Historically speaking, in the late 19th century, the national goal was to reorganize a typically feudalistic Japan into a modern nation-state comparable to western developed countries of that time. It was accomplished in its own way through a modernization of Japanese political, economic and social structures and through an introduction of western constitutionalism to Japanese law.
Despite the conservative party – the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – remaining in power almost continuously from 1947 until now, the current Constitution has never been revised since it went into effect in 1947, nor has a bid been made to initiate a formal amendment process, partly because of the high hurdle in proposing an amendment in parliament before it can be put to a referendum. The current constitution requires any amendment to be approved by a 2/ 3 majority in both houses of the Diet and subsequently, a mandatory simple majority national referendum is required. This is due to efforts by progressives to prevent constitutional revision and the realization of the wish of the very conservative. They have believed firmly that any amendment that would please conservatives will risk the development of postwar Japanese liberal democracy.
A change of power took place in 2009, from the LDP to the center left Democratic Party. The LDP became an opposition party as a consequence of a crushing defeat in the general election in 2009. 3 years later, in 2012, it succeeded in returning to power. At that very exceptional time, the LDP, as the leading opposition party, published a very conservative draft for a total amendment of the current Constitution. The main objective was to reconfirm the conservatives’ fundamental political values. This is worth analyzing in relation to this event’s theme, “Authoritarian constitutionalism”. We can consider this draft to be a result of a kind of politico-socio-psychological reaction to the development of a globalization of Japanese society. It was responding to a desire to emphasize Japanese identity as a “beautiful” traditional society in contrast to such a world-wide trend, rather than embodying an effective constitutional proposal in order to change Japanese politics practically.
By using constitutional amendment as a tool, the current Abe administration is making an attempt to render Japanese politics more authoritarian than before. However, generally speaking, as Japanese politics has been functioning in a democratic way during 70 years, even radical conservatives aren’t able to change the fundamental liberal and democratic constitutional principles now. The Japanese particular constitutional problem is that, since the ruling party has conceived constitutional amendment more as an ideological tool than as a practical one to ameliorate functioning of a Japanese liberal democratic regime, opposition parties have the tendency to prevent any constitutional amendment, which results in not having a constructive discussion.