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Revising the Japanese Constitution

Courtesy Reuters

THE circulation in 1950 of a report[i] prepared for the Supreme Commander in Japan, General MacArthur, made known that the original draft of the postwar Constitution of Japan had been written by members of Government Section of the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers (SCAP) in February 1946. The first volume of this authoritative report included a frank statement of facts already known to many. However, it left room for questions, some of which have now been answered by General MacArthur and by General Courtney Whitney, who was Chief of Government Section. The fresh data were elicited by a "Study Group" appointed by the Japanese Research Council set up in 1956 under authority of the Diet to examine into the origin, operation and possible revision of the Constitution.[ii] Professor Kenzo Takayanagi, Chairman of the Research Council, headed the Study Group, which visited the United States in November and December of 1958. He summarized its findings in an address before the Harvard Club in Tokyo on March 9, 1959.[iii]

Although the SCAP draft Constitution was approved by the Japanese Diet with largely minor changes acceptable to SCAP, it has been regarded widely in Japan as a foreign imposition not wholly suited to a people of very different legal and social traditions. It has been criticized also as having been written hastily by men without adequate knowledge of Japanese civilization and with little regard either for the sensibilities of a mature citizenry or for the national right of self-determination. American scholars, the present writer among them, have made similar criticisms. Civilians employed in Government Section took part in writing the draft; although the extent of their influence has not yet been established, it undoubtedly was considerable.

The decision to prepare a constitution was made by General MacArthur, who interpreted directives from Washington very liberally. These directives required that the Japanese system of government be reformed along democratic lines, in accordance with the Potsdam Proclamation of 1945. They did not require SCAP to write a new constitution. On the contrary, they

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