Political System And Key Institutions Of Japan


      Past to Present

      In history, Japan was closed to foreign world and a traditional Asian country until 19th century. In this period, Japan is managed by feudal structures which are connected to headquarter. An Emperor and shogunate and daimyos which are dependent to emperor ruled Japan until 19th century. Japan was forced to westernization by western countries. Japan started to westernize in the period of Emperor Meiji Ishin. In Japan, a political system like Prussia was established. This system abolished feudal structures and gave all sovereignty to emperor.

      Japan society improved nationalist idea and gave up western-oriented policy. In World War II Japan declared a war to US. Japan have not been successful in this war. US occupied Japan and change its political system in 1945.

      Political system of today’s Japan is founded in MacArthur’s period. Until this period there was not a huge change in system. Japan political system is occurred democracy with limited constitutional monarchy. According to Japan constitution, Emperor is a symbol of state and unity of  people and have no sovereign power.[1] Sovereignty of Japan belongs to the people of Japan. People are represented by diet that is two house of Japan and government.


      Japan, until nowadays, was managed by emperor. In time, emperor has different level of power and sovereignty. Nowadays, Japan emperor is a symbol that symbolize unity of people and state. Emperor has no power to manage state. Japanese constitution limits this institution.

      Emperor, in Japanese region, gave his power to god. Emperor is seen as a divined person by people. This region gave emperor a huge power in time. Nowadays, this belief is alive, especially for older people. For this reason Roskin thought that emperor has still power, if there is something wrong, emperor will capture authority to fix this problem.[2]

      After Emperor Hirohito’s dead, son of Hirohito, Akihito acceded in 1989. He is still emperor of Japan. Emperor’s son Naruhito, is Crown Prince of Japan. There is a discussion about daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, Naruhito has only a daughter and Japan law blocks woman for throne. Japanese want to change this law because of their belief which is emperor is descended from sun goodness. [3]

      The Diet

      According to Japan constitution, Sovereignty belongs to the people of Japan. The Diet is highest organ of state power.[4] The Diet has two house which are called as House of Representative and House of Councilors. Members of the Diet are from party-list or single-member. The lower house, House of Representatives, consist of 480 members. Election for lower house for four years. The upper house, House of Councilors, consist of 252 members and elections of upper house for six years.

      Two houses share political power but House of Representatives has many power than House of Councilors. For example; if a bill is rejected by upper house, the letter can be approved with two-thirds vote.[5] The government is created by House of Representative. This is also gave power to lower house.

      Since 1955, with one break, Liberal Democrat Party dominated lower house and upper house.[6] This reason cause upper house not to work for its aim. Upper house should balance lower house but majority of both house is at Liberal Democrat Party.

      Prime Minister and Cabinet

      The executive power of Japan is prime minister and his cabinet. Cabinet is elected from lower house. Prime minister creates a list of cabinet and submits to emperor. Emperor confirms the list of cabinet and they starts to work. The cabinet contains the following ministries:

      Foreign Affairs
      Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
      Foreign Affairs
      Health, Labor and Welfare
      Agriculture, Forestry and Fisharies
      Economy, Trade and Industry
      Land, Infrastructure and Transport
      Public Management, Home Affairs, Post and Telecominications,

The cabinet also includes many “ministry of state” :
      Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs
      Gender Equality
      Disaster Management
      Financial Policy
      Economic and Fiscal Policy
      Administrative and Regulatory Reform

      There are some discussion about Japan’s prime misinter is a figurehead. Japan’s prime ministers are not real power.[7] Reason of this situation is that Liberal Democrat Party has much power and there is no powerful prime minister except from Koizumi. Parties, especially LDP, have been influencial in the Japan political system. This does not cause instability. Cause of stability of Japan is, with no doubt, advanced bureaocratic strucuture in Japan.

      In last period of Japan political system, bureaocracy and bureaocrats are powerful and they contribute to stability. Bureaocratic structure is orhanized in hierarcy. Bureaocracy is not effected by different governments. Beurocracy is relatively independent from government.[8]

      Party System

      Japan democracy paved the way for different parties but when we look at Japan parties and politics, we see that there is a one dominant party that is Liberal Democrat Party. Liberal Democrat Party, until 1945, Japan’s only sovereign party. There are many parties in Japan politics but anyone can be successful against LDP. Other parties make coalitions to have representetive in lower house. Liberal Democrat Party, Japan Democrat Party, Komeito, Japan Communist Party, Socialist Democrat Party and Conservative New Party are represented in the Diet. [9]

      Local Organizations

      Japan has forty-seven administrative division. Forty-three of them prefectures and four of them, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido, have special status. Prefectures are not independent from central government but have realm of authority. Each prefectures have their own assamble and governer.


      Japan has a democratic system with symbolic monarchy since 1945. There is an emperor which has no authority, there are two assambles which are called as the Diet and it is the highest organ of Japan politics. Prime minister and his cabinet are created from House of Representative. Executive power is at government. This system makes Japan politics stabil with bourocracy and party system.


[1] Japan Constitution, Chapter 1 , Article 1 : “The Emperor shall be 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.”, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_jaDipan/constitution_e.html.

[2]Roskin,M. G., Countries and Concepts Politics, Geographic and Culture Eight Edition, Pearson,2013, page 356

[3]Ibıd. page 356

[4]Japan Constitution, Chapter 4 , Article 41 : “The Diet shall be the highest organ of state power, and shall be the sole law-making organ of the State.”

[5]Büyükbaş, Hakkı, “Japon Siyasal Gelişimi Üzerine Bir İnceleme 1868-2003”SDÜ Fen Edebiyat Fakültesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2013, issue:28, page 62

[6]Roskin,M. G., Countries and Concepts Politics, Geographic and Culture Eight Edition, Pearson,2013, page 356

[7]Ibid. page 357

[8]Büyükbaş, Hakkı, “Japon Siyasal Gelişimi Üzerine Bir İnceleme 1868-2003”SDÜ Fen Edebiyat Fakültesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2013, issue:28, page 60

[9]Ibid. page 58



  • Roskin, M. G., Countries and Concepts Politics, Geography, Culture (eight edition), Pearson, 2003
  • O’Neil, Patrick H. & Field, Karl & Share, Don.,Cases in Comparative Politics (third edition), W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.
  • Esenbel, S., Japon Modernleşmesi ve Osmanlı, İstanbul, İletişim Yay., 2015
  • Büyükbaş, H., “Japon Siyasal Gelişimi Üzerine Bir İnceleme 1868-2003” SDÜ Fen Edebiyat Fakültesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2013, issue: 28, page 43-73
  • Büyükbaş, H., “Japon Modernleşmesi Üzerine”, Bilimname, 2003/3, page 65-86


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