. This shrine, located in Tokyo near the Imperial Palace, was established during the Meiji era as a repository for the souls of soldiers and sailors who died in battle, thus a holy place rather than simply a war memorial. Conservatives introduced bills five times during the 1970s to make it a "national establishment," but none was adopted. On the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War II in Japan, on August 15, 1985, Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro and members of his cabinet visited the shrine in an official capacity, an action viewed as a renewed conservative effort, outside the Diet, to invest the shrine with official status.

Despite the veneer of Westernization and Article 20's prohibition of state support of the emperor's religious or ceremonial activities, his postwar role was in some ways more like that of traditional rather than prewar emperors. During the Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-26), and early Showa (1926-89) eras, the emperor himself was not actively involved in politics. His political authority, however, was immense, and military and bureaucratic elites acted in his name. The "symbolic" role of the emperor after 1945, however, recalled feudal Japan, where political power was monopolized and exercised by the shoguns, and where the imperial court carried on a leisurely, apolitical existence in the ancient capital of Kyoto and served as patrons of culture and the arts.

Emperor Akihito, in an effort to put a modern face on the Japanese monarchy, held a press conference on August 7, 1989, his first since ascending to the throne. He expressed his determination to respect the constitution and promote international understanding.


Japan - The Article 9 "No War" Clause


Another distinctive feature of the constitution, and one that has generated as much controversy as the status of the emperor, is the Article 9 "No War" clause. It contains two paragraphs: the first states that the Japanese people "forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes"; the second states that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential will never be maintained." Some historians attribute the inclusion of Article 9 to Charles Kades, one of MacArthur's closest associates, who was impressed by the spirit of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war. MacArthur himself claimed that the idea had been suggested to him by Prime Minister Shidehara. The article's acceptance by the Japanese government may in part be explained by the desire to protect the imperial throne. Some Allied leaders saw the emperor as the primary factor in Japan's warlike behavior. His assent to the "No War" clause weakened their arguments in favor of abolishing the throne or trying the emperor as a war criminal.

Article 9 has had broad implications for foreign policy, the institution of judicial review as exercised by the Supreme Court, the status of the Self-Defense Forces, and the nature and tactics of opposition politics. During the late 1980s, increases in government appropriations for the Self-Defense Forces averaged more than 5 percent per year. By 1990 Japan was ranked third, behind the then-Soviet Union and the United States, in total defense expenditures, and the United States urged Japan to assume a larger share of the burden of defense of the western Pacific. Given these circumstances, some have viewed Article 9 as increasingly irrelevant. It has remained, however, an important brake on the growth of Japan's military capabilities. Despite the fading of bitter wartime memories, the general public, according to opinion polls, continued to show strong support for this constitutional provision.


Japan - Rights and Duties of Citizens


"The rights and duties of the people" are prominently featured in the postwar constitution. Altogether, thirty-one of its 103 articles are devoted to describing them in considerable detail, reflecting the commitment to "respect for the fundamental human rights" of the Potsdam Declaration. Although the Meiji Constitution had a section devoted to the "rights and duties of subjects," which guaranteed "liberty of speech, writing, publication, public meetings, and associations," these rights were granted "within the limits of law." Freedom of religious belief was allowed "insofar as it does not interfere with the duties of subjects" (all Japanese were required to acknowledge the emperor's divinity, and those, such as Christians, who refused to do so out of religious conviction were accused of lèse-majesté).

Such freedoms are delineated in the postwar constitution without qualification. In addition, the later constitution guarantees freedom of thought and conscience; academic freedom; the prohibition of discrimination based on race, creed, social status, or family origin; and a number of what could be called welfare rights: the right to "minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living"; the right to "equal education"; the "right and obligation to work" according to fixed standards of labor and wages; and the right of workers to organize. Equality of the sexes and the right of marriage based on mutual consent (in contrast to arranged marriage in the most traditional sense, in which families decide on the match) are also recognized. Limitations are placed on personal freedoms only insofar as they are not abused (Article 12) or interfere with public welfare (Article 13). The bestowal of the power of judicial review on the Supreme Court (Article 81) is in part meant to serve as a means of defending individual rights from infringement by public authorities.

Some United States origins of the constitution are revealed in the phraseology of Article 13, which states that the right of the people to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" shall be the "supreme consideration in legislation and other governmental affairs." It was with some awkwardness that such concepts were translated into Japanese. Yet the document goes further in enumerating rights than do the United States and many other Western constitutions. For example, the article pertaining to equality of the sexes (Article 14) bans sexual (as well as racial, religious, and social) discrimination "in political, economic, or social relations" as clearly as the proposed United States equal rights amendment, which failed to be ratified during the 1970s and 1980s. Unlike their Japanese counterparts, United States schoolteachers and university professors are not protected by a special provision on academic freedom (Article 23). Instead, American teaching and research activities are subsumed under the more general guarantee of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.




The Legislature

Article 41 of the constitution describes the National Diet, or national legislature, as "the highest organ of state power" and "the sole law-making organ of the State". This statement is in forceful contrast to the Meiji Constitution, which described the emperor as the one who exercised legislative power with the consent of the Diet. The Diet's responsibilities include not only the making of laws but also the approval of the annual national budget that the government submits and the ratification of treaties. It can also initiate draft constitutional amendments, which, if approved, must be presented to the people in a referendum. The Diet may conduct "investigations in relation to government" (Article 62). The prime minister must be designated by Diet resolution, establishing the principle of legislative supremacy over executive government agencies (Article 67). The government can also be dissolved by the Diet if it passes a motion of no confidence introduced by fifty members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber. Government officials, including the prime minister and cabinet members, are required to appear before Diet investigative committees and answer inquiries. The Diet also has the power to impeach judges convicted of criminal or irregular conduct.

Japan's legislature is bicameral. Both the upper house, the House of Councillors, and the lower house, the House of Representatives, are elective bodies. The constitution's Article 14 declares that "peers and peerages shall not be recognized." Upon the enactment of the 1947 constitution, the old House of Peers was abolished. Members of the two new houses are elected by universal adult suffrage, and secrecy of the ballot is guaranteed (Article 15). The term of the House of Representatives is four years. It may be dissolved earlier, however, if the prime minister or members of the House of Representatives decide to hold a general election before the expiration of that term (Article 7). Multiple representatives are elected from 130 constituencies based theoretically on population. In 1993 the House of Representatives had 511 members.

Members of the House of Councillors have six-year terms. One half of these terms expire every three years. There are two types of constituencies in the upper house: prefectural constituencies, for the forty-seven prefectures and districts, represented by thirteen councillors, apportioned according to the district populations; and a national "proportional representation" constituency, represented by 127 councillors, which yields a total of 140 in 1992. The proportional representation system, introduced in 1982, was the first major electoral reform under the postwar constitution. Instead of choosing national constituency candidates as individuals, as had previously been the case, voters cast ballots for parties. Individual councillors, listed officially by the parties before the election, are selected on the basis of the parties' proportions of the total national constituency vote. The system was introduced to reduce the excessive money spent by candidates for the national constituencies. Critics charged, however, that this new system benefited the two largest parties, the LDP and the Japan Socialist Party (Nihon Shakaito; after 1991 known as the Social Democratic Party of Japan), which in fact had sponsored the reform.

The House of Representatives has the greater power of the two contemporary houses, in contrast to the prewar system in which the two houses had equal status. According to Article 59, a bill that is approved by the House of Representatives but turned down by the House of Councillors returns to the House of Representatives. If the latter passes the bill with a two-thirds or higher majority on this second ballot, the bill becomes law. However, three important exceptions to the principle exist; covering the approval of the budget, adoption of treaties with foreign countries, and the selection of the prime minister. In all three cases, if the upper and lower houses have a disagreement that is not resolved by a joint committee of the two houses, then after a lapse of thirty days "the decision of the House of Representatives shall be the decision of the Diet" (Articles 60, 61, and 67). Budgeting is an important annual political function, setting both taxes and the allowable expenditures of all segments of the central government, and the impotence of the upper house has been demonstrated on a number of occasions. Nevertheless, the House of Councillors, with its fixed terms, cannot be dissolved by the prime minister. In times of emergency, the cabinet may convene the House of Councillors rather than the House of Representatives (Article 54).

In the July 23, 1989, election for half the members of the House of Councillors, the LDP lost its majority. It won only thirty-six of the seats contested in the prefectural and national constituencies, while the opposition parties together won ninety, the largest opposition party, the Japan Socialist Party, won fortysix. This result gave an admittedly unstable coalition of opposition groups the opportunity to use the limited powers of the upper house to delay or frustrate initiatives taken in the LDP-dominated lower house. On August 9, 1989, for the first time in forty-one years, the two houses nominated two different candidates for prime minister--Kaifu Toshiki of the LDP and Doi Takako of the Japan Socialist Party. Although Kaifu was finally chosen because of the principle of lower house supremacy, the events showed how opposition control of the upper house could complicate the political process. In March 1990, the upper house rejected a supplementary budget bill for fiscal year (FY) 1989 that had been proposed by the lower house. Although the bill was eventually approved despite rejection by the upper house, the wrangling caused some minor inconvenience to the country's more than 1 million national civil servants whose monthly salary payments were delayed. The more serious upheaval, which might have occurred had there been a real deadlock or a potential shift in fiscal policies brought about by the opposition parties, was avoided.

The LDP won 223 seats in the July 1993 House of Representatives election, thirty-three seats short of the simple majority required to control the 511-member lower house. With postelection adjustments and realignments, the Japan New Party head, Hosokawa Morihiro, was able to gain the support of the Shinseito, the Sakigake, the Komeito, the Social Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Socialist Party, and United Social Democratic Party to form a minority government. This coalition of small conservative parties that had broken off from the LDP and socialist-based opposition parties differed on many issues but shared the common objective of passing political reform legislation. In early 1994, it remained to be seen how long and how effectively Prime Minister Hosokawa would be able to hold the coalition together.

<>The Cabinet and Ministries
<>Local Government
<>The Electoral System
<>The Judicial System


Japan - The Cabinet and Ministries


In the postwar political system, executive power has been vested in the cabinet. The cabinet head is the prime minister, responsible for appointing and dismissing other cabinet members. Cabinet ministers include those appointed to head the twelve ministries, and the ministers of state placed in charge of the agencies and commissions of the Office of the Prime Minister, which itself has the status of a ministry. They include the director general of the Defense Agency, equivalent to a minister of defense but lacking ministerial status (a reflection of the Article 9 renunciation of war). Also among the ministers of state are the chief cabinet secretary, who coordinates the activities of the ministries and agencies, conducts policy research, and prepares materials to be discussed at cabinet meetings, and the director of the Cabinet Legislative Bureau, who advises cabinet members on drafting the legislation to be proposed to the Diet. Although the chief cabinet secretary does not have ministerial rank, the position is influential within the cabinet because of its coordination role.

The Board of Audit reviews government expenditures and submits an annual report to the Diet. The 1947 Board of Audit Law gives this body substantial independence from both cabinet and Diet control. The Security Council advises the prime minister on salaries and other matters pertaining to national government civil servants. Semiautonomous public corporations--including public housing corporations, financial institutions, and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK, the sole, noncommercial public radio and television broadcasting system)--had been reduced in number by the privatization of Japan Airlines, the Japanese National Railways, the Japan Tobacco and Salt Public Corporation, and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation during the 1980s. In May 1992, there were ninety-two semiautonomous corporations and seven privatized corporations.

National government civil servants are divided into "special" and "regular" categories. Appointments in the special category are governed by political or other factors and do not involve competitive examinations. This category includes cabinet ministers, heads of independent agencies, members of the Self-Defense Forces, Diet officials, and ambassadors. The core of the civil service is composed of members of the regular category, who are recruited through competitive examinations. This group is further divided into junior service and upper professional levels, the latter forming a well-defined civil service elite.


Japan - Local Government


Japan is divided into forty-seven administrative divisions: one metropolitan district (to--Tokyo), two urban prefectures (fu--Kyoto and Osaka), forty-three rural prefectures (ken), and one district (d --Hokkaido). Large cities are subdivided into wards (ku), and further split into towns, or precincts (machi or cho), or subdistricts (shicho) and counties (gun).

Each of the forty-seven local jurisdictions has a governor and a unicameral assembly, both elected by popular vote every four years. All are required by national law 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.

Cities (shi) are self-governing units administered independently of the larger jurisdictions within which they are located. In order to attain shi status, a jurisdiction must have at least 30,000 inhabitants, 60 percent of whom are engaged in urban occupations. City government is headed by a mayor elected for four years by popular vote. There are also popularly elected city assemblies. The wards (ku) of larger cities also elect their own assemblies, which select ward superintendents.

The terms machi and cho designate self-governing towns outside the cities as well as precincts of urban wards. Like the cities, each has its own elected mayor and assembly. Villages (son or mura) are the smallest self-governing entities in rural areas. They often consist of a number of rural hamlets (buraku) containing several thousand people connected to one another through the formally imposed framework of village administration. Villages have mayors and councils elected to four-years terms.

Japan has a unitary rather than a federal system of government, in which local jurisdictions largely depend on national government both administratively and financially. Although much less powerful than its prewar counterpart (the Home Ministry), the postwar Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as other national ministries, has the authority to intervene significantly in regional and local government. The result of this power is a high level of organizational and policy standardization among the different local governments. Because local tax revenues are insufficient to support prefectural and city governments, these bodies depend on the central government for subsidies. The term "30 percent autonomy" is frequently used to describe local government because that amount of revenues is derived from local taxation. Yet local governments are not entirely passive. People have a strong sense of local community, are highly suspicious of the central government, and wish to preserve the uniqueness of their prefecture, city, or town. Some of the more progressive jurisdictions, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, have experimented with policies in such areas as social welfare that later were adopted by the national government.


Japan - The Electoral System


The Japanese political system has three types of elections: general elections to the House of Representatives held every four years (unless the lower house is dissolved earlier), elections to the House of Councillors held every three years to choose one-half of its members, and local elections held every four years for offices in prefectures, cities, and villages. Elections are supervised by election committees at each administrative level under the general direction of the Central Election Administration Committee. The minimum voting age for persons of both sexes is twenty years; voters must satisfy a three-month residency requirement before being allowed to cast a ballot. For those seeking office, there are two sets of age requirements: twenty-five years of age for admission to the House of Representatives and most local offices, and thirty years of age for admission to the House of Councillors and the prefectural governorship.

In the general election of February 18, 1990, the thirty-ninth held since the first parliamentary election in July 1890, the 130 multiple-seat election districts of the House of Representatives returned two to five representatives, depending on their population. There were two exceptions: the district encompassing the Amami Islands, south of Kyushu, elected only one representative to the lower house, while the first district of Hokkaido elected six. Successful candidates were those who won at least the fifth largest aggregation of votes in a five-person district, the fourth largest in a four-person district, and so on. Voters cast their ballots for only one candidate. Competition for lower house seats in the February 1990 general election varied from district to district. Tokyo's fourth district had seventeen candidates running for five seats, while the second district in Ibaraki Prefecture had only four persons running for three seats. In Okinawa Prefecture's single five-seat district, there were only six candidates.

In House of Councillors elections, the prefectural constituencies elect from two to eight councillors, depending on their population. Each voter casts one ballot for a prefectural candidate and a second one for a party in the national constituency system.

Percentages of eligible voters casting ballots in postwar elections for the House of Representatives had varied within a rather narrow range, from 76.9 percent in May 1958 to 67.9 percent in December 1983, but the 67.3 percent turnout in the July 1993 lower house election set a new low. The figure for the February 18, 1990, general election was 72.4 percent. Although interest in politics is greater in urban areas than in rural areas, voter turnout in the latter is generally higher, probably because constituents have a greater personal stake in such elections.

Elections and Political Funding

Partly as a result of revelations following the Recruit scandal of 1988-89, the problem of political funding was intensely debated during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The scandal arose as a result of the dealings of Ezoe Hiromasa, the ambitious chairman of the board of the Recruit Corporation (a professional search service that had diversified into finance and real estate and had become involved in politics), who sold large blocks of untraded shares in a subsidiary, Recruit Cosmos, to seventy-six individuals. When the stock was traded over the counter in 1986, its price jumped, earning individual investors as much as ¥100 million in after-sales profits. The persons involved included the most influential leaders of the LDP (usually through their aides or spouses) and a smaller number of opposition party figures. Although such insider trading was not strictly illegal, it caused public outrage at a time when the ruling party was considering a highly controversial consumption tax. Before the scandal ran its course, Takeshita Noboru was obliged to resign as prime minister in April 1989, a senior aide committed suicide in expiation for his leader's humiliation, and former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro resigned from the LDP--becoming an "independent" Diet member--to spare the much-tainted party further shame.

Regarding the background issue of political funding, a group of parliamentarians belonging to the ruling LDP estimated in 1987 that annual expenses for ten newly elected members of the Diet averaged ¥120 million each, or about US$800,000. This figure, which included expenses for staff and constituent services in a member's home district, was less than the average for Diet members as a whole, because long-term incumbents tended to incur higher expenses. Yet in the late 1980s, the government provided each Diet member with only ¥20 million for annual operating expenses, leaving ¥100 million to be obtained through private contributions, political party faction bosses, or other means. The lack of public funding meant that politicians--especially, but not exclusively, members of the LDP-- needed constant infusions of cash to stay in office.

Maintaining staff and offices in Tokyo and the home district constituted the biggest expense for Diet members. Near-obligatory attendance at the weddings and funerals of constituents and their families, however, was another large financial drain: the Japanese custom requires that attendees contribute cash, handed over discreetly in elaborately decorated envelopes, to the parents of the bride and groom or to the bereaved.

After revelations of corrupt activities forced the resignation of Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei, postwar Japan's most skillful practitioner of "money politics," in 1974, the 1948 Political Funds Control Law was amended to establish ceilings for contributions from corporations, other organizations, and individuals. This change forced Diet members to seek a larger number of smaller contributions to maintain cash flow. Fund- raising parties to which tickets were sold were a major revenue source during the 1980s, and the abuse of these ticket sales became a public concern. Another related problem was the secrecy surrounding political funds and their use. Although many politicians, including members of newly appointed cabinets, voluntarily disclosed their personal finances, such disclosure is not compulsory and many sources of revenue remain obscure.

Proposals for system reform in the early 1990s included compulsory full disclosure of campaign funding, more generous public allowances for Diet members to reduce (or, ideally, to eliminate) their reliance on under-the-table contributions, and stricter penalties for violators, including lengthy periods of being barred from running for public office. Some commentators advocated replacement of the lower house's multiple-seat election district system with single-seat constituencies like those found in Britain and the United States. It was argued that the multiple-seat districts made election campaigning more expensive because party members from the same district had to compete among themselves for the votes of the same constituents. It was hoped that the smaller size of single-seat districts would also reduce the expense of staff, offices, and constituent services. Critics argued, however, that the creation of single-seat constituencies would virtually eliminate the smaller opposition parties and would either create a United States-style two-party system or give the LDP an even greater majority in the lower house than it enjoyed under the multiple-seat system.

In contrast with multimillion-dollar United States political campaigns, direct expenses for the comparatively short campaigns before Japanese general, upper house, and local elections were relatively modest. The use of posters and pamphlets was strictly regulated, and candidates appeared on the noncommercial public television station, NHK, to give short campaign speeches. Most of this activity was publicly funded. Campaign sound-trucks wove their way through urban and rural streets, often bombarding residents with earsplitting harangues from candidates or their supporters. No politician, however, could expect to remain in office without considering expenses for constituent services the most important component of campaign expenses.

In the summer of 1993, the LDP government of Miyazawa Kiichi was brought down largely as a result of its failure to pass effective political reform legislation. The minority government of Hosokawa Morihiro that succeeded it proposed legislation to ban direct contributions by companies or unions to parliamentary candidates and to divide the Diet equally between 250 single-seat constituencies and 250 seats distributed by proportional representation.

Electoral Districts

The apportionment of electoral districts still reflects the distribution of the population in the years following World War II, when only one-third of the people lived in urban areas and twothirds lived in rural areas. In the next forty-five years, the population became more than three-quarters urban, as people deserted rural communities to seek economic opportunities in Tokyo and other large cities. The lack of reapportionment led to a serious underrepresentation of urban voters. Urban districts in the House of Representatives were increased by five in 1964, bringing nineteen new representatives to the lower house; in 1975 six more urban districts were established, with a total of twenty new representatives allocated to them and to other urban districts. Yet great inequities remained between urban and rural voters.

In the early 1980s, as many as five times the votes were needed to elect a representative from an urban district compared with those needed for a rural district. Similar disparities existed in the prefectural constituencies of the House of Councillors. The Supreme Court had ruled on several occasions that the imbalance violated the constitutional principle of one person-one vote. The Supreme Court mandated the addition of eight representatives to urban districts and the removal of seven from rural districts in 1986. Several lower house districts' boundaries were redrawn. Yet the disparity is still as much as three urban votes to one rural vote.

After the 1986 change, the average number of persons per lower house representative was 236,424. However, the figure varied from 427,761 persons per representative in the fourth district of Kanagawa Prefecture, which contains the large city of <"http://worldfacts.us/Japan-Yokohama.htm">Yokohama, to 142,932 persons in the third district of largely rural and mountainous Nagano Prefecture. A major reapportionment seemed unlikely in the near future because rural voters remained a major source of support for the LDP.


Japan - The Judicial System


In contrast to the prewar system, in which executive bodies had much control over the courts, the postwar constitution guarantees that "all judges shall be independent in the exercise of their conscience and shall be bound only by this constitution and the Laws" (Article 76). They cannot be removed from the bench "unless judicially declared mentally or physically incompetent to perform official duties," and they cannot be disciplined by executive agencies (Article 78). A Supreme Court justice, however, may be removed by a majority of voters in a referendum that occurs at the first general election following the justice's appointment and every ten years thereafter. As of the early 1990s, however, the electorate had not used this unusual system to dismiss a justice.

The Supreme Court, the highest court, is the final court of appeal in civil and criminal cases. The constitution's Article 81 designates it "the court of last resort with power to determine the constitutionality of any law, order, regulation, or official act." The Supreme Court is also responsible for nominating judges to lower courts, determining judicial procedures, overseeing the judicial system, including the activities of public prosecutors, and disciplining judges and other judicial personnel. It renders decisions from either a grand bench of fifteen justices or a petit bench of five. The grand bench is required for cases involving constitutionality. The court includes twenty research clerks, whose function is similar to that of the clerks of the United States Supreme Court.

The judicial system is unitary: there is no independent system of prefectural level courts equivalent to the state courts of the United States. Below the Supreme Court, the Japanese system included eight high courts, fifty district courts, and fifty family courts in the late 1980s. Four of each of the last two types of courts were located in Hokkaido, and one of each in the remaining forty-six rural prefectures, urban prefectures, and the Tokyo Metropolitan District. Summary courts, located in 575 cities and towns in the late 1980s, performed the functions of small courts and justices of the peace in the United States, having jurisdiction over minor offenses and civil cases.

Judicial Review

The Supreme Court is generally reluctant to exercise the powers of judicial review given to it by the constitution, in large part because of unwillingness to become involved in politically sensitive issues. When decisions have been rendered on such matters as the constitutionality of the Self-Defense Forces, the sponsorship of Shinto ceremonies by public authorities, or the authority of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture to determine the content of school textbooks or teaching curricula, the court generally took a conservative, progovernment stance.

In the words of political scientist T.J. Pempel, the Supreme Court "has been an important, if frequently unrecognized, vehicle for preserving the status quo in Japan and for reducing the capacity of the courts to reverse executive actions." Important exceptions to this conservative trend, however, were the rulings on the unconstitutionality of the electoral district apportionment system, discussed earlier.

The Role of Law in Japanese Society

As in other industrialized countries, law plays a central role in Japanese political, social, and economic life. Fundamental differences between Japanese and Western legal concepts, however, have often led Westerners to believe that Japanese society is based more on quasi-feudalistic principles of paternalism (the oyabun-kobun relationship) and social harmony, or wa. Japan has a relatively small number of lawyers, about 13,000 practicing in the mid-1980s, compared with 667,000 in the United States, a country with only twice Japan's population. This fact has been offered as evidence that the Japanese are strongly averse to upsetting human relationships by taking grievances to court. In cases of liability, such as the crash of a Japan Airlines jetliner in August 1985, which claimed 520 lives, Japanese victims or their survivors were more willing than their Western counterparts would be to accept the ritualistic condolences of company presidents (including officials' resignations over the incident) and nonjudicially determined compensation, which in many cases was less than they might have received through the courts.

Factors other than a cultural preference for social harmony, however, explain the court-shy behavior of the Japanese. The Ministry of Justice closely screens university law faculty graduates and others who wish to practice law or serve as judges. Only about 2 percent of the approximately 25,000 persons who applied annually to the Ministry's Legal Training and Research Institute two-year required course were admitted in the late 1980s. The institute graduates only a few hundred new lawyers each year. Plagued by shortages of attorneys, judges, clerks, and other personnel, the court system is severely overburdened. Presiding judges often strongly advise plaintiffs to seek out-of-court settlements. The progress of cases through even the lower courts is agonizingly slow, and appeals carried to the Supreme Court can take decades. Faced with such obstacles, most individuals choose not to seek legal remedies. If legal personnel are dramatically increased, which seems unlikely, use of the courts might approach rates found in the United States and other Western countries.

In the English-speaking countries, law has been viewed traditionally as a framework of enforceable rights and duties designed to protect the legitimate interests of private citizens. The judiciary is viewed as occupying a neutral stance in disputes between individual citizens and the state. Legal recourse is regarded as a fundamental civil right. The reformers of the Meiji era (1868-1912), however, were strongly influenced by legal theories that had evolved in Germany and other continental European states. The Meiji reformers viewed the law primarily as an instrument through which the state controls a restive population and directs energies to achieving the goals of fukoku kyohei (wealth and arms).

The primary embodiment of the spirit of the law in modern Japan has not been the attorney representing private interests but the bureaucrat who exercises control through what sociologist Max Weber has called "legal-rational" methods of administration. Competence in law, acquired through university training, consists of implementing, interpreting, and, at the highest levels, formulating law within a bureaucratic framework. Many functions performed by lawyers in the United States and other Western countries are the responsibility of civil servants in Japan. The majority of the country's ruling elite, both political and economic, has been recruited from among the graduates of the Law Faculty of the University of Tokyo and other prestigious institutions, people who have rarely served as private attorneys.

Legal and bureaucratic controls on many aspects of Japanese society were extremely tight. The Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture, for example, closely supervised both public and private universities. Changes in undergraduate or graduate curricula, the appointment of senior faculty, and similar actions required ministry approval in conformity with very detailed regulations. Although this "control-oriented" use of law did not inhibit the freedom of teaching or research (protected by Article 23 of the constitution), it severely limited the universities' scope for reform and innovation. Controls were even tighter on primary and secondary schools.

Human Rights

Compared with most of its Asian neighbors and countries in most other parts of the world, Japan's record on human rights is commendable, if not exemplary. With some important exceptions, most observers consider informal social pressures a greater factor in limiting individual freedom than the coercive actions of the authorities. The ancient Japanese adage that "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down" captures the sense that Japanese people are pressured more to conform than are people in the more "individualistic" societies of the West. Some Japanese lower- and upper-secondary schools, for example, have adopted extremely strict dress codes, determining not only apparel but also the length of hair to the exact centimeter. Although defended by conservative educators as a way of cultivating discipline and self-control, these codes have been widely criticized as violations of students' rights. In another example, shopkeepers and local community groups throughout Japan canceled sales promotions and festivals in the wake of Emperor Hirohito's illness in late 1988, for fear of being labeled unpatriotic. This self-restraint cost them billions of yen.

Although freedom of expression was, for the most part, respected, certain matters--particularly those relating to the emperor--were widely considered taboo subjects for public figures. Nagasaki's mayor, Motoshima Hitoshi, a member of the LDP, said in December 1988 that Hirohito bore some responsibility for World War II. Motoshima was later ostracized by influential, mainstream politicians, his life was threatened on several occasions, and in January 1990 he was seriously wounded outside his office by a right-wing extremist. Despite the comments about his father, Emperor Akihito visited Motoshima after the attempt on his life.

Although Article 14 guarantees sexual equality, women faced systematic discrimination in the workplace. They were generally expected to quit work after getting married or having children. However, the number of lifelong career women grew steadily during the 1980s and early 1990s. The Diet's passage of the Law for Equal Opportunity in Employment for Men and Women in 1985 was of some help in securing women's rights, even though the law was a "guideline" and entailed no legal penalties for employers who discriminated. The law has, however, been used by women in several court cases seeking equal treatment in such areas as retirement age.

Human rights have also become an issue because of the police practice of obtaining confessions from criminal suspects. Although torture is rarely reported, suspects are placed under tremendous psychological and physical pressures to confess. In several cases, the courts have acknowledged that confessions were forced and ordered prisoners released.

The greatest controversy concerning human rights, however, focuses on the social and legal treatment of minorities. Although the Japanese consider themselves to be a homogeneous people, minorities do exist, and they often have suffer severe discrimination. The largest group are the 2 million to 4 million hisabetsu buraku ("discriminated communities") descendants of the outcast communities of feudal Japan. Other minorities, including the Ainu, indigenous inhabitants of northern Japan; the people of Okinawa; and ethnic Koreans, have suffered discrimination as well.




Japanese politics are generally described as pragmatic, limited by particularistic loyalties, and based on human relations rather than on ideology or principles. The quintessential Japanese leader is a network builder rather than the embodiment of charisma or ideals; more like the crafty and resourceful founder of the Tokugawa bakufu, Tokugawa Ieyasu, than the ruthless but heroic Oda Nobunaga. Such political dynamics are evident, for example, in the workings of the LDP, which has remained the strongest party since 1955 despite their loss of majority control in the early 1990s.

Yet the pragmatic, personalistic view of politics cannot explain Japan's militaristic past, the political crises of the 1960s, the controversies surrounding the emperor, Article 9, or the unwillingness of many in the Socialist Democratic Party of Japan, despite a huge political cost, to abandon their antiwar and revolutionary commitment in the early 1990s. It also fails to account for the apparently sincerely held ideological beliefs of the wartime period. The "New Order in Greater East Asia" was legitimized on the basis of universal principles, such as "panAsianism ," "international justice," and "permanent peace," even if the results were quite the opposite. The nonideological nature of mainstream Japanese politics in the postwar period reflects defeat in war, the failure after 1945 to find a national ideological consensus to replace discredited wartime beliefs, and the commitment of both elite and ordinary Japanese to expanding the economy and raising living standards. As these goals were attained, a complacent, largely apolitical "middle mass society" (a term coined by economist Murakami Yasusuke) emerged, in which 90 percent of the people in opinion polls consistently classified themselves as "middle class."

Community and Leadership

Certain distinctive features of Japanese politics can be identified, although this is not to say that they are unique to Japan. Rather, qualities also found in other political systems, such as the importance of personal connections and consensus building, played an extraordinarily important role in Japanese politics. These features have deep historical roots and reflect values that pervade the society as a whole.

In both the feudal and the modern eras, a major problem for Japanese political leaders has been reconciling the goals of community survival and the welfare and self-respect of individuals in an environment of extreme scarcity. In recent centuries, Japan lacked the natural resources and space to accommodate its population comfortably. With the exception of Hokkaido and colonial territories in Asia between 1895 and 1945, there was no "frontier" to absorb excess people. One solution was to ignore the welfare of large sectors of the population (poor peasants and workers) and to use force when they expressed their discontent. Such coercive measures, common during both the Tokugawa and the World War II periods, largely, although not entirely, disappeared in the postwar "welfare state" (for example, farmers were evicted from their land to construct the New Tokyo International Airport at NaritaSanrizuka in the 1970s after long negotiations had failed). But noncoercive, or mostly noncoercive, methods of securing popular compliance had developed to an extraordinary degree in social and political life.

The most important such method is the promotion of a strong sense of community consciousness and group solidarity. Japanese individuals are often characterized as having a strong sense of self-sacrifice and community dedication. Historians and sociologists note that both traditional and modern Japanese communities--the buraku, the feudal domain with its retinue of samurai, the large commercial houses found in Edo (the future Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto before 1868, and modern corporations and bureaucracies with their cohorts of lifetime employees--have striven to be all-inclusive. Such groups serve a variety of functions for the individual, providing not only income and sustenance but also emotional support and individual identity. Japanese called such community inclusiveness the "octopus-pot way of life" (takotsubo seikatsu). Large pots with narrow openings at the top are used by fishermen to capture octopuses, and the term is used to refer to people so wrapped up in their particular social group that they cannot see the world outside its confines.

The "group consciousness" model of Japanese social life, however, has been overstressed at times. A person may often go along with group demands because they serve self-interest in the long run (for example, political contributions may help secure future favors from those in office). Historically, democratic concepts of individual rights and limited government have been deeply appealing because they, too, promise protection of individual autonomy. Despite very different ethical and political traditions, the Japanese people were very receptive to imported liberal ideas both before and after 1945. John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty, for example, was extremely popular during the Meiji era.

Because individual, usually passive, resistance to group demands occurrs, Japanese leaders have found the creation of a strong community sense to be a difficult and time-consuming task. Harmony (wa), that most prized social value, is not easily attained. One mechanism for achieving wa is the use of rituals to develop a psychological sense of group identity. Political parties and factions, the offices of national and local governments, businesses, university departments, research groups, alumni associations, and other groups sponsor frequent ceremonies and more informal parties for this purpose. A group's history and identity are carefully constructed through the use of songs and symbols (often resembling, in miniature, the Meiji government's creation of symbols of kokutai in the late nineteenth century). Often, an organization's founder, especially if deceased, is regarded as something of a Confucian sage or a Shinto kami (deity). Group members, however, may find that pervasive ritualism allows them to "go through the motions" (such as the chanting of banzai! (ten thousand years!) at the end of political rallies, without having to make a deeper commitment to the group.

A second mechanism to promote community solidarity is the building of hierarchical relationships. In this practice, the influence of premodern ethics is readily apparent. In what anthropologist Nakane Chie calls Japan's "vertical society," human relationships are defined in terms of inequality, and people relate to each other as superiors and inferiors along a minutely differentiated gradient of social status, not only within bureaucratic organizations, where it might be expected, but also in academic, artistic, and, especially, political worlds.

Hierarchy expresses itself along two dimensions: first, an internal community differentiation of rank by seniority, education, and occupational status; and second, the distinction between "insiders" and "outsiders," between members and nonmembers of the community, along with the ranking of whole groups or communities along a vertical continuum. Although internal hierarchy can cause alienation as inferiors chafe under the authority of their superiors, the external kind of hierarchy tends to strengthen group cohesion as individual members work to improve their group's relative ranking. The Japanese nation as a whole has been viewed as a single group by its people in relation to other nations. Intense nationalism has frequently been a manifestation of group members' desire to "catch up and overtake" the advanced ("superior") nations of the West, while the rights of non-Western nations, like China or Korea, often viewed as "inferior," have been ignored.

Like group consciousness, however, the theme of hierarchy has been overstressed. Contemporary Japanese politics show a strong consciousness of equality, and even traditional communities, such as rural villages, were often egalitarian rather than hierarchical. Citizens' movements of the 1960s and 1970s differed from older political organizations in their commitment to promoting intragroup democracy. In addressing the nation, Emperor Akihito used colloquial Japanese terms that stressed equality, rather than the formal, hierarchy-laden language of his predecessors.

Two mechanisms for lessening the hierarchy-generated tensions are the seniority principle and early retirement. As men or women grow older, gaining seniority within an organization, they acquire authority and higher status. The seniority principle is reinforced by the traditional reluctance to place younger persons in positions of authority over older ones. The institution of early retirement (top-ranked businesspeople and bureaucrats commonly retired at age fifty-five or sixty) helps to the keep the promotion of others smooth and predictable. The system also helps to enable talented individuals to succeed to the most responsible positions and prevents a small group of older persons (what the Japanese call "one-man leaders") from monopolizing leadership positions and imposing increasingly outmoded ideas on the organization. Elite retirees, however, often continue to wield influence as advisers and usually pursue second careers in organizations affiliated with the one from which they retired.

The circulation of elites that results from the seniority and early retirement principles ensures that everyone within the upper ranks of the hierarchy has a turn at occupying a high-status position, such as a cabinet post in the national government. This principle, in turn, enables people to reward their followers. There has been, for example, a regular turnover of LDP leaders. No individual has served as party president (and prime minister) longer than Sato Eisaku, the incumbent between 1964 and 1972. The average tenure of party presidents/prime ministers between 1964 and 1987 was slightly more than three years. Frequent cabinet reshuffling meant that the average tenure of other cabinet ministers in the same period was a little less than a year. Japan has not been beset with leaders in their seventies and eighties unwilling to give up their powerful positions.

Another mechanism reducing intragroup tensions is the strong personal, rather than legalistic or ideological, ties between superior and subordinate. These ties are typically characterized in terms of fictive familial relationships, analogous to the bonds between parents and children (the oyabun-kobun relationship). The ideal leader is viewed as a paternalistic one, with a warm and personal concern for the welfare of his followers. For followers, loyalty is both morally prescribed and emotionally sustained by the system. In the political world, oyabun- kobun relationships are pervasive despite the formal commitment to universalistic, democratic values. At the same time, younger people find such relationships less appealing than their elders. The so-called shinjinrui (new human beings), born in the affluent 1960s and 1970s, were often criticized by older Japanese for being self-absorbed, egoistic, and "cool." The younger generation is inclined to view with disdain the emotional expression of paternalistic ties, such as in the 1989 television broadcasts of former Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei's supporters weeping profusely over his political retirement.

Consensus Building

The community is often demanding, but it is also fragile, because social ties are sustained not only through legal norms and common self-interest but also through the affective patron-client relationship. Open conflict poses a danger to the survival of this sort of community, and thus policy making requires elaborate consultation and consensus building, usually involving all the parties concerned. According to political scientist Lewis Austin, "everyone must be consulted informally, everyone must be heard, but not in such a way that the hearing of different opinions develops into opposition. The leader and his assistants `harmonize opinion'... in advance, using go-betweens to avert the confrontation of opposing forces." After a preliminary agreement among all has been reached, a formal meeting is held in which the agreed-upon policy will be proposed and adopted.

This process is called nemawashi (root trimming or binding), evoking the image of a gardener preparing a tree or shrub for transplanting, that is, a change in policy. Austin points out that a common Japanese verb meaning "to decide" (matomeru) literally means to gather or bring together. Decisions are "the sum of the contributions of all." Although consensus building is, for leaders, a time-consuming and emotionally exhausting process, it is necessary not only to promote group goals but also to respect and protect individual autonomy. In fact, the process represents reconciliation of the two. In the political system as a whole, most groups play some role in the nemawashi process. Exceptions are those groups or individuals, such as Koreans or other minority groups, who are viewed as outsiders.

Political leaders have to maintain solidarity and harmony within a single group and also secure the cooperation of different groups who are often in bitter conflict. Takotsubo seikatsu can promote destructive sectionalism. During World War II, rivalry between the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy was so intense that it was nearly impossible to coordinate their strategic operations. In the postwar political system, prime ministers have often been unable to persuade different ministries, all self-sufficient and intensely jealous "kingdoms," to go along with reforms in such areas as trade liberalization. Observers such as journalist Karel G. van Wolferen, have concluded that Japan's political system is empty at the center, lacking real leadership or a locus of responsibility: "Statecraft in Japan is quite different from that in the rest of Asia, Europe, and the Americas. For centuries it has entailed the preservation of a careful balance of semiautonomous groups that share power.... These semiautonomous components, each endowed with great discretionary powers, are not represented in one central ruling body." This view is probably exaggerated. Leadership in other countries, including the United States, has been paralyzed from time to time by powerful interest groups, and some policies in Japan requiring decisive leadership, such as the creation of social welfare and energy conservation policies in the 1970s and the privatization of state enterprises in the 1980s, have been reasonably successful.




The emphasis on consensus in Japanese politics is seen in the role of interest groups in policy making. These groups range from those with economic interests, such as occupational and professional associations, to those with strong ideological commitments, such as the right-wing Society to Protect Japan and the left-wing Japan Teachers Union (Nihon Kyoshokuin Kumiai-- Nikkyoso). There are groups representing minorities (the Burakumin Liberation League, the Central Association of Korean Residents in Japan [Chosoren], and Utari Kyokai in Hokkaido, representing the Ainu community); groups representing war veterans and postwar repatriates from Japan's overseas colonies (the Military Pensions Association and the Association of Repatriates); the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and women opposed to prostitution and the threat to public morals posed by businesses offering "adult" entertainment (the Japan Mothers League). Mayors' and prefectural governors' associations promote regional development. Residents' movements near United States military installations in Okinawa and elsewhere pressure local authorities to support reductions in base areas and to exert more control over United States military personnel off base. The great majority of Japanese are connected, either directly or indirectly, to one or more of these interest groups.

In the postwar period, extremely close ties emerged among major interest groups, political parties, and the bureaucracy. Many groups identified so closely with the ruling LDP that it was often difficult to discern the boundaries between the party and the various groups. Officers of agricultural, business, and professional groups were elected to the Diet as LDP legislators. Groups of LDP parliamentarians formed zoku (tribes), which represented the interests of occupational constituencies, such as farmers, small businesses, and the construction industry. The zoku, interest groups, and bureaucrats worked together closely in formulating policy in such areas as agriculture.

In the case of the Socialist Democratic Party of Japan (until 1991 known as the Japan Socialist Party), the Democratic Socialist Party, the Japan Communist Party (Nihon Kyosanto), and Komeito (Clean Government Party), the links with interest groups were even more intimate. Before the public-sector unions linked up with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) in 1989, most leaders of the Japan Socialist Party and Democratic Socialist Party and many socialist Diet members had been officers of the confederation's predecessors, the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (Nihon Rodo Kumiai Sohyogikai, or Sohyo for short), founded in 1950, and the Japan Confederation of Labor (Zen Nihon Rodo Sodomei, or Domei for short), established in 1964. Despite repeated disavowals, the Komeito remains related to its parent body, the Value Creation Society (Soka Gakkai), an organization of lay followers of the Buddhist sect Nichiren Shoshu, founded before World War II and one of Japan's most successful new religions. The communists had their own unions and small business groups, which competed with conservative small business associations. Japan's relatively few lawyers divided their allegiance among three professional groups separately affiliated with the LDP, the Japan Socialist Party, and the Japan Communist Party.

Both the LDP and the opposition parties, which had weak regional organizations, depended on the interest groups to win elections. The interest groups provided funding, blocks of loyal voters (although these could not be manipulated as easily as in the past), and local organizational networks.

One important question concerning interest groups in any country is how well they represent the diverse concerns of all the citizens. A second is whether government responds evenhandedly to their demands. Japan's postwar record on both counts was generally good. Both major and minor groups in society were well represented. And the government has implemented policies to spread the blessings of economic growth among the population at large. Such arrangements helped to ensure political stability and to explain why, in repeated public opinion polls, 90 percent of respondents viewed themselves as "middle class."

After the war, for example, there were major policy changes on agriculture. Despite prewar nationalistic idealization of the rural village, the government at that time squeezed the farmers for taxes and rice. Political scientist Kent E. Calder observed that "the prewar state took heavily from the countryside, without providing much in return." Historians describe how many farm families starved or were forced to sell their daughters into prostitution. Responding to the threat of vigorous leftist movements in the countryside, conservative governments after 1945 initiated price supports for rice and other measures that brought the farmers not just a decent standard of living but affluence. By the 1970s, it was not uncommon to encounter group tours of farmers who had never visited Tokyo taking holidays in Hawaii or New York City. In Calder's view, conservative governments were stoutly probusiness but were also willing to co-opt other interests such as agriculture at the expense of business to ensure social stability and prevent socialist electoral victories. Sometimes government adopted policies first espoused by the opposition (for example, medical insurance and other social welfare policies).

Business Interests

Links between the corporate world and government were maintained through three national organizations: the Federation of Economic Organizations (Keizai Dantai Rengokai--Keidanren), established in 1946; the Japan Committee for Economic Development (Keizai Doyu Kai), established in 1946; and the Japan Federation of Employers Association (Nihon Keieishadantai Renmei--Nikkeiren), established in 1948. Keidanren is considered the most important. Its membership includes 750 of the largest corporations and 110 manufacturers' associations. Its Tokyo headquarters serves as a kind of "nerve center" for the country's most important enterprises, and it works closely with the powerful Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). There is evidence, however, suggesting that the federation's power is not what it had been, partly because major corporations, which had amassed huge amounts of money by the late 1980s, are increasingly capable of operating without its assistance.

Nikkeiren was concerned largely with labor-management relations and with organizing a united business front to negotiate with labor unions on wage demands during the annual "Spring Struggle." The Keizai Doyu Kai, composed of younger and more liberal business leaders, assigned itself the role of promoting business's social responsibilities. Whereas Keidanren and Nikkeiren were "peak organizations," whose members themselves were associations, members of the Keizai Doyu Kai were individual business leaders.

Because of financial support from corporations, business interest groups were generally more independent of political parties than other groups. Both Keidanren and the Keizai Doyu Kai, for example, indicated a willingness to talk with the socialists in the wake of the political scandals of 1988-89 and also suggested that the LDP might form a coalition government with an opposition party. Yet through an organization called the People's Politics Association (Kokumin Seiji Kyokai), they and other top business groups provided the LDP with its largest source of party funding.

Small Business

Japan's streets are lined with small shops, grocery stores, restaurants, and coffeehouses. Although supermarkets and large discount department stores are more common than in the 1980s, the political muscle of small business associations was reflected in the success with which they blocked the rationalization of the country's distribution system. The Large-Scale Retail Store Law of 1973, amended in 1978, made it very difficult in the late 1980s for either Japanese or foreign retailers to establish large, economically efficient outlets in local communities.

Many light industrial goods, such as toys, footwear, pencils, and kitchen utensils, were still manufactured by small local companies rather than imported from the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Taiwan, or Hong Kong. Traditional handicrafts, such as pottery, silk weaving, and lacquerware, produced using centuriesold methods in small workshops, flourished in every part of the country. Apart from protectionism of the "nontariff barrier" variety, the government ensured the economic viability of small enterprises through lenient tax policies and access to credit on especially favorable terms.

Major associations representing small and medium-sized enterprises included the generally pro-LDP Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nihon Shoko Kaigisho, or Nissho for short), which was established in 1922 but whose origins are traced to the establishment of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1878, the National Central Association of Medium and Small Enterprise Associations, the Japan League of Medium and Small Enterprise Organizations, and the Japan Communist Party-sponsored Democratic Merchants and Manufacturers Association.

Although small enterprises in services and manufacturing preserved cultural traditions and enlivened urban areas, a major motivation for government nurturing of small business was social welfare. In Calder's words, "Much of small business, particularly in the distribution sector, serves as a labor reservoir. Its inefficiencies help absorb surplus workers who would be unemployed if distribution, services, and traditional manufacturing were uniformly as efficient as the highly competitive and modernized export sectors."

Agricultural Cooperatives

Observers have suggested that the great influence of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Nokyo) in policy making partly resulted from a widespread feeling of gratitude to the dwindling agricultural sector, which in the past supported the country's industrial modernization. Nokyo spokespersons were vociferous in their claims that agriculture is somehow intimately connected with the spirit of the nation. They argued that selfsufficiency , or near self-sufficiency, in food production, resulting from government support of the nation's farmers, was central to Japan's security. The public in general was receptive to their arguments: an opinion poll in 1988, for example, revealed that 70 percent of respondents preferred paying a higher price for rice to importing it.

Nokyo, organized in 1947 at the time of the land reform, had local branches in every rural village in the late 1980s. Its constituent local agricultural cooperatives included practically all of the population for which farming was the principal occupation. Since its founding, Nokyo had been preoccupied with maintaining and increasing government price supports on rice and other crops and with holding back the import of cheaper agricultural products from abroad. Self-sufficient in rice, Japan in the early 1990s imported only a tiny quantity. A special variety of Thai rice, for example, is used specifically to make the traditional Okinawan liquor, awamori. Nokyo's determination to preserve "Fortress Japan" in the agricultural realm had brought it into conflict with business groups such as Keidanren, which advocated market liberalization and cheaper food prices.

Although closely allied to the LDP in the past, Nokyo and other agricultural groups were outraged by the government's concessions to the United States on imports of oranges and beef in 1988. Local cooperatives threatened to defect to the Japan Socialist Party if government continued to give in to United States demands. The Japan Socialist Party chairwoman at the time, Doi Takako, made agricultural protectionism a major component of her party's platform.

Labor Organizations

Postwar labor unions were established with the blessings of the occupation authorities. The mechanism for collective bargaining is set up, and unions are organized by enterprise: membership was determined by company affiliation rather than by skill or industry type. In general, membership is also limited to permanent, nonsupervisory personnel. Observers in the late 1980s viewed labor unions' role in the policy-making process as less powerful than that of business and agricultural organizations because the unions' enterprise-based structure made national federations weak and because unions were closely associated with parties that remained out of power.

The Japan Socialist Party largely depended on Sohyo for funding, organizational support, and membership during most of the postwar period. Domei performed similar functions for the Democratic Socialist Party. Sohyo was composed primarily of public sector unions such as those organized for national civil servants, municipal workers, and public school teachers. Domei's constituent unions were principally in the private sector. In the late 1980s, however, the labor movement saw significant change. In November 1987, the National Federation of Private Sector Trade Unions (Rengo), an amalgamation of Domei and smaller groups, was formed with a membership of 5.5 million workers and known as Shin Reng (New Rengo). After two years of intense negotiations, the 2.5 million members of public sector unions largely affiliated with Sohyo joined with Rengo. With 8 million members, Rengo (the Shin was dropped) included 65 percent of Japan's unionized workers and was, after the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the British Trades Union Congress, the world's third largest noncommunist union federation.

Rengo is a moderate, nonideological movement that shuns involvement with Marxist Japan Communist Party-affiliated unions. Two leftist union confederations emerged in the wake of the amalgamation of Sohyo and Rengo: the 1.2 million-member Japan Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), and the 500,000-member National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo). The powerful Nikkyoso, with 675,000 members in the country's public primary and secondary schools, was divided between adherents and opponents of Rengo.

In the early 1990s, the relationship of Rengo to the socialist political parties remained somewhat unclear. It was likely that many old support networks would remain in place. Some noted the new confederation's potential for promoting opposition party unity, because it encompassed supporters of the socialist parties and the small Social Democratic League. However, in the House of Councillors election on July 18, 1989, Rengo withheld its support from the Japan Socialist Party and the party lost sixty-four seats. In their traditional stronghold, Tokyo, the socialists retained only one of the eleven seats contested.

Professional Associations and Citizen and Consumer Movements

Physicians, dentists, lawyers, academics, and other professionals organized associations for the exchange of knowledge, supervision of professional activities, and influence government policy, like those found in other developed countries. The Japan Medical Association has used its influence to preserve a highly profitable system in which physicians, rather than pharmacists, sell prescription drugs.

Citizens and consumer movements, which became prominent during the 1960s and 1970s, were organized around issues relating to the quality of life, the protection of the environment from industrial pollution, and the safety (although not the cost) of consumer goods. In the late 1960s, industrial pollution, symbolized by the suffering of victims of mercury poisoning caused by the pollution of Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture by a chemical company, was viewed as a national crisis. The Sato government responded by establishing the Environmental Agency in the Office of the Prime Minister in 1970, instituting tough penalties for polluters, and extending compensation to the victims of pollution. Environmental issues continue to be the focus of intense local activity. In the early 1990s, communities on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture were divided over whether to construct a new airport to handle wide-bodied aircraft on land reclaimed from the sea. Supporters viewed the project as essential to the island's tourist development, while opponents claimed that construction would destroy offshore colonies of rare blue coral and would ruin the local fishing industry. Another environmental issue in many parts of Japan was the use of powerful chemicals on golf courses, which in some cases harmed nearby residents.

Women's groups are in the forefront of the consumer movement. They include the National Federation of Regional Women's Associations, the Housewives Association, and the National Association of Consumer Cooperatives. Their activities depend on the support of neighborhood women's associations, the women's sections of local agricultural and fishing cooperatives, and government-sponsored consumer education groups. Although boycotts have been organized against companies making products that the groups viewed as dangerous (for example, canned foods containing carcinogenic cyclamates), they do not, for the most part, demand lower prices for food or other goods. In tandem with agricultural interests, consumer groups oppose increased food imports on the grounds that the supply is unpredictable and likely laced with dangerous additives.




Japan is a society awash in information. Newspaper readership is, by a wide margin, the highest in the world. The six largest and most influential national newspapers are Yomiuri Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Seikyo Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, and Nihon Keizai Shimbun. There are also more than 100 local newspapers. The population, 99 percent literate, also consumes record numbers of books and magazines. The latter range from high-quality comprehensive general circulation intellectual periodicals such as Sekai (World), Chuo Koron (Central Review), and Bungei Shunju (Literary Annals) to sarariman manga (salaryman comics), comic books for adults that depict the vicissitudes and fantasies of contemporary office workers, and weeklies specializing in scandals. Japan probably also leads the world in the translation of works by foreign scholars and novelists. Most of the classics of Western political thought, such as The Republic by Plato and Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, for example, are available in Japanese.

News programs and special features on television also give viewers detailed reports on political, economic, and social developments both at home and abroad. The sole, noncommercial public radio and television broadcasting network, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK) provides generally balanced coverage. Unlike their counterparts in the United States, however, Japanese newscasters on NHK and commercial stations usually confine themselves to relating events and did not offer opinions or analysis.

The major magazines and newspapers are vocal critics of government policies and take great pains to map out the personal and financial ties that hold the conservative establishment together. Readers are regularly informed of matrimonial alliances between families of top politicians, civil servants, and business leaders, which in some ways resemble those of the old European aristocracy. The important print media are privately owned.

Observers, however, point out that the independence of the established press has been compromised by the pervasive "press club" system. Politicians and government agencies each have one of these clubs, which contain from 12 to almost 300 reporters from the different newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media. Club members are generally described as being closer to each other than they are to their employers. They also have a close and collaborative working relationship with the political figures or government agencies to which they are attached. There is little opportunity for reporters to establish a genuinely critical, independent stance because reporting distasteful matters might lead to exclusion from the club and thus inability to gain information and to write. Although the media have played a major role in exposing political scandals, some critics have accused the large newspapers, ostensibly oppositionist, of being little more than a conduit of government ideas to the people. Free-lance reporters, working outside the press club system, often made the real breakthroughs in investigative reporting. For example, a free-lance journalist published the first public accounts of Tanaka Kakuei's personal finances in a monthly magazine in 1974, even though the established press had access to this information.




The LDP had dominated the political system beginning in 1955, when it was established as a coalition of smaller conservative groups. Until 1993 all of Japan's prime ministers came from its ranks as did, with one exception, other cabinet ministers. The party's fortunes have risen and ebbed: a low point was reached in the July 23, 1989, election to the upper house, when it became, for the first time, a minority party, and again in the July 18, 1993, lower house election, when it lost its simple majority in that body.

By the early 1990s, the LDP's nearly four decades in power allowed it to establish a highly stable process of policy formation. This process would not have been possible if other parties had secured parliamentary majorities. LDP strength was based on an enduring, although not unchallenged, coalition of big business, small business, agriculture, professional groups, and other interests. Elite bureaucrats collaborated closely with the party and interest groups in drafting and implementing policy. In a sense, the party's success was a result not of its internal strength but of its weakness. It lacked a strong, nationwide organization or consistent ideology with which to attract voters. Its leaders were rarely decisive, charismatic, or popular. But it functioned efficiently as a locus for matching interest group money and votes with bureaucratic power and expertise. This arrangement resulted in corruption, but the party could claim credit for helping to create economic growth and a stable, middle-class Japan.

Party History and Basic Principles

The LDP has a complex genealogy. Its roots can be traced to the groups established by Itagaki Taisuke and Okuma Shigenobu in the 1880s. It attained its present form in November 1955, when the conservative Liberal Party (Jiyuto) and the Japan Democratic Party (Nihon Minshuto) united in response to the threat posed by a unified Japan Socialist Party, which had been established the month before. The union of the Liberal Party and the Japan Democratic Party has often been described as a "shotgun marriage." Both had strong leaders and had previously competed with each other. The Japan Democratic Party, which had been established only a year before, in November 1954, was itself a coalition of different groups in which farmers were prominent. The result of the new amalgamation was a large party that represented a broad spectrum of interests but had minimal organization compared with the socialist and other leftist parties. In 1976, in the wake of the Lockheed bribery scandal, a handful of younger LDP Diet members broke away and established their own party, the New Liberal Club (Shin Jiyu Kurabu). A decade later, however, it was reabsorbed by the LDP.

Unlike the leftist parties, the LDP did not espouse a welldefined ideology or political philosophy. Its members held a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties, yet more moderate than those of Japan's numerous rightist splinter groups. The LDP traditionally identified itself with a number of general goals: rapid, export-based economic growth; close cooperation with the United States in foreign and defense policies; and several newer issues, such as administrative reform. Administrative reform encompassed several themes: simplification and streamlining of government bureaucracy; privatization of stateowned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, needed to prepare for the strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included promoting a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, internationalizing Japan's economy by liberalizing and promoting domestic demand, creating a hightechnology information society, and promoting scientific research. A business-inspired commitment to free enterprise was tempered by the insistence of important small business and agricultural constituencies on some form of protectionism.

Party Structure

At the apex of the LDP's formal organization is the president, who serves a two-year renewable term. While the party maintained a parliamentary majority, the party president was the prime minister. The choice was formally that of a party convention composed of Diet members and local LDP figures, but in most cases, they merely approved the joint decision of the most powerful party leaders. To make the system more democratic, Prime Minister Miki Takeo introduced a "primary" system in 1978, which opened the balloting to some 1.5 million LDP members. The process was so costly and acrimonious, however, that it was subsequently abandoned in favor of the old "smoke-filled room" method.

The LDP was the most "traditionally Japanese" of the political parties because it relied on a complex network of patron-client (oyabun-kobun) relationships on both national and local levels. Nationally, a system of factions in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors tied individual Diet members to powerful party leaders. Locally, Diet members had to maintain koenkai (local support groups) to keep in touch with public opinion and gain votes and financial backing. The importance and pervasiveness of personal ties between Diet members and faction leaders and between citizens and Diet members gave the party a pragmatic "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" character. Its success depended less on generalized mass appeal than on jiban (a strong, well-organized constituency), kaban (a briefcase full of money), and kanban (prestigious appointment, particularly on the cabinet level).


In a sense, the LDP was not a single organization but a conglomeration of competitive factions, which, despite the traditional emphasis on consensus and harmony, engaged in bitter infighting. Over the years, factions numbered from six to thirteen, with as few as four members and as many as 120, counting those in both houses. The system was operative in both houses, although it was more deeply entrenched in the House of Representatives than in the less powerful House of Councillors. Faction leaders usually were veteran LDP politicians. Many, but not all, had served as prime minister.

Faction leaders offered their followers services without which the followers would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to survive politically. Leaders provided funds for the day-to-day operation of Diet members' offices and staff as well as financial support during expensive election campaigns. As discussed earlier, the operating allowances provided by the government were inadequate. The leader also introduced his followers to influential bureaucrats and business people, which made it much easier for the followers to satisfy their constituents' demands.

Historically, the most powerful and aggressive faction leader in the LDP was Tanaka Kakuei, whose dual-house strength in the early 1980s exceeded 110. His followers remained loyal despite the fact that he had been convicted of receiving ¥500 million (nearly US$4 million) in bribes from Lockheed to facilitate the purchase of its passenger aircraft by All Nippon Airways and that he had formally withdrawn from the LDP. Tanaka and his bitterest factional rival, Fukuda Takeo, were a study in contrasts. Tanaka was a roughhewn wheeler-dealer with a primary school education who had made a fortune in the construction industry; Fukuda was an elite product of the University of Tokyo Law Faculty and a career bureaucrat.

In the face of Fukuda's strong opposition, Tanaka engineered the selections of prime ministers Ohira Masayoshi (1978-80) and Suzuki Zenko (1980-82). The accession of Nakasone Yasuhiro to the prime ministership in 1982 would also not have occurred without Tanaka's support. As a result, Nakasone, at that time a politically weak figure, was nicknamed "Tanakasone." But Tanaka's faction was dealt a grave blow when one of his subordinates, Takeshita Noboru, decided to form a breakaway group. Tanaka suffered a stroke in November 1985, but four years passed before he formally retired from politics.

The LDP faction system was closely fitted to the House of Representatives' medium-sized, multiple-member election districts. The party usually ran more than one candidate in each of these constituencies to maintain its lower house majority, and these candidates were from different factions. During an election campaign, the LDP, in a real sense, ran not only against the opposition but also against itself. In fact, intraparty competition within one election district was often more bitter than interparty competition, with two or more LDP candidates vying for the same block of conservative votes. For example, in the House of Representatives election of February 18, 1990, three LDP and three opposition candidates competed for five seats in a southwestern prefecture. Two of the LDP candidates publicly expressed bitterness over the entry of the third, a son of the prefectural governor. Local television showed supporters of one of the LDP candidates cheering loudly when the governor's son was edged out for the fifth seat by a Komeito candidate.

Local Support Groups

Koenkai (local support groups) were perhaps even more important than faction membership to the survival of LDP Diet members. These koenkai served as pipelines through which funds and other support were conveyed to legislators and through which the legislators could distribute favors to constituents in return. To avoid the stringent legal restrictions on political activity outside of designated campaign times, koenkai sponsored year-round cultural, social, and "educational" activities. In the prewar years, having an invincible, or "iron," constituency depended on gaining the support of landlords and other local notables. These people delivered blocks of rural votes to the candidates they favored. In the more pluralistic postwar period, local bosses were much weaker, and building a strong constituency base was much more difficult and costly. Tanaka used his "iron constituency" in rural Niigata Prefecture to build a formidable, nationwide political machine. But other politicians, like It Masayoshi, were so popular in their districts that they could refrain, to some extent, from money politics and promote a "clean" image. Koenkai remained particularly important in the overrepresented rural areas, where paternalistic, old-style politics flourished and where the LDP, despite disaffection during the late 1980s over agricultural liberalization policies, had its strongest support.

In the classic oyabun-kobun manner, local people who were consistently loyal to a figure like Tanaka became favored recipients of government largesse. In the 1980s, his own third electoral district in Niigata was the nation's top beneficiary in per capita public works spending. Benefits included stops on the Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo and the cutting of a tunnel through a mountain to serve a hamlet of sixty people. Another fortunate area was Takeshita Noboru's district in Shimane Prefecture on the Sea of Japan.

The importance of local loyalties was also reflected in the widespread practice of a second generation's "inheriting" Diet seats from fathers or fathers-in-law. This trend was found predominantly, although not exclusively, in the LDP. In the February 1990 election, for example, forty-three second-generation candidates ran: twenty-two, including twelve LDP candidates, were successful. They included the sons of former prime ministers Suzuki Zenko and Fukuda Takeo, although a son-in-law of Tanaka Kakuei lost in a district different from his father-in-law's.

The Liberal Democratic Party in National Elections

Election statistics show that, while the LDP had been able to secure a majority in the twelve House of Representatives elections from May 1958 to February 1990, with only three exceptions (December 1976, October 1979, and December 1983), its share of the popular vote had declined from a high of 57.8 percent in May 1958 to a low of 41.8 percent in December 1976, when voters expressed their disgust with the party's involvement in the Lockheed scandal. The LDP vote rose again between 1979 and 1990. Although the LDP won an unprecedented 300 seats in the July 1986 balloting, its share of the popular vote remained just under 50 percent. The figure was 46.2 percent in February 1990. Following the three occasions when the LDP found itself a handful of seats shy of a majority, it was obliged to form alliances with conservative independents and the breakaway New Liberal Club. In a cabinet appointment after the October 1983 balloting, a non-LDP minister, a member of the New Liberal Club, was appointed for the first time. In the July 18, 1993, lower house elections, the LDP fell so far short of a majority that it was unable to form a government.

In the upper house, the July 1989 election represented the first time that the LDP was forced into a minority position. In previous elections, it had either secured a majority on its own or recruited non-LDP conservatives to make up the difference of a few seats.

The political crisis of 1988-89 was testimony to both the party's strength and its weakness. In the wake of a succession of issues--the pushing of a highly unpopular consumer tax through the Diet in late 1988, the Recruit insider trading scandal, which tainted virtually all top LDP leaders and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru in April (a successor did not appear until June), the resignation in July of his successor, Uno Sosuke, because of a sex scandal, and the poor showing in the upper house election--the media provided the Japanese with a detailed and embarrassing dissection of the political system. By March 1989, popular support for the Takeshita cabinet as expressed in public opinion polls had fallen to 9 percent. Uno's scandal, covered in magazine interviews of a "kiss and tell" geisha, aroused the fury of female voters.

Yet Uno's successor, the eloquent if obscure Kaifu Toshiki, was successful in repairing the party's battered image. By January 1990, talk of the waning of conservative power and a possible socialist government had given way to the realization that, like the Lockheed affair of the mid-1970s, the Recruit scandal did not signal a significant change in who ruled Japan. The February 1990 general election gave the LDP, including affiliated independents, a comfortable, if not spectacular, majority: 275 of 512 total representatives.

In October 1991, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki failed to attain passage of a political reform bill and was rejected by the LDP, despite his popularity with the electorate. He was replaced as prime minister by Miyazawa Kiichi, a long-time LDP stalwart. Defections from the LDP began in the spring of 1992, when Hosokawa Morihiro left the LDP to form the Japan New Party. Later, in the summer of 1993, when the Miyazawa government also failed to pass political reform legislation, thirty-nine LDP members joined the opposition in a no-confidence vote. In the ensuing lower house election, more than fifty LDP members formed the Shinseito and the Sakigake parties, denying the LDP the majority needed to form a government.




The Japanese had been exposed to bureaucratic institutions at least by the early seventh century A.D., when the imperial court adopted the laws and government structure of Tang China. However, the distinctive Chinese institution of civil service examinations never took root, and the imported system was never successfully imposed on the country at large. But by the middle of the Tokugawa period (1600- 1867), the samurai class functions had evolved from warrior to clerical and administrative functions. Following the Meiji Restoration (1868), the new elite, which came from the lower ranks of the samurai, established a Western-style civil service.

Although the United States occupation dismantled both the military and zaibatsu establishments, it did little, outside of abolishing the prewar Home Ministry, to challenge the power of the bureaucracy. There was considerable continuity--in institutions, operating style, and personnel-- between the civil service before and after the occupation, partly because MacArthur's staff ruled indirectly and depended largely on the cooperation of civil servants. A process of mutual co-optation occurred. Also, United States policy planners never regarded the civil service with the same opprobrium as the military or economic elites. The civil service's role in Japan's militarism was generally downplayed. Many of the occupation figures themselves were products of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and had strong faith in the merits of civil service professionalism. Finally, the perceived threat of the Soviet Union in the late 1940s created a community of interests for the occupiers and for conservative, social order-conscious administrators.

The Civil Service

In trying to discover "who's in charge here," many analysts have pointed to the elite bureaucracy as the people who really govern Japan, although they composed only a tiny fraction of the country's more than 1 million national government employees. Several hundred of the elite are employed at each national ministry or agency. Although entry into the elite through open examinations does not require a college degree, the majority of its members are alumni of Japan's most prestigious universities. The University of Tokyo Law Faculty is the single most important source of elite bureaucrats. After graduation from college and, increasingly, some graduate-level study, applicants take a series of extremely difficult higher civil service examinations: in 1988, for example, 28,833 took the tests, but only 1,814, or 6.3 percent, were successful. Of those who were successful, only 721 were actually hired. Like the scholar-officials of imperial China, successful candidates were hardy survivors of a grueling education and testing process that necessarily began in early childhood and demanded total concentration. The typical young bureaucrat, who is in most cases male, is an intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated individual. Some bureaucrats lack imagination and, perhaps, compassion for people whose way of life is different from their own.

The public's attitude toward the elite is ambivalent. The elite enjoy tremendous social prestige, but members are also resented. They live in a realm that is at least partly public yet far removed from the lives of ordinary people. Compared with politicians, they are generally viewed as honest. Involvement of top officials in scandals such as the Recruit affair, however, had, to some extent, tarnished their image.

Japan's elite bureaucrats are insulated from direct political pressure because there are very few political appointments in the civil service. Cabinet ministers are usually career politicians, but they are moved in and out of their posts quite frequently (with an average tenure of under a year), and usually have little opportunity to develop a power base within a ministry or force their civil service subordinates to adopt reforms. Below the cabinet minister is the administrative vice minister. Administrative vice ministers and their subordinates are career civil servants whose appointments are determined in accordance with an internally established principle of seniority.

In a 1975 article, political scientist Chalmers Johnson quotes a retired vice minister of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) who said that the Diet was merely "an extension of the bureaucracy." The official claimed that "the bureaucracy drafts all the laws.... All the legislature does is to use its powers of investigation, which for about half the year keeps most of the senior officials cooped up in the Diet."

In the years since this official made his proud boast, however, it became apparent that there were limits to the bureaucrats' power. The most important was the LDP's growing role in policy formation. Political scientist B.C. Koh suggested that in many cases members of the LDP policy-oriented tribes (zoku) had greater expertise in their fields than elite bureaucrats. Before the latter drafted legislation, they had to consult and follow the initiatives of the party's Policy Research Council. Many analysts consider the role of the bureaucracy in drafting legislation to be no greater than that of its counterparts in France, Germany, and other countries. Also, the decision of many retired bureaucrats to run as LDP candidates for the Diet might not reflect, as had been previously assumed, the power of the officials but rather the impatience of ambitious men who wanted to locate themselves, politically, "where the action is."

An intense rivalry among the ministries came into play whenever major policy decisions were formulated. Elite civil servants were recruited by and spent their entire careers in a single ministry. As a result, they developed a strong sectional solidarity and zealously defended their turf. Nonbureaucratic actors--the politicians and interest groups--could use this rivalry to their own advantage.

The Ministry of Finance is generally considered the most powerful and prestigious of the ministries. Its top officials are regarded as the cream of the elite. Although it was relatively unsuccessful in the 1970s when the deficit rose, the ministry was very successful in the 1980s in constraining government spending and raising taxes, including a twelve-year battle to get a consumption tax passed. The huge national debt in the early 1990s, however, may be evidence that this budget-minded body had been unsuccessful in the previous decade in curbing demands for popular policies such as health insurance, rice price supports, and the unprofitable nationwide network of the privatized Japan Railways Group. MITI frequently encountered obstacles in its early postoccupation plans to reconsolidate the economy. It has not always been successful in imposing its will on private interests, politicians, or other ministries. According to law professor John Owen Haley, writing in the late 1980s, MITI's practice of gyosei shido, or administrative guidance, often described as evidence of the bureaucracy's hidden power, was in fact a second-best alternative to "express statutory authority that would have legitimated its exercise of authority." Administrative reform policies in the 1980s imposed ceilings on civil service staff and spending that probably contributed to a deterioration of morale and working conditions.

Still another factor limiting bureaucratic power was the emergence of an affluent society. In the early postwar period, the scarcity of capital made it possible for the Ministry of Finance and MITI to exert considerable influence over the economy through control of the banking system. To a decreasing extent, this scarcity remained until the 1980s because most major companies had high debt-equity ratios and depended on the banks for infusions of capital. Their huge profits and increasing reliance on securities markets in the late 1980s, however, meant that the Ministry of Finance had less influence. The wealth, technical sophistication, and new confidence of the companies also made it difficult for MITI to exercise administrative guidance. The ministry could not restrain aggressive and often politically controversial purchases by Japanese corporate investors in the United States, such as Mitsubishi Estate's October 1989 purchase of Rockefeller Center in New York City, which, along with the Sony Corporation's acquisition of Columbia Pictures several weeks earlier, heated up trade friction between the two countries.

The whole issue of trade friction and foreign pressure tended to politicize the bureaucracy and promote unprecedented divisiveness in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the Structural Impediments Initiative talks held by Japan and the United States in early 1990, basic changes in Japan's economy were discussed: reforms of the distribution and pricing systems, improvement of the infrastructure, and elimination of official procedures that limited foreign participation in the economy. Although foreign pressure of this sort is resented by many Japanese as an intrusion on national sovereignty, it also provides an opportunity for certain ministries to make gains at the expense of others. There is hardly a bureaucratic jurisdiction in the economic sphere that is not in some sense affected.

Repeatedly, internationally minded political and bureaucratic elites found their market-opening reforms, designed to placate United States demands, sabotaged by other interests, especially agriculture. Such reactions intensified United States pressure, which in turn created a sense of crisis and a siege mentality within Japan. The "internationalization" of Japan's society in other ways also divided the bureaucratic elite. MITI, the Ministry of Labor, and the Ministry of Justice had divergent views on how to respond to the influx of unskilled, usually South Asian and Southeast Asian, laborers into the labor-starved Japanese economy. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 of them worked illegally for small Japanese firms in the late 1980s. Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture revision of guidelines on the writing of history textbooks, ostensibly a domestic matter, aroused the indignation of Japan's Asian neighbors because the changes tended to soften accounts of wartime atrocities.

Policy-Making Dynamics

Despite an increasingly unpredictable domestic and international environment, policy making conforms to wellestablished postwar patterns. The close collaboration of the ruling party, the elite bureaucracy, and important interest groups often make it difficult to tell who exactly is responsible for specific policy decisions. The tendency for insiders to guard information on such matters compounds the difficulty, especially for foreigners wishing to understand how domestic decision making can be influenced to reduce trade problems.

The Human Factor

The most important human factor in the policy-making process is the homogeneity of the political and business elites. They tend to be graduates of a relatively small number of top-ranked universities. Regardless of these individuals' regional or class origins, their similar educational backgrounds encourage their feeling of community, as is reflected in the finely meshed network of marriage alliances between top official and financial circle (zaikai) families. The institution of early retirement also foster homogeneity. In the practice of amakudari, or descent from heaven, as it is popularly known, bureaucrats retiring in their fifties often assume top positions in public corporations and private enterprise. They also become politicians. By the late 1980s, most postwar prime ministers had had civil service backgrounds.

This homogeneity facilitates the free flow of ideas among members of the elite in informal settings. Bureaucrats and business people that are associated with a single industry, such as electronics, often hold regular informal meetings in Tokyo hotels and restaurants. Political scientist T.J. Pempel has pointed out that the concentration of political and economic power in Tokyo-- particularly the small geographic area of its central wards--makes it easy for leaders, who are almost without exception denizens of the capital, to have repeated personal contact. Another often overlooked factor is the tendency of elite males not to be family men. Late night work and bar-hopping schedules give them ample opportunity to hash and rehash policy matters and engage in haragei (literally, belly art), or intimate, often nonverbal communication. Like the warriors of ancient Sparta, who lived in barracks apart from their families during much of their adulthood, the business and bureaucratic elites are expected to sacrifice their private lives for the national good.

Formal Policy Development

After a largely informal process within elite circles in which ideas were discussed and developed, steps might be taken to institute more formal policy development. This process often took place in deliberation councils (shingikai). There were about 200 shingikai, each attached to a ministry; their members were both officials and prominent private individuals in business, education, and other fields. The shingikai played a large role in facilitating communication among those who ordinarily might not meet. Given the tendency for real negotiations in Japan to be conducted privately (in the nemawashi, or root binding, process of consensus building), the shingikai often represented a fairly advanced stage in policy formulation in which relatively minor differences could be thrashed out and the resulting decisions couched in language acceptable to all. These bodies were legally established but had no authority to oblige governments to adopt their recommendations.

The most important deliberation council during the 1980s was the Provisional Commission for Administrative Reform, established in March 1981 by Prime Minister Suzuki Zenko. The commission had nine members, assisted in their deliberations by six advisers, twenty-one "expert members," and around fifty "councillors" representing a wide range of groups. Its head, Keidanren president Doko Toshio, insisted that government agree to take its recommendations seriously and commit itself to reforming the administrative structure and the tax system. In 1982 the commission had arrived at several recommendations that by the end of the decade had been actualized. These implementations included tax reform; a policy to limit government growth; the establishment, in 1984, of the Management and Coordination Agency to replace the Administrative Management Agency in the Office of the Prime Minister; and privatization of the state-owned railroad and telephone systems. In April 1990, another deliberation council, the Election Systems Research Council, submitted proposals that included the establishment of single-seat constituencies in place of the multiple-seat system.

Another significant policy-making institution in the early 1990s was the LDP's Policy Research Council. It consisted of a number of committees, composed of LDP Diet members, with the committees corresponding to the different executive agencies. Committee members worked closely with their official counterparts, advancing the requests of their constituents, in one of the most effective means through which interest groups could state their case to the bureaucracy through the channel of the ruling party.

The Budget Process

Despite the increasingly apparent limits of bureaucratic power, the Budget Bureau of the Ministry of Finance is at the heart of the political process because it drows up the national budget each year. This responsibility makes it the ultimate focus of interest groups and of other ministries that competed for limited funds. The budgetary process generally begins soon after the start of a new fiscal year on April 1. Ministries and government agencies prepare budget requests in consultation with the Policy Research Council. In the fall of each year, Budget Bureau examiners reviews these requests in great detail, while top Ministry of Finance officials work out the general contours of the new budget and the distribution of tax revenues. During the winter, after the release of the ministry's draft budget, campaigning by individual Diet members for their constituents and different ministries for revisions and supplementary allocations becomes intense. The coalition leaders and Ministry of Finance officials consult on a final draft budget, which is generally passed by the Diet in late winter.

In broad outline, the process reveals a basic characteristic of Japanese political dynamics: that despite the oft-stated ideals of "harmony" and "consensus," interests, including bureaucratic interests, are in strong competition for resources. Political leaders and Budget Bureau officials need great skill to reach mutually acceptable compromises. The image of "Japan Incorporated," in which harmony and unanimity are virtually automatic, belie the reality of intense rivalry. The late-twentieth-century system is successful insofar as superior political skills and appreciation of common interests minimize antagonisms and maintain an acceptable balance of power among groups. It is unclear, however, whether this system will continue as Japan faces such problems as growing social inequality, an aging society, and the challenge of "internationalization" of its society and economy.




With the exception of the period from May 1947 to March 1948, when a socialist, Katayama Tetsu, was prime minister and headed a coalition of socialists and conservatives, opposition parties failed to gain enough national electoral support to participate in forming a cabinet or to form one of their own until Hosokawa Morihiro's minority government was formed in 1993. In 1990 major opposition parties with representation in the Diet consisted of the Japan Socialist Party, the Komeito, the Japan Communist Party, and the Democratic Socialist Party (Minshato). Two smaller opposition parties were the Socialist Democratic League and the Progressive Party (Shimpoto). None had a sufficiently broad base of support to challenge the LDP at the polls, and in the early 1990s, they had not been able to form workable coalitions. An exception occurred in some local elections, where "progressive" coalitions were more effective in electing opposition candidates than on the national level.

The opposition parties were separated by ideology, with the Japan Communist Party and a significant faction of the Japan Socialist Party espousing Marxist revolution; the others were moderate and pragmatic. In many cases, the programs of the Komeito and the Democratic Socialist Party differed little from those of the LDP. Unlike the Japan Socialist Party, smaller opposition parties lacked the resources to run candidates in all the country's constituencies.

On various occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, it seemed that the end of conservative power was at hand. One such time was following the Lockheed scandal of the mid-1970s (a journalist at the time described it as "conservative power self-destructs"); another was the combined furor over the 3 percent consumption tax and the Recruit scandal in 1988-89. When the LDP was pushed into the minority in the July 1989 House of Councillors election, many commentators believed that Doi Takako, chairwoman and leader of the Japan Socialist Party, was within striking distance of forming a government, probably in coalition with other opposition groups, in the upcoming, more important general election for the lower house. That this situation failed to materialize suggested not so much popular contentment with the LDP as the opposition's inability to present a viable alternative to voters.

The opposition was important if only because its existence legitimized Japan's claim to be a modern, democratic state. Moreover, the Japan Socialist Party and the Japan Communist Party played a major role in the 1950s and 1960s in protecting the democratic institutions promoted by the United States occupation. The opposition's control of more than one-third of the seats in the Diet meant that amendments revising the constitution (such as the proposed rewording or abolition of Article 9) could not be passed. If conservatives had had their way in the early postwar years, some of Japan's prewar symbols and military power would have been restored, a move that most likely would have greatly affected relations with East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, where bitter memories of Japanese wartime occupation remained fresh.

In a political system where the ruling party habitually swept embarrassing matters under the carpet and the established press club system inhibited investigative reporting, the opposition functioned reasonably well, to use film scholar Donald Richie's phrase, as "carpet picker-uppers." They exposed and demanded parliamentary investigations of scandals like the Recruit affair. Routinely, they used meetings of the Budget Committee and other committees in the Diet to question cabinet ministers and government officials, and these sessions received wide media publicity.

Ideas first proposed by the opposition, such as national health insurance and other social welfare measures, were frequently adopted and implemented by the ruling party. The "Eda Vision" of moderate socialist leader Eda Saburo in the early 1960s--"An American standard of living, Soviet levels of social welfare, a British parliamentary system, and Japan's peace constitution"--were largely realized under LDP auspices.

Although opposition control of the upper house after the July 1989 election represented a change, the opposition had little impact on the legislative process. Regulations in the Diet Law and the rules of the two houses gave presiding House of Representatives officers the power to convene plenary sessions, fix agendas, and limit debates. Because these officers were elected by the LDP majority, they used these powers to constrain opposition party activity. Although the opposition could not filibuster, the lack of a time limit for formal balloting allowed them to use the gyuho senjutsu (cow's pace tactics) to cause excruciating delays in the passage of LDP-sponsored bills, walking so slowly to cast their individual votes that the process took several hours, sorely trying the tempers of LDP Diet members.

<>Social Democratic Party of Japan
<>Communist Party
<>Democratic Socialist Party


Japan - Social Democratic Party of Japan


The Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ; called the Japan Socialist Party until 1991) is the largest opposition party. It acquired seventy seats in the July 1993 House of Representatives election and joined the Hosokawa coalition. Like the LDP, the Japan Socialist Party resulted from the union of two smaller groups in 1955. The new opposition party had its own factions, although organized according to left-right ideological commitments rather than what it called the "feudal personalism" of the conservative parties. In the House of Representatives election of 1958, the Japan Socialist Party gained 32.9 percent of the popular vote and 166 out of 467 seats. After that, its percentage of the popular vote and number of seats gradually declined. In the double election of July 1986 for both Diet houses, the party suffered a rout by the LDP under Nakasone: its seats in the lower house fell from 112 to an all-time low of eighty-five and its share of the vote from 19.5 percent to 17.2 percent. But its popular chairwoman, Doi Takako, led it to an impressive showing in the February 1990 general election: 136 seats and 24.4 percent of the vote. Some electoral districts had more than one successful socialist candidate. Doi's decision to put up more than one candidate for each of the 130 districts represented a controversial break with the past because, unlike their LDP counterparts, many Japan Socialist Party candidates did not want to run against each other. But the great majority of the 149 socialist candidates who ran were successful, including seven of eight women.

Doi, a university professor of constitutional law before entering politics, had a tough, straight-talking manner that appealed to voters tired of the evasiveness of other politicians. Many women found her a refreshing alternative to submissive female stereotypes, and in the late 1980s the public at large, in opinion polls, voted her their favorite politician (the runner-up in these surveys was equally tough-talking conservative LDP member Ishihara Shintaro). Doi's popularity, however, was of limited aid to the party. The powerful Shakaishugi Kyokai (Japan Socialist Association), which was supported by a hard-core contingent of the party's 76,000-strong membership, remained committed to doctrinaire Marxism, impeding Doi's efforts to promote what she called perestroika and a more moderate program with greater voter appeal.

In 1983 Doi's predecessor as chairman, Ishibashi Masashi, began the delicate process of moving the party away from its strong opposition to the Self-Defense Forces. While maintaining that these forces were unconstitutional in light of Article 9, he claimed that, because they had been established through legal procedures, they had a "legitimate" status (this phrasing was changed a year later to say that the Self-Defense Forces "exist legally"). Ishibashi also broke past precedent by visiting Washington to talk with United States political leaders.

By the end of the decade, the party had accepted the SelfDefense Forces and the 1960 Japan-United States Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. It advocated strict limitations on military spending (no more than 1 percent of GNP annually), a suspension of joint military exercises with United States forces, and a reaffirmation of the "three nonnuclear principles" (no production, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons into Japanese territory). Doi expressed support for "balanced ties" with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). In the past, the Japan Socialist Party had favored the Kim Il Sung regime in P'yongyang, and in the early 1990s it still refused to recognize the 1965 normalization of relations between Tokyo and Seoul. In domestic policy, the party demanded the continued protection of agriculture and small business in the face of foreign pressure, abolition of the consumer tax, and an end to the construction and use of nuclear power reactors. As a symbolic gesture to reflect its new moderation, at its April 1990 convention the party dropped its commitment to "socialist revolution" and described its goal as "social democracy": creation of a society in which "all people fairly enjoy the fruits of technological advancement and modern civilization and receive the benefits of social welfare." Delegates also voted Doi a third term as party chairwoman.

Because of the party's self-definition as a class-based party and its symbiotic relationship with Sohyo, the public-sector union confederation, few efforts were made to attract nonunion constituencies. Although some Sohyo unions supported the Japan Communist Party, the Japan Socialist Party remained the representative of Sohyo's political interests until the merger with private-sector unions and the Rengo in 1989. Because of declining union financial support during the 1980s, some Japan Socialist Party Diet members turned to dubious fund-raising methods. One was involved in the Recruit affair. The Japan Socialist Party, like others, sold large blocks of fund-raising party tickets, and the LDP even gave individual Japan Socialist Party Diet members funds from time to time to persuade them to cooperate in passing difficult legislation.


Japan - Komeito


Following the July 1993 House of Representatives election, the Komeito (the euphemistic English translation of the Japanese name is Clean Government Party) held fifty-one seats in the House of Representatives and joined the Hosokawa coalition. The Komeito was an offshoot of the Soka Gakkai, which had been founded in 1930 as an independent lay organization of the Nichiren Shoshu sect of Buddhism, whose numbers were estimated at 750,000 in 1958 and more than 35 million in the late 1980s. In 1962 the Soka Gakkai, established the League for Clean Government, which became a regular political party, the Komeito, two years later. Ties between the Komeito and the Soka Gakkai were formally dissolved in 1970, and the image of an "open party" was promoted. But the resignation in 1989 of a Komeito Diet member, Ohashi Toshio, following his criticism of the religious leader Ikeda Daisaku, suggested that the Soka Gakkai's influence over the party remained substantial.

The party's supporters tended to be people who were largely outside the privileged labor union and "salarymen" circles of lifetime employment in large enterprises. The Komeito's programs were rather vague. They emphasized welfare and quality of life issues. In foreign policy, they had dropped their previous opposition to the Japan-United States security treaty and the SelfDefense Forces. Komeito made up a substantial portion of Hosokawa's coalition government in 1993.


Japan - Communist Party


The Japan Communist Party was first organized in 1922, in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, and remained part of the international, Moscow-controlled communist movement until the early 1960s. Although the party won a large percentage of the popular vote in Diet elections in 1949, it became extremely unpopular after 1950, when Moscow ordered it to cease being a "lovable party" and to engage in armed struggle. It was forced to go underground, and in the election it lost all its seats in the Diet. A self-reliant party line, stressing independence from both Moscow and Beijing, evolved during the 1960s. The party's chairman, Miyamoto Kenji, a tough veteran of prewar struggles and wartime prisons, promoted the "parliamentary road" of nonviolent, electoral politics. Thereafter, the fortunes of the Japan Communist Party gradually revived. Representation in the lower house reached a high point of thirtynine in the 1979 election but declined to between twenty-six and twenty-nine seats in the 1980s and to fifteen in the July 1993 election. The party's program promoted unarmed neutrality, the severing of security ties with the United States, defense of the postwar constitution, and socialism. It also voiced concern for welfare and quality of life issues.

Both organizationally and financially, the party was stronger than its opposition rivals and even the LDP. Revenues from its publishing enterprises, especially the popular newspaper Akahata (Red Flag), which had the eighth largest circulation in the country, provided adequate support for its activities. As a result, the Japan Communist Party was the party least mired in money politics. This fact earned it the reluctant respect of voters. But suspicions about its ultimate intentions remains strong. It is excluded from opposition party negotiations on coalitions.


Japan - Democratic Socialist Party


The Democratic Socialist Party was established in January 1960 when right-wing members of the Japan Socialist Party broke away to form their own group. In the past, the Democratic Socialist Party derived much of its financial and organizational support from the Domei private=sector labor confederation. Like the LDP and the Komeito, it supported the security treaty with the United States and the Self-Defense Forces. The party's chairman, Tsukamoto Saburo, was forced to resign in 1988 after it was revealed that he received 5,000 shares of stock from Recruit. The Democratic Socialist Party won fifteen seats in the July 1993 lower house elections and joined the Hosokawa coalition government.




According to the 1989 Asahi Nenkan, there were 14,400 activist members of the "new left" organized into five major "currents" (ry ) and twenty-seven or twenty-eight different factions. Total membership was about 35,000. New-left activity focused on the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita-Sanrizuka. In the early 1970s, radical groups and normally conservative farmers formed a highly unusual alliance to oppose expropriation of the latter's land for the airport's construction. Confrontations at the construction site, which pitted thousands of farmers and radicals against riot police, were violent but generally nonlethal. Although the airport was completed and began operations during the 1980s, the resistance continues, on a reduced scale. Radicals attempted to halt planned expansion of the airport by staging guerrilla attacks on those directly or indirectly involved in promoting the plan. By 1990 this activity had resulted in some deaths. There were also attacks against places associated with the emperor. In January 1990, leftists fired homemade rockets at imperial residences in Tokyo and Kyoto.

In terms of terrorist activities, the most important new-left group was the Japanese Red Army (Nihon Sekigun). Formed in 1969, it was responsible for, among other acts, the hijacking of a Japan Airlines jet to P'yongyang in 1970 and the murder of twenty-six people at Lod International Airport in Tel Aviv in 1977. Its activists developed close connections with international terrorist groups, including Palestinian extremists. The Japanese Red Army also had close ties with the Kim Il Sung regime in North Korea, where several of its hijackers resided in the early 1990s. The group was tightly organized, and one scholar has suggested that its "managerial style" resembled that of major Japanese corporations.

Right-wing extremists were diverse. In 1989 there were 800 such groups with about 120,000 members altogether. By police count, however, only about fifty groups and 23,000 individuals were considered active. Right-wing extremists indulged in a heady romanticism with strong links to the prewar period. They tended to be fascinated with the macho charisma of blood, sweat, and steel, and they promoted (like many nonradical groups) traditional samurai values as the antidote to the spiritual ills of postwar Japan. Their preference for violent direct action rather than words reflected the example of the militarist extremists of the 1930s and the heroic "men of strong will" of the late Tokugawa period of the 1850s and 1860s. The modern right-wing extremists demanded an end to the postwar "system of dependence" on the United States, restoration of the emperor to his prewar, divine status, and repudiation of Article 9. Many, if not most, right-wingers had intimate connections with Japan's gangster underground, the yakuza.

The ritual suicide of one of Japan's most prominent novelists, Mishima Yukio, following a failed attempt to initiate a rebellion among Self-Defense Forces units in November 1970, shocked and fascinated the public. Mishima and his small private army, the Shield Society (Tate no Kai), hoped that a rising of the SelfDefense Forces would inspire a nationwide affirmation of the old values and put an end to the postwar "age of languid peace."

Although rightists were also responsible for the assassination of socialist leader Asanuma Inejiro in 1960 and an attempt on the life of former prime minster Ohira Masayoshi in 1978, most of them, unlike their prewar counterparts, largely kept to noisy street demonstrations, especially harassment campaigns aimed at conventions of the leftist Japan Teachers Union. In the early 1990s, however, there was evidence that a "new right" was becoming more violent. In May 1987, a reporter working for the liberal Asahi Shimbun was killed by a gunman belonging to the Nippon Minzoku Dokuritsu Giyugun Betsudo Sekihotai (Blood Revenge Corps of the Partisan Volunteer Corps for the Independence of the Japanese Race), known as Sekihotai (Blood Revenge Corps). The Sekihotai also threatened to assassinate former Prime Minister Nakasone for giving in to foreign pressure on such issues as the revision of textbook accounts of Japan's war record. In January 1990, a member of the Seikijuku (translatable, ironically, as the Sane Thinkers School) shot and seriously wounded Nagasaki mayor Motoshima Hitoshi. The attack may have been provoked by the leftist rocket attacks on imperial residences in Tokyo and Kyoto a few days earlier as well as by the mayor's critical remarks concerning Emperor Hirohito.

In early 1994, the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Hosokawa Morohiro from small parties broken off from the LDP in league with the Komeito and socialist parties following the July 1993 House of representatives election remained in power. Although the LDP was still the strongest party, for the first time in nearly fifty years it found itself in the role of an opposition party.


Japan - Foreign Relations


JAPAN'S FOREIGN POLICY faces new challenges and difficult decisions in the 1990s. The 1980s had seen enormous changes in the distribution of international economic power and the political influence that accompanies it. Japan had become the world's largest creditor nation and the second largest donor of foreign aid. Japanese industries and enterprises are among the most capable in the world. High savings and investment rates and high-quality education are expected to solidify the international leadership of these enterprises during the mid- to late 1990s. Its economic power gives Japan a steadily growing role in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international financial institutions. Investment and trade flows give Japan by far the dominant economic role in Asia, and Japanese aid and investment were widely sought after in other parts of the world. It appears to be only a matter of time before such economic power would be translated into greater political power.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the growing preoccupation of its former republics and the East European nations with internal political and economic problems increased the importance of economic competition, rather than military power, to Japan. These formerly communist countries were anxiously seeking aid, trade, and technical benefits from the developed countries, such as Japan. The power of Japan's ally, the United States, was also seen by many as waning. The United States status in the 1980s had gone from the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor, and it was forced to look increasingly to Japan and others to shoulder the financial burdens entailed in the transformation of former communist economies in Eastern Europe and other urgent international requirements that fall upon the shoulders of world leaders.

Inside Japan, both elite and popular opinion expressed growing support for a more prominent international role, proportionate to the nation's economic power, foreign assistance, trade, and investment. But the traditional post-World War II reluctance to take a greater military role in the world remained. A firm consensus continued to support the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and other bilateral agreements with the United States as the keystones of Japan's security policy. However, Japanese officials were increasingly active in using their economic and financial resources in seeking a greater voice in international financial and political organizations and in shaping the policies of the developed countries toward international trouble spots, especially in Asia. Meanwhile, there was some doubt in both Japan and the United States as to whether Japan-United States security arrangements, predicated on the Soviet threat, could be transformed to meet the new strategic realities of the 1990s.

Throughout the post-World War II period, Japan concentrated on economic growth. It accommodated itself flexibly to the regional and global policies of the United States while avoiding major initiatives of its own; adhered to pacifist principles embodied in the 1947 constitution, referred to as the "peace constitution"; and generally took a passive, low-profile role in world affairs. Relations with other countries were governed by what the leadership called "omnidirectional diplomacy," which was essentially a policy of maintaining political neutrality in foreign affairs while expanding economic relations wherever possible. This policy was highly successful and allowed Japan to prosper and grow as an economic power, but it was feasible only while the country enjoyed the security and economic stability provided by its ally, the United States.

The need to revamp Japan's foreign policy posture had become apparent during the 1970s and particularly following the middle of the decade, as major changes in the international situation and the nation's own development into an economic world power made the old diplomacy obsolete. Japan's burgeoning economic growth and expansion into overseas markets had given rise to foreign charges of "economic aggression" and demands that it adopt more balanced trade policies. Changes in the power relationships in the AsiaPacific quadrilateral--made up of Japan, China, the United States, and the Soviet Union--also called for reexamination of policies. The deepening Sino-Soviet split and confrontation, the dramatic rapprochement between the United States and China, the rapid reduction of the United States military presence in Asia following the Second Indochina War (1954-75), and the 1970s expansion of Soviet military power in the western Pacific all required a reevaluation of Japan's security position and overall role in Asia. Finally, the oil crises of the 1970s sharpened Japanese awareness of the country's vulnerability to cutoffs of raw material and energy supplies, underscoring the need for a less passive, more independent foreign policy.

Japanese thinking on foreign policy was also influenced by the rise of a new postwar generation to leadership and policy-making positions. The differences in outlook between the older leaders still in positions of power and influence and the younger generation that was replacing them complicated formulation of foreign policy.

By 1990 Japan's foreign policy choices often challenged the leadership's tendency to avoid radical shifts and to rely on incremental adjustments. Although still generally supportive of close ties, including the alliance relationship with the United States, Japanese leaders were well aware of strong American frustrations with Japanese economic practices and Japan's growing economic power relative to the United States in world affairs. Senior United States leaders were calling upon Japanese officials to work with them in crafting "a new conceptual framework" for Japan-United States relations that would take account of altered strategic and economic realities and changes in Japanese and United States views about the bilateral relationship. The results of this effort were far from clear. Some optimistically predicted "a new global partnership" in which the United States and Japan would work together as truly equal partners in dealing with global problems. Pessimists predicted that negative feelings generated by the realignment in United States and Japanese economic power and persistent trade frictions would prompt Japan to strike out more on its own, without the "guidance" of the United States. Given the growing economic dominance of Japan in Asia, Tokyo was seen as most likely to strike out independently there first, translating its economic power into political and perhaps, eventually, military influence.

<>Relations with the United States
<>Relations with China
<>Other Asia-Pacific Countries
<>Relations with Russia
<>United Nations




Japan's geography--particularly its insular character, its limited endowment of natural resources, and its exposed location near potentially hostile giant neighbors--has played an important role in the development of its foreign policy. In premodern times, Japan's semi-isolated position on the periphery of the Asian mainland was an asset. It permitted the Japanese to exist as a self-sufficient society in a secure environment. It also allowed them to borrow selectively from the rich civilization of China while maintaining their own cultural identity. Insularity promoted a strong cultural and ethnic unity, which underlay the early development of a national consciousness that has influenced Japan's relations with outside peoples and cultures throughout its history.

Early Developments

In the early sixteenth century, a feudally organized Japan came into contact with Western missionaries and traders for the first time. Westerners introduced important cultural innovations into Japanese society during more than a century of relations with various feudal rulers. But when the country was unified at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Tokugawa government decided to expel the foreign missionaries and strictly limit intercourse with the outside world. National seclusion--except for contacts with the Chinese and Dutch--was Japan's foreign policy for more than two centuries.

When the Tokugawa seclusion was forcibly breached in 1853-54 by Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy, Japan found that geography no longer ensured security--the country was defenseless against military pressures and economic exploitation by the Western powers. After Perry's naval squadron had compelled Japan to enter into relations with the Western world, the first foreign policy debate was over whether Japan should embark on an extensive modernization to cope with the threat of the "eastward advance of Western power," which had already violated the independence of China, or expel the "barbarians" and return to seclusion. The latter alternative--although it appealed to many-- was never seriously considered. Beginning with the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which ushered in a new, centralized regime, Japan set out to "gather wisdom from all over the world" and embarked on an ambitious program of military, social, political, and economic reforms that transformed it within a generation into a modern nation-state and major world power.

Modern Japan's foreign policy was shaped at the outset by its need to reconcile its Asian identity with its desire for status and security in an international order dominated by the West. The principal foreign policy goals of the Meiji period (1868-1912) were to protect the integrity and independence of the nation against Western domination and to win equality of status with the leading nations of the West by reversing the unequal treaties. Because fear of Western military power was the chief concern of the Meiji leaders, their highest priority was building up the basic requirements for national defense, under the slogan "wealth and arms" (fukoku kyohei). They saw that a modern military establishment required national conscription drawing manpower from an adequately educated population, a trained officer corps, a sophisticated chain of command, and strategy and tactics adapted to contemporary conditions. Finally, it required modern arms together with the factories to make them, sufficient wealth to purchase them, and a transportation system to deliver them.

An important objective of the military buildup was to gain the respect of the Western powers and achieve equal status for Japan in the international community. Inequality of status was symbolized by the treaties imposed on Japan when the country was first opened to foreign intercourse. The treaties were objectionable to the Japanese not only because they imposed low fixed tariffs on foreign imports and thus handicapped domestic industries, but also because their provisions gave a virtual monopoly of external trade to foreigners and granted extraterritorial status to foreign nationals in Japan, exempting them from Japanese jurisdiction and placing Japan in the inferior category of uncivilized nations. Many of the social and institutional reforms of the Meiji period were designed to remove the stigma of backwardness and inferiority represented by the "unequal treaties," and a major task of Meiji diplomacy was to press for early treaty revision.

Once created, the Meiji military machine was used to extend Japanese power overseas, for many leaders believed that national security depended on expansion and not merely a strong defense. Within thirty years, the country's military forces had fought and defeated imperial China in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), winning possession of Taiwan and China's recognition of Korea's independence. Ten years later, in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), Japan defeated tsarist Russia and won possession of southern Sakhalin as well as a position of paramount influence in Korea and southern Manchuria. By this time, Japan had been able to negotiate revisions of the unequal treaties with the Western powers and had in 1902 formed an alliance with the world's leading power, Britain. After World War I, in which it sided with the Western Allies, Japan, despite its relatively small role in the war (with little effort it gained possession of former German territories in the Pacific), sat with the victors at Versailles and enjoyed the status of a great power in its own right.

Between World War I and World War II, the nation embarked on a course of imperialist expansion, using both diplomatic and military means to extend its control over more and more of the Asian mainland. It began to see itself as the protector and champion of Asian interests against the West, a point of view that brought it increasingly into conflict with the Western powers. When its aggressive policies met firm resistance from the United States and its allies, Japan made common cause with the Axis partnership of Germany and Italy and launched into war with the United States and the Western alliance.

After Japan's devastating defeat in World War II, the nation came under an Allied occupation in which the United States, as the principal occupying power, was charged with the demilitarization and democratization of the state. Major changes were made in political, social, and economic institutions and practices. During the seven-year occupation, the country had no control over its foreign affairs and became in effect the ward of the United States on the international scene. It adopted a new constitution whereby, in Article 9, the "Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes".

Postwar Developments

When Japan regained its sovereignty in 1952 and reentered the international community as an independent nation, it found itself in a world preoccupied by the Cold War between East and West, in which the Soviet Union and the United States headed opposing camps. By virtue of the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed in San Francisco on September 8, 1951 (effective April 28, 1952), ending the state of war between Japan and most of the Allied powers except the Soviet Union and China, and the Mutual Security Assistance Pact between Japan and the United States, signed in San Francisco the same day, Japan essentially became a dependent ally of the United States, which continued to maintain bases and troops on Japanese soil.

Japan's foreign policy goals during most of the early postwar period were essentially to regain economic viability and establish its credibility as a peaceful member of the world community. National security was entrusted to the protective shield and nuclear umbrella of the United States, which was permitted under the security pact that came into effect in April 1952 to deploy its forces in and about Japan. The pact provided a framework governing the use of United States forces against military threats--internal or external--in the region. A special diplomatic task was to assuage the suspicions and alleviate the resentments of Asian neighbors who had suffered from Japanese colonial rule and imperialist aggression in the past. Japan's diplomacy toward its Asian neighbors, therefore, tended to be extremely low-key, conciliatory, and nonassertive. With respect to the world at large, the nation avoided political issues and concentrated on economic goals. Under its omnidirectional diplomacy, it sought to cultivate friendly ties with all nations, proclaimed a policy of "separation of politics and economics," and adhered to a neutral position on some East-West issues.

During the 1950s and 1960s, foreign policy actions were guided by three basic principles: close cooperation with the United States for both security and economic reasons; promotion of a free-trade system congenial to Japan's own economic needs; and international cooperation through the United Nations (UN)--to which it was admitted in 1956--and other multilateral bodies. Adherence to these principles worked well and contributed to phenomenal economic recovery and growth during the first two decades after the end of the occupation.

In the 1970s, the basic postwar principles remained unchanged but were approached from a new perspective, owing to the pressure of practical politics at home and abroad. There was growing domestic pressure on the government to exercise more foreign policy initiatives independent of the United States, without, however, compromising vital security and economic ties. The so-called Nixon "shock," involving the surprise United States opening to China and other regional issues, also argued for a more independent Japanese foreign policy. The nation's phenomenal economic growth had made it a ranking world economic power by the early 1970s and had generated a sense of pride and self-esteem, especially among the younger generation. The demand for a more independent foreign policy reflected this enhanced self-image.

Changes in world economic relations during the 1970s also encouraged a more independent stance. Japan had become less dependent on the Western powers for resources. Oil, for example, was obtained directly from the producing countries and not from the Western-controlled multinational companies. Other important materials also came increasingly from sources other than the United States and its allies, while trade with the United States as a share of total trade dropped significantly during the decade of the 1970s. Thus, political leaders began to argue that in the interests of economic self-preservation, more attention should be paid to the financial and development needs of other countries, especially those that provided Japan with vital energy and raw material supplies.

The move toward a more autonomous foreign policy was accelerated in the 1970s by the United States decision to withdraw troops from Indochina. Japanese public opinion had earlier favored some distance between Japan and the United States involvement in war in Vietnam. The collapse of the war effort in Vietnam was seen as the end of United States military and economic dominance in Asia and brought to the fore a marked shift in Japan's attitudes about the United States. This shift, which had been developing since the early 1970s, took the form of questioning the credibility of the United States nuclear umbrella, as well as its ability to underwrite a stable international currency system, guarantee Japan's access to energy and raw materials, and secure Japan's interests in a stable political order. The shift therefore required a reassessment of omnidirectional diplomacy.

Japan's leaders welcomed the reassertion of United States military power in Asian and world affairs following the Islamic revolution in Iran, the United States hostage crisis, and the Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan, all of which occurred in 1979. Japanese leaders played a strong supporting role in curbing economic and other interaction with the Soviet Union and its allies in order to help check the expansion of Soviet power in sensitive areas among the developing world countries. Under Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, Japan built up a close political-military relationship with the United States as part of a de facto international front of a number of developed and developing countries intent on checking Soviet expansion. Japan's defense spending continued to grow steadily despite overall budgetary restraint. Japan became increasingly active in granting foreign assistance to countries of strategic importance in East-West competition.

The realignment of United States and Japanese currencies in the mid-1980s increased the growth of Japanese trade, aid, and investment, especially in Asia. It also accelerated the reversal of the United States fiscal position, from one of the world's largest creditors in the early 1980s to the world's largest debtor at the end of the decade. Japan became the world's largest creditor, an increasingly active investor in the United States, and a major contributor to international debt relief, financial institutions, and other assistance efforts.

The crucial issue for the United States and many other world governments centers on how Japan will employ this growing economic power. The strategic framework of the Japan-United States alliance also was called into question by the ending of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union. Could a new rationale be found to sustain the active security tie that had been the basis for Japan's foreign affairs in the postwar period? Had Japan's foreign interactions become so broad and multifaceted that new mechanisms were needed? Were new ways of thinking about Japan's foreign policy being formulated and implemented in Japan? It appears clear to observers in Japan that the majority of the Japanese public and elite are satisfied with the general direction of Japan's foreign policy. That policy direction is characterized by continued close ties with the United States to sustain world stability and prosperity that are so beneficial to Japan, and incrementally more assertive Japanese policies, especially regarding international economic and political institutions and Asian affairs. Yet the world order ias changing rapidly, and there are deep frustrations in some quarters in the United States, China, and Western Europe over Japanese practices. There also is some evidence of deep frustrations in Japan over Tokyo's seeming slowness in taking a more active world role. The possibility of more radical change in Japan's foreign policy, perhaps in directions more independent of the United States, remains a distinct possibility.


Japan - Relations with the United States


Japan-United States relations were more uncertain in the early 1990s than at any time since World War II. As long-standing military allies and increasingly interdependent economic partners, Japan and the United States cooperated closely to build a strong, multifaceted relationship based on democratic values and interests in world stability and development. Japan-United States relations improved enormously in the 1970s and 1980s, as the two societies and economies became increasingly intertwined. In 1990 their combined gross national product (GNP) totaled about one third of the world's GNP. Japan received about 11 percent of United States exports (a larger share than any other country except Canada), and the United States bought about 34 percent of Japan's exports. Japan had US$148 billion in direct investment in the United States in 1991, while the United States had more than US$17 billion invested in Japan. Some US$100 billion in United States government securities held by institutions in Japan helped finance much of the United States budget deficit. Economic exchanges were reinforced by a variety of scientific, technical, tourist, and other exchanges. Each society continued to see the other as its main ally in Asia and the Pacific. Certain developments in the late 1980s damaged bilateral relations. Nevertheless, public opinion surveys continued to reveal that substantial majorities of Japanese and Americans believed that the bilateral relationship was vital to both countries.

Growing interdependence was accompanied by markedly changing circumstances at home and abroad that were widely seen to have created a crisis in Japan-United States relations in the late 1980s. United States government officials continued to emphasize the positive aspects of the relationship but warned that there was a need for "a new conceptual framework." The Wall Street Journal publicized a series of lengthy reports documenting changes in the relationship in the late 1980s and reviewing the considerable debate in Japan and the United States over whether a closely cooperative relationship was possible or appropriate for the 1990s. An authoritative review of popular and media opinion, published in 1990 by the Washington-based Commission on US-Japan Relations for the Twenty-first Century, was concerned with preserving a close Japan-United States relationship. It warned of a "new orthodoxy" of "suspicion, criticism and considerable self- justification," which it said was endangering the fabric of Japan- United States relations.

Three sets of factors stand out as the most important in explaining the challenges facing Japan-United States relations. They are economic, political-military, and domestic in nature.

The relative economic power of Japan and the United States was undergoing sweeping change, especially in the 1980s. This change went well beyond the implications of the United States trade deficit with Japan, which had remained between US$40 billion and US$48 billion annually since the mid-1980s. The persisting United States trade and budget deficits of the early 1980s led to a series of decisions in the middle of the decade that brought a major realignment of the value of Japanese and United States currencies. The stronger Japanese currency gave Japan the ability to purchase more United States goods and to make important investments in the United States. By the late 1980s, Japan was the main international creditor.

Japan's growing investment in the United States--it was the second largest investor after Britain--led to complaints from some American constituencies. Moreover, Japanese industry seemed well positioned to use its economic power to invest in the high- technology products in which United States manufacturers were still leaders. The United States's ability to compete under these circumstances was seen by many Japanese and Americans as hampered by heavy personal, government, and business debt and a low savings rate.

In the late 1980s, the breakup of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe and the growing preoccupation of Soviet leaders with massive internal political and economic difficulties forced the Japanese and United States governments to reassess their longstanding alliance against the Soviet threat. Officials of both nations had tended to characterize the security alliance as the linchpin of the relationship, which should have priority over economic and other disputes. Some Japanese and United States officials and commentators continued to emphasize the common dangers to Japan- United States interests posed by the continued strong Soviet military presence in Asia. They stressed that until Moscow followed its moderation in Europe with major demobilization and reductions in its forces positioned against the United States and Japan in the Pacific, Washington and Tokyo needed to remain militarily prepared and vigilant.

Increasingly, however, other perceived benefits of close Japan- United States security ties were emphasized. The alliance was seen as deterring other potentially disruptive forces in East Asia, notably the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). Ironically, some United States officials noted that the alliance helped keep Japan's potential military power in check and under the supervision of the United States.

The post-Cold War environment strengthened the relative importance of economic prowess over military power as the major source of world influence in the early 1990s. This shift affected the perceived relative standing of Japan, the United States, and other powers. Increasingly, Japan was expected to shoulder international aid and economic responsibilities that in the past were discharged by the United States and other Western countries.

The declining Soviet threat, the rising power of the Japanese economy, increasingly close United States interaction (and related disputes) with Japan, and other factors led by 1990 to a decided shift in United States opinion about Japan and to less marked but nonetheless notable shifts in Japanese opinion. In the United States, this shift was reflected in questions about which was the more serious, the military threat from the Soviet Union or the economic challenge from Japan. In a series of polls in 1989 and 1990, most respondents considered the challenge from Japan the more serious. Similarly, poll data from early 1990 showed that most Japanese considered negative United States attitudes toward Japan a reflection of United States anger at "America's slipping economic position." Meanwhile, Japanese opinion was showing greater confidence in Japan's ability to handle its own affairs without constant reference--as in the past--to the United States. Japan's belief in United States reliability as a world leader also lessened.

In both countries, new or "revisionist" views of the Japan- United States relationship were promoted. In Japan some commentators argued that the United States was weak, dependent on Japan, and unable to come to terms with world economic competition. They urged Japan to strike out on a more independent course. In the United States, prominent commentators warned of a Japanese economic juggernaut, out of control of the Japanese government, which needed to be "contained" by the United States.

At the same time, it was easy to overstate the changes in opinion in both countries. The Japanese still considered the United States positively as their closest friend, the principal guardian of their external security, their most important economic partner and market, and the exemplar of a life-style that had much to offer--and much to envy. Moreover, the vast majority of Americans still viewed Japan positively, had high respect for Japanese accomplishments, and supported the United States defense commitment to Japan.

In the years after World War II, Japan's relations with the United States were placed on an equal footing for the first time at the end of the occupation by the Allied forces in April 1952. This equality, the legal basis of which was laid down in the peace treaty signed by forty-eight Allied nations and Japan, was initially largely nominal, because in the early postoccupation period Japan required direct United States economic assistance. A favorable Japanese balance of payments with the United States was achieved in 1954, mainly as a result of United States military and aid spending in Japan.

The Japanese people's feeling of dependence lessened gradually as the disastrous results of World War II subsided into the background and trade with the United States expanded. Self-confidence grew as the country applied its resources and organizational skill to regaining economic health. This situation gave rise to a general desire for greater independence from United States influence. During the 1950s and 1960s, this feeling was especially evident in the Japanese attitude toward United States military bases on the four main islands of Japan and in Okinawa Prefecture, occupying the southern two-thirds of the Ryukyu Islands.

The government had to balance left-wing pressure advocating dissociation from the United States against the realities of the need for military protection. Recognizing the popular desire for the return of the Ryukyu Islands and the Bonin Islands (also known as the Ogasawara Islands), the United States as early as 1953 voluntarily relinquished its control of the Amami group of islands at the northern end of the Ryukyu Islands. But the United States made no commitment to return Okinawa, which was then under United States military administration for an indefinite period as provided in Article 3 of the peace treaty. Popular agitation culminated in a unanimous resolution adopted by the Diet in June 1956, calling for a return of Okinawa to Japan.

Bilateral talks on revising the 1952 security pact began in 1959, and the new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security was signed in Washington on January 19, 1960. When the pact was submitted to the Diet for ratification on February 5, it became the subject of bitter debate over the Japan-United States relationship and the occasion for violence in an all-out effort by the leftist opposition to prevent its passage. It was finally approved by the House of Representatives on May 20. Japan Socialist Party deputies boycotted the lower house session and tried to prevent the LDP deputies from entering the chamber; they were forcibly removed by the police. Massive demonstrations and rioting by students and trade unions followed. These outbursts prevented a scheduled visit to Japan by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and precipitated the resignation of Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, but not before the treaty was passed by default on June 19, when the House of Councillors failed to vote on the issue within the required thirty days after lower house approval.

Under the treaty, both parties assumed an obligation to assist each other in case of armed attack on territories under Japanese administration. (It was understood, however, that Japan could not come to the defense of the United States because it was constitutionally forbidden to send armed forces overseas. In particular, the constitution forbids the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces." It also expresses the Japanese people's renunciation of "the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes". Accordingly, the Japanese find it difficult to send their "self-defense" forces overseas, even for peace-keeping purposes.) The scope of the new treaty did not extend to the Ryukyu Islands, but an appended minute made clear that in case of an armed attack on the islands, both governments would consult and take appropriate action. Notes accompanying the treaty provided for prior consultation between the two governments before any major change occurred in the deployment of United States troops or equipment in Japan. Unlike the 1952 security pact, the new treaty provided for a ten-year term, after which it could be revoked upon one year's notice by either party. The treaty included general provisions on the further development of international cooperation and on improved future economic cooperation.

Both countries worked closely to fulfill the United States promise, under Article 3 of the peace treaty, to return all Japanese territories acquired by the United States in war. In June 1968 the United States returned the Bonin Islands (including Iwo Jima) to Japanese administration control. In 1969 the Okinawa reversion issue and Japan's security ties with the United States became the focal points of partisan political campaigns. The situation calmed considerably when Prime Minister Sato Eisaku visited Washington in November 1969, and in a joint communiqué signed by him and President Richard M. Nixon, announced the United States agreement to return Okinawa to Japan in 1972. In June 1971, after eighteen months of negotiations, the two countries signed an agreement providing for the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

The Japanese government's firm and voluntary endorsement of the security treaty and the settlement of the Okinawa reversion question meant that, two major political issues in Japan-United States relations were eliminated. But new issues arose. In July 1971, the Japanese government was surprised by Nixon's dramatic announcement of his forthcoming visit to the People's Republic of China. Many Japanese were chagrined by the failure of the United States to consult in advance with Japan before making such a fundamental change in foreign policy. The following month, the government was again surprised to learn that, without prior consultation, the United States had imposed a 10 percent surcharge on imports, a decision certain to hinder Japan's exports to the United States. Relations between Tokyo and Washington were further strained by the monetary crisis involving the December 1971 revaluation of the Japanese yen.

These events of 1971 marked the beginning of a new stage in relations, a period of adjustment to a changing world situation that was not without episodes of strain in both political and economic spheres, although the basic relationship remained close. The political issues between the two countries were essentially security-related and derived from efforts by the United States to induce Japan to contribute more to its own defense and to regional security. The economic issues tended to stem from the ever-widening United States trade and payments deficits with Japan, which began in 1965 when Japan reversed its imbalance in trade with the United States and, for the first time, achieved an export surplus.

The United States withdrawal from Indochina in 1975 and the end of the Second Indochina War meant that the question of Japan's role in the security of East Asia and its contributions to its own defense became central topics in the dialogue between the two countries. United States dissatisfaction with Japanese defense efforts began to surface in 1975 when Secretary of Defense James A. Schlesinger publicly stigmatized Japan as a passive defense partner.

United States pressures continued and intensified, particularly as events in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East after 1979 caused the United States to relocate more than 50 percent of its naval strength from East Asian waters to the Indian Ocean. Japan was repeatedly pressed not only to increase its defense expenditures and build up its antisubmarine and naval patrol capabilities but also to play a more active and positive security role generally.

The Japanese government, constrained by constitutional limitations and strongly pacifist public opinion, responded slowly to pressures for a more rapid buildup of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF). It steadily increased its budgetary outlays for those forces, however, and indicated its willingness to shoulder more of the cost of maintaining the United States military bases in Japan. In 1976 the United States and Japan formally established a subcommittee for defense cooperation, in the framework of a bilateral Security Consultative Committee provided for under the 1960 security treaty. This subcommittee, in turn, drew up new Guidelines for Japan-United States Defense Cooperation, under which military planners of the two countries have conducted studies relating to joint military action in the event of an armed attack on Japan.

On the economic front, Japan sought to ease trade frictions by agreeing to Orderly Marketing Arrangements, which limited exports on products whose influx into the United States was creating political problems. In 1977 an Orderly Marketing Arrangement limiting Japanese color television exports to the United States was signed, following the pattern of an earlier disposition of the textile problem. Steel exports to the United States were also curtailed, but the problems continued as disputes flared over United States restrictions on Japanese development of nuclear fuel- reprocessing facilities, Japanese restrictions on certain agricultural imports, such as beef and oranges, and liberalization of capital investment and government procurement within Japan.

To respond to the call, from its allies and from within the country as well, for a greater and more responsible role in the world, Japan developed what Ohira Masayoshi, after he became prime minister in December 1978, called a "comprehensive security and defense strategy to safeguard peace." Under this policy, Japan sought to place its relations with the United States on a new footing--one of close cooperation but on a more reciprocal and autonomous basis, and on a global scale.

This policy was put to the test in November 1979, when radical Iranians seized the United States embassy in Tehran, taking sixty hostages. Japan reacted by condemning the action as a violation of international law. At the same time, Japanese trading firms and oil companies reportedly purchased Iranian oil that had become available when the United States banned oil imported from Iran. This action brought sharp criticism from the United States of Japanese government "insensitivity" for allowing the oil purchases and led to a Japanese apology and agreement to participate in sanctions against Iran in concert with other United States allies.

Following that incident, the Japanese government took greater care to support United States international policies designed to preserve stability and promote prosperity. Japan was prompt and effective in announcing and implementing sanctions against the Soviet Union following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. In 1981, in response to United States requests, it accepted greater responsibility for defense of seas around Japan, pledged greater support for United States forces in Japan, and persisted with a steady buildup of the SDF.

A qualitatively new stage of Japan-United States cooperation in world affairs appeared to be reached in late 1982 with the election of Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro. Officials of the Ronald Reagan administration worked closely with their Japanese counterparts to develop a personal relationship between the two leaders based on their common security and international outlook. Nakasone reassured United States leaders of Japan's determination against the Soviet threat, closely coordinated policies with the United States toward such Asian trouble spots as the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia, and worked cooperatively with the United States in developing China policy. The Japanese government welcomed the increase of United States forces in Japan and the western Pacific, continued the steady buildup of the SDF, and positioned Japan firmly on the side of the United States against the threat of Soviet international expansion. Japan continued to cooperate closely with United States policy in these areas following Nakasone's term of office, although the political leadership scandals in Japan in the late 1980s made it difficult for newly elected President George Bush to establish the same kind of close personal ties that marked the Reagan years.

A specific example of Japan's close cooperation with the United States included its quick response to the United States call for greater host nation support from Japan following the rapid realignment of Japan-United States currencies in the mid-1980s. The currency realignment resulted in a rapid rise of United States costs in Japan, which the Japanese government, upon United States request, was willing to offset. Another set of examples was provided by Japan's willingness to respond to United States requests for foreign assistance to countries considered of strategic importance to the West. During the 1980s, United States officials voiced appreciation for Japan's "strategic aid" to countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, and Jamaica. Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki's pledges of support for East European and Middle Eastern countries in 1990 fit the pattern of Japan's willingness to share greater responsibility for world stability.

Despite complaints from some Japanese businesses and diplomats, the Japanese government remained in basic agreement with United States policy toward China and Indochina. The government held back from large-scale aid efforts until conditions in China and Indochina were seen as more compatible with Japanese and United States interests. Of course, there also were instances of limited Japanese cooperation. Japan's response to the United States decision to help to protect tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) was subject to mixed reviews. Some United States officials stressed the positive, noting that Japan was unable to send military forces because of constitutional reasons but compensated by supporting the construction of a navigation system in the Persian Gulf, providing greater host nation support for United States forces in Japan, and providing loans to Oman and Jordan. Japan's refusal to join even in a mine-sweeping effort in the Persian Gulf was an indication to some United States officials of Tokyo's unwillingness to cooperate with the United States in areas of sensitivity to Japanese leaders at home or abroad.

The main area of noncooperation with the United States in the 1980s was Japanese resistance to repeated United States efforts to get Japan to open its market more to foreign goods and to change other economic practices seen as adverse to United States economic interests. A common pattern was followed. The Japanese government was sensitive to political pressures from important domestic constituencies that would be hurt by greater openness. In general, these constituencies were of two types--those representing inefficient or "declining" producers, manufacturers, and distributors, who could not compete if faced with full foreign competition; and those up-and-coming industries that the Japanese government wished to protect from foreign competition until they could compete effectively on world markets. To deal with domestic pressures while trying to avoid a break with the United States, the Japanese government engaged in protracted negotiations. This tactic bought time for declining industries to restructure themselves and new industries to grow stronger. Agreements reached dealt with some aspects of the problems, but it was common for trade or economic issues to be dragged out in talks over several years, involving more than one market-opening agreement. Such agreements were sometimes vague and subject to conflicting interpretations in Japan and the United States.

During the 1970s and 1980s, United States administrations had favored an issue-by-issue approach in negotiating such economic disputes with Japan. This approach ostensibly limited the areas of dispute. But it resulted in widespread negative publicity, at a time when changing economic and security circumstances were causing both countries to reevaluate the relationship. Notable outpourings of United States congressional and media rhetoric critical of Japan accompanied the disclosure in 1987 that Toshiba had illegally sold sophisticated machinery of United States origin to the Soviet Union, which reportedly allowed Moscow to make submarines quiet enough to avoid United States detection, and the United States congressional debate in 1989 over the Japan-United States agreement to develop a new fighter aircraft--the FSX--for Japan's Air Self- Defense Force.

A new approach was added in 1989. The so-called Structural Impediments Initiative was a series of talks designed to deal with domestic structural problems limiting trade on both sides. After several rounds of often contentious talks, agreements were reached in April and July 1990 that promised major changes in such sensitive areas as Japanese retailing practices, land use, and investment in public works. The United States pledged to deal more effectively with its budget deficit and to increase domestic savings. United States supporters saw the Structural Impediments Initiative talks as addressing fundamental causes of Japan-United States economic friction. Skeptics pointed to them as ways for officials to buy time and avoid an acute crisis in Japan-United States relations. The Bill Clinton administration decided to end the Structural Impediments Initiative in the summer of 1993 as a framework for dealing with United States-Japan bilateral relations.


Japan - Relations with China


The priority that policy toward China has commanded in Japanese foreign affairs has varied over time. During the period of United States-backed "containment" of China, there was a sharp divergence between official policy and popular attitudes in Japan. As a loyal ally of the United States, the Japanese government was committed to nonrecognition, whereas popular sentiments favored diplomatic relations and expanded trade. The Japan Communist Party and the Japan Socialist Party sought to capitalize on this situation in their propaganda efforts to promote closer relations with Beijing. Pro-Chinese sentiment found support not only in the desire of the business community for a new source of raw materials and a profitable market but also in the popular feeling of cultural affinity with the Chinese. Japanese leaders spent considerable effort trying to manage this tension.

The unanticipated United States opening to China in 1971 undermined the administration of Prime Minister Sato , but the subsequent government of Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei quickly adjusted policy by normalizing diplomatic relations in 1972. Throughout the next decade, policy toward China continued to receive high priority as Japanese officials dealt with competing pressures from the Chinese and Soviet governments. Beijing and Moscow pressed Tokyo to side with their respective positions in the intense Sino-Soviet competition for influence in Asia following the substantial United States military withdrawal and the fall of United States-backed regimes in Indochina.

China's economic importance to Japanese policymakers rose in tandem with the market-oriented reforms and increased foreign interaction associated with the post-Mao Zedong policies of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Unrealistic Japanese expectations of economic benefit in China were ended by the zigzag course of Chinese development in the 1980s. Japanese decision makers by the end of the decade were able to settle on a balanced policy toward China that required less attention from Japanese leaders and received lower priority than in the past. The massacre of prodemocracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Incident and the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia in 1989 discredited China's communist leaders in the minds of Japanese people and made it more difficult for Chinese officials or opposition Japanese politicians to raise China-related issues in Japanese domestic politics. The effect was to reduce further the need to make special government concessions on China-related issues. As the memory of the Tiananmen Incident faded, closer Japan-China economic and political relations were rekindled in the early 1990s.

The early post-World War II political differences between the two countries related especially to China's insistence that Japan end its official relations with the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) government on Taiwan and abrogate its security treaty with the United States. Initially, neither country allowed its political differences to stand in the way of broadening unofficial contacts, and in the mid-1950s they exchanged an increasing number of cultural, labor, and business delegations.

In 1958, however, China suspended its trade with Japan-- apparently convinced that trade concessions were ineffective in achieving political goals. Thereafter, in a plan for improving political relations, China requested that the Japanese government not be hostile toward it, not obstruct any effort to restore normal relations between itself and Japan, and not join in any conspiracy to create two Chinas.

Coincident with its dispute with the Soviet Union, China resumed its trade with Japan in late 1960. Important provisions were attached to the arrangement, however, stipulating that trade was to be based on formal government-to-government agreements and the private trade was to be sanctioned indirectly by the Japanese government. Only Japanese firms that pledged to support the three political principles of 1958 were to be allowed to participate.

In November 1962, Sino-Japanese relations were elevated to semiofficial status--still far short of diplomatic recognition-- with the signing in Beijing of a five-year trade memorandum (1963-67), better known as the Liao-Takasaki Agreement. Under its terms, Chinese purchases of industrial plants were to be financed partly through medium-term credits from the Japan Export-Import Bank. The accord also permitted China to open a trade mission in Tokyo and in 1963 paved the way for Japanese government approval of the export to China of a synthetic textile manufacturing plant valued at around US$20 million, guaranteed by the bank. Subsequent protest from Taiwan caused Japan to shelve further deferred-payment plant exports. China reacted to this change by downgrading its Japan trade and intensified propaganda attacks against Japan as a "lackey" of the United States.

Relations cooled noticeably during the massive political and economic chaos that prevailed during the radical phases of the Cultural Revolution in China, from 1966 to 1969. As the turmoil subsided, however, the Japanese government--already under pressure both from the pro-China factions in the LDP and from opposition elements--sought to adopt a more forward posture. Japan's efforts to set its own China policy became particularly evident after July 1971 when Nixon, according to Japanese sources, "shocked" the Japanese by announcing his forthcoming visit to Beijing. Relations remained complicated, however, because of Japan's diplomatic and substantial economic ties with Taiwan and the presence of a powerful pro-Kuomintang faction in the LDP.

The September 1972 visit to Beijing of Japan's newly elected prime minister, Tanaka Kakuei, culminated in the signing of a historic joint statement that ended nearly eighty years of enmity and friction between the two countries. In this statement, Tokyo recognized the Beijing regime as the sole legal government of China, stating at the same time that it understood and respected China's position that Taiwan was "an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic of China." For its part, China waived its demand for war indemnities from Japan. (This demand was first made in the mid-1950s; the war reparations claims totaled as much as the equivalent of US$50 billion.) Diplomatic relations were to be established as of September 29, 1972. Japan and China also agreed to hold negotiations aimed at the conclusion not only of a treaty of peace and friendship but also at agreements on trade, shipping, air transportation, and fisheries. Sino-Japanese trade grew rapidly after 1972. In January 1974, a three-year trade agreement--the first of several working agreements covering civil air transportation, shipping, fisheries, and trademarks--was signed. Arrangements for technical cooperation, cultural exchange, and consular matters were also undertaken.

Negotiations for a Sino-Japanese peace and friendship treaty also began in 1974 but soon encountered a political problem Japan wished to avoid. China insisted on including in the treaty an antihegemony clause, clearly directed at the Soviet Union. Japan, wishing to adhere to its "equidistant" or neutral stance in the Sino-Soviet confrontation, objected. The Soviet Union made clear that a Sino-Japanese treaty would prejudice Soviet-Japanese relations. Japanese efforts to reach a compromise with China over this issue failed, and the talks were broken off in September 1975.

Matters remained at a standstill until political changes in China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 brought to the fore a leadership dedicated to economic modernization and interested in accommodation with Japan, whose aid was essential. A changing climate of opinion in Japan that was more willing to ignore Soviet warnings and protests and accept the idea of "antihegemonism" as an international principle also helped lay the groundwork for new efforts to conclude the treaty.

In February 1978, a long-term private trade agreement led to an arrangement by which trade between Japan and China would increase to a level of US$20 billion by 1985, through exports from Japan of plants and equipment, technology, construction materials, and machine parts in return for coal and crude oil. This long-term plan, which gave rise to inflated expectations, proved overly ambitious and was drastically cut back the following year as China was forced to reorder its development priorities and scale down its commitments. However, the signing of the agreement reflected the wish on both sides to improve relations. In April 1978, a dispute involving the intrusion of armed Chinese fishing boats into the waters off the Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyutai in Chinese), a cluster of barren islets north of Taiwan and south of the Ryukyu Islands, flared up and threatened to disrupt the developing momentum toward a resumption of peace treaty talks. Restraint on both sides led to an amicable resolution. (The Senkakus are claimed by Japan, China, and Taiwan, but the question of territorial rights was finessed in this case.) Talks on the peace treaty were resumed in July, and agreement was reached in August on a compromise version of the antihegemony clause. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed on August 12 and came into effect October 23, 1978.

Chinese domestic political problems and uneven progress in China's reform programs at times dampened Japanese enthusiasm for economic relations with China. Yet Sino-Japanese relations made considerable progress in the 1980s. In 1982 there was a serious political controversy over revision of Japanese textbooks dealing with the history of imperial Japan's war against China in the 1930s and 1940s. Beijing also registered concern in 1983 about the reported shift in United States strategic emphasis in Asia, away from China and in favor of greater reliance on Japan, under the leadership of the more "hawkish" Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, warning anew against possible revival of Japanese militarism. By mid-1983, however, Beijing had decided--coincidentally with its decision to improve relations with the Reagan administration--to solidify ties with Japan. Chinese Communist Party general secretary Hu Yaobang visited Japan in November 1983, and Prime Minister Nakasone reciprocated by visiting China in March 1984.

The Chinese had long looked on Japan--by then a major trading partner--as a leading source of assistance in promoting economic development in China. The growth of Soviet military power in East Asia in the early 1980s prompted them to consult with Japan more frequently on security issues and to pursue parallel foreign policies designed to check Soviet influence and promote regional stability. While Japanese enthusiasm for the Chinese market waxed and waned, broad strategic considerations in the 1980s steadied Tokyo's policy toward Beijing. In fact, Japan's heavy involvement in China's economic modernization reflected in part a determination to encourage peaceful domestic development in China, to draw China into gradually expanding links with Japan and the West, to reduce China's interest in returning to its more provocative foreign policies of the past, and to obstruct any Sino-Soviet realignment against Japan.

Thus, common strategic concerns, as well as economic interests, held the two nations together. Until the late 1970s, China appeared more alarmed than Japan about the Soviet military buildup in Asia. But as the Soviet Union increasingly sought to impede strategic cooperation among Japan, the United States, and possibly China, in part by stepped-up intimidation of Japan, the Nakasone government became more concerned about the Soviet military buildup.

Many of Japan's concerns about the Soviet Union duplicated China worries. They included the increased deployment in East Asia of Soviet SS-20 missiles, Tu-22M Backfire bombers, and ballistic missile submarines; the growth of the Soviet Pacific fleet; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the potential threat it posed to Persian Gulf oil supply routes; and an increased Soviet military presence in Vietnam.

In response, Japan and China adopted strikingly complementary foreign policies, designed to isolate the Soviet Union and its allies politically and to promote regional stability. In Southeast Asia, both countries provided strong diplomatic backing for the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to bring about a Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia. Japan cut off all economic aid to Vietnam and provided substantial economic assistance to Thailand to help with resettling Indochinese refugees. China was a key supporter of Thailand and of the Cambodian resistance groups. In Southwest Asia, both nations backed the condemnation of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, refused to recognize the Soviet-backed Kabul regime, and sought through diplomatic and economic means to bolster Pakistan. In Northeast Asia, Japan and China sought to moderate the behavior of their Korean partners--South Korea and North Korea, respectively--to reduce tensions. In 1983 both China and Japan strongly criticized the Soviet proposal to redeploy some of their European-based SS-20 missiles to Asia.

Complementary economic interests also strengthens Sino-Japanese relations. Japan is a major source of capital, technology, and equipment for China's modernization drive. In fact, Japan has been China's largest trading partner since the mid-1960s, accounting for more than 20 percent of China's total trade. Bilateral trade exploded in the 1970s and early 1980s, from US$1 billion in the early 1970s to more than US$8 billion in 1982. Japan became China's largest creditor, accounting for nearly half of the estimated US$30 billion in credit China lined up from 1979 to 1983.

Although its share of Japan's global trade was still small (3 percent in 1982), China became Japan's sixth largest trading partner. Japan regarded China as a significant source of coal, oil, and strategic minerals, such as tungsten and chromium, and as an important market for Japanese steel, machinery plant equipment, chemical products, and synthetic textile fibers.

The optimism that marked the economic relationship in the late 1970s had given way to a greater degree of realism on both sides by the early 1980s. China's decision to curtail imports of heavy industrial goods in 1981 and 1982 had a sobering effect on the Japanese. Businesspeople in Japan came to appreciate the problems China faced and revised their expections of the growth of economic ties as the Chinese experimented with various economic policies. The Japanese continued to hope that they would profit from China's potentially huge domestic market, whenever its modernization began to pick up speed.

Japanese economic interests in China focused on developing energy resources and infrastructure and on promoting commercial trade. As of 1983, the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, Japan's official aid organization, had agreed to grant US$3.5 billion in loans to China for basic infrastructure projects, such as port and rail modernization. In addition, the Japan Export-Import Bank extended US$2 billion for oil exploration and coal mining at a 6.25 percent annual interest rate, the lowest rate China had gained from any country at that time. The Japanese were heavily involved in China's oil industry, and Japanese drilling in the Bohai Gulf appeared promising.

Japan encountered a number of episodes of friction with China during the rest of the 1980s. In late 1985, Chinese officials complained harshly about Prime Minister Nakasone's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan's war dead, and in mid- 1986 they complained about the latest revision of Japan's history textbooks to soften accounts of World War II atrocities. Economic issues centered on Chinese complaints that the influx of Japanese products into China had produced a serious trade deficit for China. Nakasone and other Japanese leaders were able to reduce these official concerns during visits to Beijing and in other talks with Chinese officials. Notably, they assured the Chinese of Japan's continued large-scale development and commercial assistance. At the popular level in China, it was not easy to allay concerns. Student- led demonstrations against Japan, on the one hand, helped reinforce Chinese officials' warnings to their Japanese counterparts. On the other hand, it was more difficult to change popular opinion in China than it was to change the opinions of the Chinese officials. Meanwhile, the removal of party chief Hu Yaobang in 1987 was detrimental to smooth Sino-Japanese relations because Hu had built personal relationships with Nakasone and other Japanese leaders.

The Chinese government's harsh crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrations in the spring of 1989 caused Japanese policymakers to realize that the new situation in China was extremely delicate and required careful handling to avoid Japanese actions that would push China further away from reform. At the same time, these policymakers were loath to break ranks with the United States and other Western countries, where popular opinion and domestic pressures to varying degrees required that officials condemn the crackdown and take action to restrict economic or other interaction of benefit to the Chinese regime. Beijing leaders reportedly judged at first that the industrialized countries would relatively quickly resume normal business with China after a brief period of complaint over the Tiananmen Incident. When that did not happen, the Chinese officials made strong suggestions to Japanese officials that they break from most industrialized nations by pursuing normal economic intercourse with China, consistent with Tokyo's long-term interests in China. Japanese leaders--like West European and United States leaders--were careful not to isolate China and continued trade and other relations generally consistent with the policies of other industrialized democracies. But they also followed the United States lead in limiting economic relations notably advantageous to China. In particular, they held back for one year the disbursement of ¥810 billion in aid, which Japan had promised in 1988 to give China in the 1990-95 period.

Japan is in the forefront among leading industrialized nations in restoring closer economic and political relations with China. Resumption of Japan's multibillion dollar aid to China and increased visits to China by Japanese officials, culminating in the October 1992 visit of Emperor Akihito, gave a clear indication that Japan considered closer ties with China in its economic and strategic interest.


Japan - Other Asia-Pacific Countries


Japan's rapid rise as the dominant economic power in Asia in the 1980s helped to define Japanese policy toward this diverse region, stretching from South Asia to the islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The decline in East-West and Sino-Soviet tensions during the 1980s suggested that economic rather than military power would determine regional leadership. During the decade, Japan displaced the United States as the largest provider of new business investment and economic aid in the region, although the United States market remained a major source of Asia-Pacific dynamism. Especially following the rise in value of the yen relative to the dollar in the late-1980s, Japan's role as a capital and technology exporter and as an increasingly significant importer of Asian manufactured goods made it the core economy of the Asia-Pacific region.

From the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, Japan's relations with the rest of Asia were concerned mainly with promoting its far-flung, multiplying economic interests in the region through trade, technical assistance, and aid. Its main problems were the economic weakness and political instability of its trading partners and the growing apprehension of Asian leaders over Japan's "overpresence" in their region.

Japan began to normalize relations with its neighbors during the 1950s after a series of intermittent negotiations, which led to the payment of war reparations to Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Thailand's reparations claims were not settled until 1963. Japan's reintegration into the Asian scene was also facilitated by its having joined the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific in December 1954 and by its attendance at the April 1955 Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. In the late 1950s, Japan made a limited beginning in its aid program. In 1958 it extended the equivalent of US$50 million in credits to India, the first Japanese loan of its kind in post-World War II years. As in subsequent cases involving India, as well as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Taiwan, Pakistan, and South Korea, these credits were rigidly bound to projects that promoted plant and equipment purchases from Japan. In 1960 Japan officially established the Institute of Asian Economic Affairs (renamed the Institute of Developing Economies in 1969) as the principal training center for its specialists in economic diplomacy.

In the early 1960s, the government adopted a more forward posture in seeking to establish contacts in Asia. In 1960 the Institute of Asian Economic Affairs was placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). In 1961 the government established the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund as a new lending agency. The following year the Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency made its debut.

By the mid-1960s, Japan's role had become highly visible in Asia as well as elsewhere in the world. In 1966 Japan became a full member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As economic and trade expansion burgeoned, leaders began to question the propriety and wisdom of what they variously described as "mere economism," an "export-first policy," and the "commercial motives of aid." They wanted to contribute more to the solution of the North-South problem, as they dubbed the issue--the tenuous relationship between the developed countries and the developing countries.

Efforts since the beginning of the 1970s to assume a leading role in promoting peace and stability in Asia, especially Southeast Asia, by providing economic aid and by offering to serve as a mediator in disputes, faced two constraints. Externally, there was fear in parts of Asia that Japan's systematic economic penetration into the region would eventually lead to something akin to its pre-World War II scheme to exploit Asian markets and materials. Internally, foreign policymakers were apprehensive that Japan's political involvement in the area in whatever capacity would almost certainly precipitate an anti-Japanese backlash and adversely affect its economic position.

After a reassessment of policy, the Japanese leadership appeared to have decided that more emphasis ought to be given to helping the developing countries of the region modernize their industrial bases to increase their self-reliance and economic resilience. In the late 1970s, Japan seemed to have decided that bilateral aid in the form of yen credits, tariff reductions, larger quota incentives for manufactured exports, and investments in processing industries, energy, agriculture, and education would be the focus of its aid programs in Asia.

By 1990 Japan's interaction with the vast majority of AsiaPacific countries, especially its burgeoning economic exchanges, was multifaceted and increasingly important to the recipient countries. The developing countries of ASEAN (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand; Singapore was treated as a newly industrialized economy, or NIE) regarded Japan as critical to their development. Japan's aid to the ASEAN countries totaled US$1.9 billion in Japanese fiscal year (FY) 1988 versus about US$333 million for the United States during United States FY 1988. Japan was the number one foreign investor in the ASEAN countries, with cumulative investment as of March 1989 of about US$14.5 billion, more than twice that of the United States. Japan's share of total foreign investment in ASEAN countries in the same period ranged from 70 to 80 percent in Thailand to 20 percent in Indonesia.

In the early 1990s, the Japanese government was making a concerted effort to enhance its diplomatic stature, especially in Asia. Kaifu's much publicized spring 1991 tour of five Southeast Asian nations--Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines--culminated in a May 3 major foreign policy address in Singapore, in which he called for a new partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and pledged that Japan would go beyond the purely economic sphere to seek an "appropriate role in the political sphere as a nation of peace." As evidence of this new role, Japan took an active part in promoting negotiations to resolve the Cambodian conflict.

South Asia

In South Asia, Japan's role is mainly that of an aid donor. Japan's aid to seven South Asian countries totaled US$1.1 billion in 1988 and 1989, dropping to just under US$900 million in 1990. Except for Pakistan, which received heavy inputs of aid from the United States, all other South Asian countries receive most of their aid from Japan. Four South Asian nations--India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka--are in the top ten list of Tokyo's aid recipients worldwide.

Prime Minister Kaifu signaled a broadening of Japan's interest in South Asia with his swing through the region in April 1990. In an address to the Indian parliament, Kaifu stressed the role of free markets and democracy in bringing about "a new international order," and he emphasized the need for a settlement of the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan and for economic liberalization to attract foreign investment and promote dynamic growth. To India, which was very short of hard currency, Kaifu pledged a new concessional loan of ¥100 billion (about US$650 million) for the coming year.

Newly Industrialized Economies

Japan's relationships with the newly industrialized economies (NIEs) of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, together often called the Four Tigers, were marked by both cooperation and competition. After the early 1980s, when Tokyo extended a large financial credit to South Korea for essentially political reasons, Japan avoided significant aid relationships with the NIEs. Relations instead involved capital investment, technology transfer, and trade. Increasingly, the NIEs came to be viewed as Japan's rivals in the competition for export markets for manufactured goods, especially the vast United States market.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands

Japan's economic involvement in Australia is heavily tilted toward extraction of natural resources and in-country manufacturing for the Australian domestic market. Japanese investment by 1988 made Australia the single largest source of Japanese regional imports. Japan's trade with New Zealand is a small fraction of its trade with Australia.

Politically, Japan's relations with Australia and New Zealand have elements of tension as well as acknowledged mutuality of interest. Memories of World War II linger among the public, as do a contemporary fear of Japanese economic domination. At the same time, government and business leaders see Japan as a vital export market and an essential element in Australia's and New Zealand's future growth and prosperity.

By 1990 commercial and strategic interests prompted a strong surge in Japanese involvement in the newly independent island nations of the Pacific. Japan's rapidly growing aid to the South Pacific was seen by many as a response to United States calls for greater burden-sharing and to the adoption of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, which gave states legal control over fishery resources within their 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones. The US$98.3 million that Japan provided in aid to the region in 1989 was fourth behind France, Australia and the United States but was significantly more than was provided by New Zealand and Britain. Japanese companies also invested heavily in the tourism industry in the island nations.

The Koreas

Japan's policies toward the two Koreas reflects the importance this area had for Asian stability, which is seen as essential to Japanese peace and prosperity. Japan is one of four major powers (along with the United States, Russia, and China) that have important security interests on the Korean Peninsula. However, Japan's involvement in political and security issues on the Korean Peninsula is more limited than that of the other three powers. Japan's relations with North Korea and South Korea has a legacy of bitterness stemming from harsh Japanese colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945. Polls during the postwar period in Japan and South Korea showed that the people of each nation had a profound dislike of the other country and people.

Article 9 of Japan's constitution is interpreted to bar Japan from entering into security relations with countries other than the United States. Consequently, Japan had no substantive defense relationship with South Korea, and military contacts were infrequent. The Japanese government supported noncommunist South Korea in other ways. It backed United States contingency plans to dispatch United States armed forces in Japan to South Korea in case of a North Korean attack on South Korea. It also acted as an intermediary between South Korea and China. It pressed the Chinese government to open and expand relations with South Korea in the 1980s.

Japan's trade with South Korea was US$29.1 billion in 1991, with a surplus of nearly US$5.8 billion on the Japanese side. Japanese direct private investment in South Korea totaled US$4.4 billion in 1990. Japanese and South Korean firms often had interdependent relations, which gave Japan advantages in South Korea's growing market. Many South Korean products were based on Japanese design and technology. A surge in imports of South Korean products into Japan in 1990 was partly the result of production by Japanese investors in South Korea.

Japan-North Korea relations remained antagonistic in the late 1980s. The two governments did not maintain diplomatic relations and had no substantive contacts. The opposition Japan Socialist Party, however, had cordial relations with the North Korean regime.

Issues in Japan-North Korea relations that produced tensions included North Korean media attacks on Japan, Japan's imposition of economic sanctions on North Korea for terrorist acts against South Korea in the 1980s, and unpaid North Korean debts to Japanese enterprises of about US$50 million. Japan allowed trade with North Korea through unofficial channels. This unofficial trade reportedly came to more than US$200 million annually in the 1980s.

In the early 1990s, Japan continued to conduct lengthy negotiations with North Korea aimed at establishing diplomatic relations with P'yongyang while maintaining its relations with Seoul. In January 1991, Japan began normalization talks with P'yongyang with a formal apology for its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The negotiations were aided by Tokyo's support of a proposal for simultaneous entry to the UN by North Korea and the Republic of Korea (South Korea); the issues of international inspection of North Korean nuclear facilities and the nature and amount of Japanese economic assistance, however, proved more difficult to negotiate.

Vietnam and Cambodia

Stability in Indochina also is very important to Japanese interests. During the Indochina War of the 1960s and 1970s, Japan had consistently encouraged a negotiated settlement at the earliest possible date. Even before the hostilities ended, it had made contact with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) government and had reached an agreement to establish diplomatic relations in September 1973. Implementation, however, was delayed by North Vietnamese demands that Japan pay the equivalent of US$45 million in World War II reparations in two yearly installments, in the form of "economic cooperation" grants. Giving in to the Vietnamese demands, Japan paid the money and opened an embassy in Hanoi in October 1975 following the unification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Recognition of the communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia came in 1975, and diplomatic relations with that country were established in August 1976.

This Indochina policy was justified at home and to the member countries of ASEAN--some of which were hostile to and suspicious of Vietnam--on the grounds that official contacts and eventually aid to Vietnam would promote the peace and stability of Southeast Asia as a whole. In December 1978, after a visit to Tokyo by Vietnam's minister of foreign affairs, Nguyen Duy Trinh, Japan agreed to give Vietnam US$195 million in grant aid, as well as commodity loans and food shipments. When Vietnam launched its invasion of Cambodia later that same month, Japan was embarrassed and irritated. It joined ASEAN in condemning the invasion, supported the UN resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of Vietnamese forces, and suspended the aid commitments it had made with Hanoi.

Japan and the United States shared common ground in opposing the Soviet-backed Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978. Japan's policy of restricting aid and other economic cooperation with Vietnam reinforced international pressures on Hanoi to pull back its forces and seek a comprehensive Cambodian settlement. Faced with international isolation, waning Soviet bloc support, continued armed resistance in Cambodia, and large-scale economic problems at home, Hanoi withdrew most if not all of its combat troops from Cambodia in 1989. It appealed to developed countries to open channels of economic cooperation, trade, and aid. Although some Japanese businesses were interested in investment and trade with Vietnam and Cambodia, the Japanese government still opposed economic cooperation with those countries until there had been a comprehensive settlement in Cambodia. This stand was basically consistent with United States policy of the time.

Meanwhile, Japan gave informal assurances that Tokyo was prepared to bear a large share of the financial burden to help with reconstruction aid to Cambodia, whenever a comprehensive settlement was reached, and to help fund UN or other international peacekeeping forces, should they be required.

Japan carried through on its promises. Following the October 23, 1991 Final Act of the International Paris Conference on Cambodia among the Cambodian parties, Indonesia (as co-chair with France), and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Japan promptly established diplomatic relations and ended economic restrictions with Cambodia and Vietnam. In November 1992, Tokyo offered Vietnam US$370 million in aid. Japan also took a leading role in peacekeeping activities in Cambodia. Japan's Akashi Yasushi, UN undersecretary for disarmament, was head of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, and Japan pledged US$3 million and even sent approximately 2,000 personnel, including members of the SDF, to participate directly in maintaining the peace. Despite the loss of a Japanese peacekeeper killed in an ambush, the force remained in Cambodia until the Cambodians were able to elect and install a government.


Japan - Relations with Russia


The 1980s saw a decided hardening in Japanese attitudes toward the Soviet Union. Japan was pressed by the United States to do more to check the expansion of Soviet power in the developing world following the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It responded by cutting off contacts beneficial to the Soviet regime and providing assistance to "front line" states, such as Pakistan and Thailand. Under Nakasone, Japan worked hard to demonstrate a close identity of views with the Reagan administration on the Soviet threat. Japan steadily built up its military forces, welcomed increases in United States forces in Japan and the western Pacific, and pledged close cooperation to deal with the danger posed by Soviet power.

Although public and media opinion remained skeptical of the danger to Japan posed by Soviet forces in Asia, there was strong opposition in Japan to Moscow's refusal to accede to Japan's claims to the Northern Territories, known to the Japanese as Etorofu and Kunashiri, at the southern end of the Kuril Island chain, and the smaller island of Shikotan and the Habomai Islands, northeast of Hokkaido, which were seized by the Soviets in the last days of World War II. The stationing of Soviet military forces on the islands gave tangible proof of the Soviet threat, and provocative maneuvers by Soviet air and naval forces in Japanese- claimed territory served to reinforce Japanese official policy of close identification with a firm United States-backed posture against Soviet power. In 1979 the Japanese government specifically protested a build up in Soviet forces in Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan.

The advent of the Mikhail Gorbachev regime in Moscow in 1985 saw a replacement of hard-line Soviet government diplomats who were expert in Asian affairs with more flexible spokespersons calling for greater contact with Japan. Gorbachev took the lead in promising new initiatives in Asia, but the substance of Soviet policy changed more slowly. In particular, throughout the rest of the 1980s, Soviet officials still seemed uncompromising regarding the Northern Territories, Soviet forces in the western Pacific still seemed focused on and threatening to Japan, and Soviet economic troubles and lack of foreign exchange made prospects for Japan-Soviet Union economic relations appear poor. By 1990 Japan appeared to be the least enthusiastic of the major Western-aligned developed countries in encouraging greater contacts with and assistance to the Soviet Union.

Strains in Japan-Soviet Union relations had deep historical roots, going back to the competition of the Japanese and Russian empires for dominance in Northeast Asia. In 1993, nearly fifty years after the end of World War II, a state of war between Japan and Russia existed technically because the government in Moscow had refused in the intervening years to sign the 1951 peace treaty. The main stumbling block in all Japan's subsequent efforts to establish bilateral relations on what it called "a truly stable basis" was the territorial dispute over the Northern Territories.

During the first half of the 1950s, other unsettled problems included Japanese fishing rights in the Sea of Okhotsk and off the coast of the Soviet maritime provinces and repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war, who were still being held in the Soviet Union. Negotiation of these issues broke down early in 1956 because of tension over territorial claims.

Negotiations soon resumed, however, and the two countries issued a joint declaration in October 1956 providing for the restoration of diplomatic relations. The two parties also agreed to continue negotiations for a peace treaty, including territorial issues. In addition, the Soviet Union pledged to support Japan for UN membership and waive all World War II reparations claims. The joint declaration was accompanied by a trade protocol that granted reciprocal most-favored-nation treatment and provided for the development of trade.

Japan derived few apparent gains from the normalization of diplomatic relations. The second half of the 1950s saw an increase in cultural exchanges. Soviet propaganda, however, had little success in Japan, where it encountered a longstanding antipathy stemming from the Russo-Japanese rivalry in Korea, Manchuria, and China proper in the late nineteenth century, from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5; and from the Soviet declaration of war on Japan in the last days of World War II, in violation of the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact of 1941.

The Soviet Union sought to induce Japan to abandon its territorial claims by alternating threats and persuasion. As early as 1956, it hinted at the possibility of considering the return of the Habomai Islands and Shikotan if Japan abandoned its alliance with the United States. In 1960 the Soviet government warned Japan against signing the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States, and after the treaty was signed, declared that it would not hand over the Habomai Islands and Shikotan under any circumstances unless Japan abrogated the treaty forthwith. In 1964 the Soviet Union offered to return these islands unconditionally if the United States ended its military presence on Okinawa and the main islands of Japan.

Despite divergence on the territorial question, on which neither side was prepared to give ground, Japan's relations with the Soviet Union improved appreciably after the mid-1960s. The Soviet government began to seek Japanese cooperation in its economic development plans, and the Japanese responded positively. The two countries signed a five-year trade agreement in January 1966 and a civil aviation agreement as well.

Economic cooperation expanded rapidly during the 1970s, despite an often strained political relationship. The two economies were complementary, for the Soviet Union needed Japan's capital, technology, and consumer goods, while Japan needed Soviet natural resources, such as oil, gas, coal, iron ore, and timber. By 1979 overall trade had reached US$4.4 billion annually and had made Japan, after the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), the Soviet Union's most important nonsocialist trading partner.

This economic cooperation was interrupted by Japan's decision in 1980 to participate in sanctions against the Soviet Union for its invasion of Afghanistan and by its actions to hold in obeyance a number of projects being negotiated, to ban the export of some high-technology items, and to suspend Siberian development loans. Subsequently, Japanese interest in economic cooperation with the Soviet Union waned as Tokyo found alternative suppliers and remained uncertain about the economic viability and political stability of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. Japan-Soviet trade in 1988 was valued at nearly US$6 billion.

Japanese-Soviet political relations during the 1970s were characterized by the frequent exchange of high-level visits to explore the possibility of improving bilateral relations and by repeated discussions of a peace treaty, which were abortive because neither side was prepared to yield on the territorial issue. Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko of the Soviet Union visited Tokyo in January 1972--one month before United States president Nixon's historic visit to China--to reopen ministerial-level talks after a six-year lapse. Other high-level talks, including an October 1973 meeting between Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei and Leonid I. Brezhnev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, were held in Moscow during the next three years, but the deadlock on the territorial issue continued, and prospects for a settlement dimmed. Moscow began to propose a treaty of friendship and goodwill as an interim step while peace treaty talks were continued. This proposal was firmly rejected by Japan.

After 1975 the Soviet Union began openly to warn that the Japanese peace treaty with China might jeopardize Soviet-Japan relations. In January 1976, Gromyko again visited Tokyo to resume talks on the peace treaty. When the Japanese again refused to budge on the territorial question, Gromyko, according to the Japanese, offered to return two of the Soviet-held island areas--the Habomai Islands and Shikotan--if Japan would sign a treaty of goodwill and cooperation. He also reportedly warned the Japanese, in an obvious reference to China, against "forces which come out against the relaxation of tension and which try to complicate relations between states, including our countries."

The signing of the Sino-Japanese peace treaty in mid-1978 was a major setback to Japanese-Soviet relations. Despite Japanese protestations that the treaty's antihegemony clause was not directed against any specific country, Moscow saw it as placing Tokyo with Washington and Beijing firmly in the anti-Soviet camp. Officially, both sides continued to express the desire for better relations, but Soviet actions served only to alarm and alienate the Japanese side. The 1980s Soviet military buildup in the Pacific was a case in point.

Changes in Soviet policy carried out under Gorbachev beginning in the mid-1980s, including attempts at domestic reform and the pursuit of détente with the United States and Western Europe, elicited generally positive Japanese interest, but the Japanese government held that the Soviet Union had not changed its policies on issues vital to Japan. The government stated that it would not conduct normal relations with the Soviet Union until Moscow returned the Northern Territories. The government and Japanese business leaders stated further that Japanese trade with and investment in the Soviet Union would not grow appreciably until the Northern Territories issue has been resolved.

By 1990 the Soviet government had altered its tactics. The Soviet Union now acknowledged that the territorial issue was a problem and talked about it with Japanese officials at the highest levels and in working-level meetings. Soviet officials reportedly floated a proposal to lease the Northern Territories and part of Sakhalin--once a colonial holding of Japan's--to Japan. Gorbachev and others also referred to a 1956 Soviet offer to return one of the three main islands (Shikotan, the smallest of the three) and the Habomai Islands, and there were indications that Moscow might be prepared to revive the offer. The Soviet Union emphasized that it would not return all the islands because of Soviet public opposition and the possible reawakening of other countries' territorial claims against the Soviet Union. The Soviet military reportedly opposed a return because the Kuril Islands provided a protective barrier to the Sea of Okhotsk, where the Soviet navy deployed submarines carrying long-range ballistic missiles.

The Soviet government also stepped up its diplomacy toward Japan with the announcement in 1990 that Gorbachev would visit Japan in 1991. Soviet officials asserted that their government would propose disarmament talks with Japan and might make more proposals on the Northern Territories in connection with the visit. Observers believed that Gorbachev might propose a package dealing with the islands, arms reduction, and economic cooperation. In January 1990, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs shifted its position, which previously had rejected negotiations with the Soviet Union on arms reductions, indicating that Japan would be willing to negotiate. Ministry officials stated that the government would formulate policy on arms reduction in close coordination with the United States.

The government of Boris Yeltsin took power in Russia in late 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. Once again, Moscow took a stand in firm opposition to returning the disputed territories to Japan. Although Japan joined with the Group of Seven industrialized nations in providing some technical and financial assistance to Russia, relations between Japan and Russia remained cool. In September 1992, Russian president Boris Yeltsin postponed a scheduled visit to Japan. The visit finally took place in October 1993. During the visit, although various substantive issues, including the Northern Territories and the signing of a peace treaty, were discussed, no significant improvement was seen in Japan-Russia relations.


Japan - United Nations


Japan regards international cooperation within the United Nations (UN) framework as a basic foreign policy principle. When Japan joined the UN in 1956, it did so with great enthusiasm and broad public support, for the international organization was seen to embody the pacifist country's hopes for a peaceful world order. Membership was welcomed by many Japanese who saw the UN as a guarantor of a policy of unarmed neutrality for their nation. To others, support for the UN would be useful in masking or diluting Japan's almost total dependence on the United States for its security. The government saw the UN as an ideal arena for its riskminimizing , omnidirectional foreign policy.

After the late 1950s, Japan participated actively in the social and economic activities of the UN's various specialized agencies and other international organizations concerned with social, cultural, and economic improvement. During the 1970s, as it attained the status of an economic superpower, Japan was called on to play an increasingly large role in the UN. As Japan's role increased and its contributions to UN socioeconomic development activities grew, many Japanese began to ask whether their country was being given an international position of responsibility commensurate with its economic power. There was even some sentiment, expressed as early as 1973, that Japan should be given a permanent seat on the UN Security Council with the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China.

By 1990 Japan's international cooperation efforts had reached a new level of involvement and activism. Japan contributed about 11 percent of the regular UN budget, second only to the United States, which contributed 25 percent. Japan was particularly active in UN peacekeeping activities and in 1989, for the first time, sent officials to observe and participate in UN peacekeeping efforts (in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Namibia). Japan sent a small team to observe the February 1990 elections in Nicaragua. In 1992-93 Japan led UN supervision of the peace process and elections in Cambodia, providing approximately 2,000 people, which included members of the SDF.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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