Japanese Society and Culture


Constitution of Japan, Symbol, Symbolic Monarchy, Symbolic Emperor System, Emperor Shōwa

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Article 1 of the Constitution of Japan stipulates a symbolic emperor system based on popular sovereignty, stating that “The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.” In the post-war period, the symbolic emperor system of the Constitution of Japan developed in its own way through shrewd adaptation and harmonization with popular sovereignty, within the context of Japan’s particular political climate. Nineteenth-century European monarchies comprised several types of constitutional monarchy, such as the German-style “constitutional monarchy,” the British-style “parliamentary monarchy,” and the French-style “moderative power monarchy”. Comparable to these, the symbolic emperor system formed under the Constitution of Japan in the latter half of the 20th century can be said to present a new genre of modern monarchy that we may refer to as a “symbolic monarchy.” Based on this viewpoint, this article examines the structural shift to the symbolic emperor system of the Constitution of Japan from the Meiji Emperor system based on divine decree sovereignty, and the meaning and function of the “symbol” in the Constitution of Japan. Moreover, I will consider the origins of the symbolic emperor system and its traditional Japanese characteristics by examining the origin, acceptance, and international spread of the “symbol” provision in Article 1 of the Constitution of Japan.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.