Education About Asia

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Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Will Japan Change?

Is Japan once again changing? Unlike 1868, when the newly empowered Meiji emperor moved to Tokyo to preside over a series of dramatic changes that became more generally known as the Meiji Restoration, or 1945, when the Allied Occupation allied with relatively progressive Japanese to create a new constitution and institute a set of major reforms, Japan has yet to see a truly dramatic leader or many public protests. Yet a less dramatic series of political, economic, and social developments, combin...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Democracy in Action in Japan’s Foreign and Security Policymaking

One stubborn belief common in other developed democracies is that the Japanese electorate is somehow passive or unengaged. Moreover, the belief that in Japan important political decisions are made by unelected bureaucrats against the wishes of elected politicians or the electorate at large has stuck in the minds of many, propagated by the oft-repeated dictum that Japan is a place where “politicians reign but bureaucrats rule.” (note 1) In the area of foreign and security policy, however, the...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Notions of Rights in the United States and Japan

COMPETING CONCEPTIONS OF RIGHTS Japan and the United States share some of the institutional infrastructure for “rights” such as written constitutions and independent judiciaries. Both countries are liberal democracies, and the US played a key role in remaking Japan’s institutions after World War II. Still, what the term “rights” means differs in the two countries. Japan has inherited competing conceptions of rights from the West at different points in its history. The concept of right...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Grassroots Democracy and Civil Society in Japan

The way that civil society connects to and supports democracy in Japan differs in important ways from what we find in the United States. Of course, the fundamental logic of the connection is essentially the same—in both countries, civil society groups support democracy and governance through providing services, ideas, and generating connections among citizens. However, the patterns or configurations of civil society in the two countries are quite distinct, and as a result, we find important di...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Democratic Japan: The Rise of Local Women Politicians

It’s a muggy August evening in 2010, and I am enjoying dinner and conversation in a Ginza sushi bar with local politician Kyoko Nakamura (a pseudonym), a woman from one of Tokyo’s twenty-three ward assemblies. Ms. Nakamura is nearing the end of her first term. After initially losing her challenge for a seat on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government council a business partner encouraged Nakamura to run for the ward assembly as an independent “pinch hitter” when a Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ...