Development of the Constitution and Constitutionalism in Japan: Traditionalism versus Modernism

Yuzuru Shimada Professor


In the late 19th century, Japan set about building a modern state. It was, in one aspect,

the response against the Western powers that were colonizing Asia countries. In order to resist the Western imperialism by diplomatic way, building the modern legal system became the agenda for the Japanese government along with the economic and military development.

The legal reform was also the response to the domestic politics. After the bloody civil war (Boshin War), the feudal government (Tokugawa government) was defeated and Japan could establish the centralized modern state under the Emperor. This event is called the Meiji Restoration. In the Meiji Restoration regime, winners of the civil war dominated government positions. Therefore, people who was excluded from the government power, such as losers in civil war and landlords who suffered heavy tax, demanded the Constitution and the Parliament.

Therefore, the legal constitutional development of Japan in the early stage had two differentvectors,namely, themodernizationoflawtoaddressexternalpressure,andto address domestic political demand. Furthermore, the interaction between the imported modern western law and the existing Japanese law had significant influence of this development both in practice and in theory.

This paper will discuss the development of the constitutional law and constitutionalism in Japan as a case of this legal development under the interaction of global

community and indigenous culture.

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