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Japan Institute of Constitutional Law

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Essay and Opinion


In-depth study of and further discussions on the Constitution

January 1st, 2007

Makoto Ito
Director, JICL

Happy New Year!
We have entered into a very important year that is a very important one for the future of the Constitution. I will dedicate myself to its in-depth study, and I undertake to discuss it with more people.

Last year, the new Abe Cabinet was established. Prime Minister Abe, who assumed the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party with constitutional amendments as his primary pledge, has revealed his determination to enact these amendments during his term in office. At the National Diet, a consensus has been reached between the ruling parties and the main opposition party regarding the enactment of a modified national referendum bill that would enable "amendment" of the Constitution. A "New Constitution" cannot be implemented under the formalities outlined under the current Constitution. However, while calling it "Amendments to the Constitution," both the ruling parties and the main opposition party are effectively attempting to enact a "New Constitution." As Prof. Noriho Urabe, our institution's chief guest researcher points out, it is "nothing but an attempted revolution or a coup d'etat." [From his book Kenpou no Hon (Book on the Constitution]. With this year marking the 60th anniversary since the Constitution of Japan took effect, the issue is reaching a crucial juncture.

Yet, at the same time, many are beginning to realize the problematic nature of the "amendments." Over 5,000 "Article 9 Associations," from various locations and from different fields, are conducting diversified activities. And their activities are having an influence on the members of the Diet and their parties who are conscious of this year's Upper House election. Through the in-depth study of the Constitution and discussions with more people, we can prevent the attempts at making a "New Constitution" via the Constitutional "Amendments", and make good use of the principles of the Constitution to the benefit of society.

Last year, our institute published a book entitled Nihonkokukenpou no Takakutekikensyou (Multilateral examination of the Constitution of Japan in light of the movement towards Constitutional 'amendments') published by Nihon Hyoron Sha. The book includes impressive articles from various academic and professional domains and has successfully raised awareness of the issue. The institute has also produced and introduced Japan: A country which does not make war, the first film in a series of documentary films entitled Walk with the Constitution. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Constitution of Japan's enactment, this film analyzes the role that the Constitution has played and uses historic footage. The film is currently showing in various parts of the country.

In terms of the information transmitted on our website, we are fortunate to receive valuable comments from various fields every week, which has helped enrich the column "This week's comments" and the "Reference on the Constitution Database" as well as the English and Korean websites. This enrichment is the fruit of the cooperation of the many people involved, including the guest researchers, supporting members and collaborators. Again, I would like to express my appreciation.

This year, in addition to our regular activities, our institute will hold a series of lectures entitled "Our Constitution in world history" and will also publish new books from which we can learn about the Constitution's raison d'etre, its role and its function from a historical perspective. In this way, we will conduct our awareness-raising activities in a more diversified and effective way in order to underscore the Constitution of Japan's essential value to society.

I intend to undertake activities, such as lectures and article writing, with the utmost energy. And it is my strong wish to do so to the best of my ability and together with many citizens. I would like to ask for your kind understanding and cooperation.