Unchanging and Unchangeable Constitutions: Taiwan and Japan

The non-amendment of the Japanese Constitution since 1946 is difficult to attribute to the amendment mechanism alone, 2/3 majorities in the Diet and a simple majority at a referendum. Taiwan’s Constitution sets considerably higher thresholds: effectively, a three quarters majority in the legislature and absolute majority at referendum, combined with quorums and debate rules-quite possibly the most onerous general amendment procedure in the world. This paper compares Japan and Taiwan to explore critical issues in the theory of constitutional amendment: amendment difficulty, de facto unamendability, links between amendment difficulty and informal amendment, amendment culture. The paper suggests that the unchanging character of the Japanese Constitution and the unchangeable character of the Taiwanese Constitution are each attributable to extreme sensitivity on issues critical to national identity: renunciation of war in the case of Japan, territorial redefinition in the case of Taiwan.