Wednesday, 6 July 2022 – 13:08

Explaining Politics in Japan

Japan is an island country of East Asia which is home to around 127 million people.

Japan is a significant power on the world stage and has one of the largest economies in the world. It is also a world leader in science, technology, and electronics. The country adopted a Constitution following the Second World of War, part of which makes it settling international disputes through law illegal.

Click through the tabs below to learn more about how politics works in Japan.


{tab What are the different parts of Japan’s political system?}

The executive branch of Government consists of the Emperor, Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Japan has a head of state, known as the Emperor. The Emperor of Japan is a ceremonial role according to Japan’s Constitution. The powers of the emperor are limited. The Emperor is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister and also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, in appointing the Prime Minister, he must appoint the candidate decided by the National Diet (Parliament) and he must appoint the candidate for the position of Chief Justice decided by the Cabinet. In these ways, the Emperor holds a similar ceremonial role to Her Majesty the Queen here in the UK.

The Prime Minister is nominated by the National Diet and appointed by the Emperor. The Prime Minister is the head of the Government and also the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Japan. The Cabinet is led by the Prime Minister and consists of 19 other members, usually known as Ministers of State, and these people are appointed by the Prime Minister.

The legislature (law-making) body in Japan is the National Diet (the equivalent of the Houses of Parliament). The National Diet is the supreme power of Japan.

The highest court in Japan is the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the Emperor.


{tab How does the National Diet work?}

The National Diet is a bicameral legislature, meaning it consists of two houses. The two houses of the National Diet are the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives.

The two houses are responsible for passing laws, but also selecting the Prime Minister.

Currently, the largest party in the National Diet is a conservative party, the LDP – the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. The party is in government with Komeito, which is also a Conservative party,


House of Councillors

The House of Councillors is the upper house of the National Diet and has 245 seats.

The members of the House, known as Councillors, serve for six-year terms and must be at least 30 years old when elected. Councillors are directly elected, but elections are staggered, meaning that only some of the seats in the House are elected at each election.

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives is the lower house and the more powerful house of the National Diet in Japan. Where it disagrees with the House of Councillors on matters of budgets, treaties or the selection of the Prime Minister, the House of Representatives can insist on the Representatives decision and it can override a vote of the House of Councillors in other situations.

The House of Representatives has 465 members and each is elected for a four year term. Japanese citizens aged 25 years and older may run for election to the House of Representatives, but citizens only need to be at least 18 years in order to vote.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected through a mixed electoral system – some members are elected through First Past The Post (like in UK General Elections), while others are elected through a system of proportional representation.


{tab Who is the current Emperor and the current Prime Minister?}

The current Emperor of Japan in Naruhito and he has reigned since May 2019. According to Japan’s traditional order of succession, Naruhito is Japan’s 126th monarch. Officially known as His Majesty the Emperor, Naruhito acceded to the throne following the abdication of his father who had reigned since January 1989.

The current Prime Minister of Japan is Shinzō Abe, who entered office in 2012. He was previously also Prime Minister between 26 September 2006 and 26 September 2007, resigning for health reasons. To date, Abe is Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister in history.


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