Emergency declaration without concentration of power: The Japanese legal framework against Covid-19

The 1946 constitution does not have an emergency clause and dealing with an extraordinary situation such as a pandemic would be implemented exclusively through laws set by the Diet. This paper explores the characteristics of the Japanese legal framework against Covid-19. The first feature is non-coercive. Although the central government has the authority to declare a state of emergency, the emergency declaration, regardless of its name, does not entail criminal penalties, but merely requires restaurants and theaters to close voluntarily. The second feature is decentralized. Most of the powers to set specific measures are not vested in the central government, but in the local prefectures. In addition, the practice has even emerged that emergency declarations are issued following requests from prefectures. Usually, in an extraordinary situation, it is predicted that strong powers would be concentrated to the central government, but this is not necessarily the case in Japan at present.