The following analysis continues an evaluation of Japan’s democracy, which is a constitutional monarchy, by following Chapters 10-12 of the Patterns in Democracy text. Japan’s placement on the two-dimensional conceptual map of democracy is also explored.
Japan is identified as being both unitary and decentralized.
Unitary is defined as majoritarian, as opposed to federal. The unitary model sees a central government having control over all other competing governments.
The decentralized categorization of Japan would mean that Japan’s government spreads power and control over multiple bodies, which can be seen in the executive, legislative and judicial breakdown of Japan’s government. The legislative branch, or the National Diet, includes both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.
The cameral structure of the Japanese legislature is identified in Chapter 11 as a medium-strength bicameralism with symmetric and congruent chambers.
The Japanese legislature involves members who are directly appointed by popular vote.
Bicameral legislature refers to different houses within the legislature, which in Japan is known as the National Diet.
The two houses within the bicameral legislature are the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.
Japan’s bicameral legislature is identified in the text as somewhat of an anomaly, due to its unitarian structure. Unitary, or majoritarian, is defined as one part having the majority of control throughout the government.
For constitutional amendments, Japan requires a supermajority of more than two-thirds, meaning any posed amendments must receive two-thirds or more of legislative votes for the amendment to be included.
The Japan constitution not only requires a supermajority of two-thirds, but also a referendum.
Japan’s constitution has never been amended in over sixty years, which would have been when the current government was formed (following World War 2).
Japan is identified as having a weak judicial review. This would be the result if its majoritarian structure.
In the Constitutional Rigidity map in Chapter 12, Japan has strong constitutional rigidity (with a score of 4, or the highest score on the map), while it has a judicial review rank of 2. This would be aligned with the fact that Japan has never had a constitutional amendment, which would identify constitutional rigidity, and its majoritarian structure which would imply the Supreme Court of Japan is not ideologically divided or diverse.
Of the 36 democracies, Japan’s reliance on central banks ranks 32nd. From 1945-1994, it was 0.25; from 1945-2010, it was 0.29; from 1995-2010, it was 0.41. This would show a gradual increase over time, but there has been increasing dependency on central banks consistently in all democracies.
Two-Dimensional Conceptual Map
Japan’s rank on the two-dimensional conceptual map is in the lower left quadrant, which would lean toward the federal dimension and the executives dimension. However, Japan ranks close to the center of the map overall; it only slightly ranks under 0 but well above -1 on the federal-unitary dimension, and around -.6 on the executives-party dimension.
This would seem to correspond with the overall structure of Japan’s government. Power is spread across each of the three branches of its government, while Japan also has a majoritarian structure. This would therefore cause Japan’s government, despite its multiple branches, to be mostly influenced by the majority party, which has remained in power since the current Japanese constitution was formed, with a few periods where it has not remained in power. Because of the majoritarian structure, there would not seem to be significant challenges to the wishes of the ruling party, and this would also be corroborated by the relatively unique fact that Japan has never had a constitutional amendment.