Constitutional revision is the focus of a wide-ranging, long-lasting debate about what kind of country Japan should be. Since the 1990s, numerous proposals to revise the postwar constitution of 1947 have appeared. The 1994 publication by the Yomiuri Newspaper of a draft for a new constitution was a watershed event that broke foregoing taboos on discussion of constitutional revision. Japan’s leading political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, published a new draft constitution in November 2005, substituting a different set of proposals in 2012. LDP prime ministers regularly announce their intention to revise the constitution. Although opposition parties, major newspapers, economic organizations, and a variety of newly formed civil society groups have generally opposed revision, the changing geopolitical circumstances surrounding Japan greatly affect public opinion on the issue, and there are strong voices on both sides.
Because of its potential to bring about historic change in many areas of politics and society, constitutional revision provides an ideal focus for Japanese studies as a whole. While proposals to amend Article 9 (the clause renouncing war) have received the most attention, other changes proposed for the constitution and related laws could significantly alter the powers of the executive branch of government, Japan’s military defense, the status of women, imperial succession, the educational system, the family, and the rights of the people, including the freedoms of conscience, the press, and religion. Constitutional revision could potentially enact wide-ranging, significant changes to politics, the economy, society, and religion.
Founded in 2005, the Constitutional Revision Research Project highlights the variety of voices involved in the debate. In the project’s early years, web archiving of relevant digital materials was a major focus. In addition, workshops held in conjunction with Keiō University enabled researchers from Asian countries, Europe, and the U.S. to learn from each other, resulting in Japanese Constitutional Revisionism and Civic Activism (2021), a collection of essays on the many forms of civic activism that have emerged from the debate on constitutional revision in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
Operated by the Japan Digital Resource Center, the project’s website offers a variety of new resources for students, researchers, and anyone with an interest in the spectrum of views on constitutional revision in Japan.