Hajime Funada: Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?
from Asia Unbound and Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?

Hajime Funada: Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution.

This is the second of four essays by Japanese political leaders on constitutional revision. Hajime Funada is also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who advocates for revision. Since 1979 Funada has served eleven terms in the Lower House, representing the first district constituency of Tochigi prefecture. He served as chair of the LDP’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution (2014-2015), and played an important role in the Lower House Commission on the Constitution during the deliberations of the Abe cabinet’s new security laws.

On Constitutional Revision by Hajime Funada

More on:


Last year, Japan faced a significant moment in its history—the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II. This year Japan’s constitution is in its sixty-ninth year, making it one of the oldest constitutions in the world. A notable characteristic of this constitution is that it has never been revised.

Japan’s constitution came into being after the Imperial Parliament discussed and approved the draft proposal submitted by the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). For some time, the perception that the Occupation forced our constitution upon us was pervasive, and therefore many believe it needed to be redrafted by the Japanese themselves. Recently, however, more and more Japanese think that revision is necessary because of the changing international environment surrounding Japan as well as because of changes that have occurred within Japanese society.

It is not because the current constitution is so well written that we have avoided revision. Rather, we have allowed a very lenient and flexible interpretation of the current constitution over the years. This is easily seen in the fact that we have one of the world’s most capable military forces, the Self Defense Force (SDF), even though we continue to maintain Article Nine, which states that we must not possess any land, sea, and air forces. Yet by continuing to rely on reinterpretation, we have allowed the credibility of our constitution to diminish. On Article Nine reinterpretation, in fact, we have reached the limit [of what is allowable under our present constitution].

With regards to what a revised constitution might say, the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito agree that a new Article Nine must acknowledge our Self Defense Force. Yet given the sensitive nature of this clause, we cannot help but wait for subsequent revisions. For the first effort at constitutional revision, all of Japan’s political parties (except for the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party) are likely to agree on adding various clauses such as a clause to allow Japan to respond to crises, a clause that imposes fiscal discipline on the government, or a new clause protecting certain rights like environmental rights. In our first attempt at revising the constitution, we are likely to be able to reach a consensus on one of these issues.

For every nation, the process of revising the constitution is highly respected, and Japan is no exception. Since the ruling coalition already has a two thirds majority in the Lower House of parliament, if those in favor of revising the constitution surpasses the requisite two thirds of the seats in the Upper House this year, we will have one of the conditions for proposing change – a supermajority of our Diet members asking [the Japanese people] to amend or revise the current constitution.

More on:


However, I am cautious against proceeding with only those who are pro-revision. In order to present the Japanese people with a national referendum – and gain their approval, it is imperative that we build as large a basis of support across parties in the national Diet.

To be sure, momentum in Japan is growing for the first ever attempt at constitutional revision since the end of World War II. But it is extremely important that we do not rush. We must take our time and make steady progress by following the established procedures.