Since the 1990s, Japan has been debating new proposals to revise Nihon Koku Kenpō, the 1947 postwar constitution, and this debate has led to significant political activity and civic engagement. The 1994 publication by the Yomiuri Newspaper of a draft for a new constitution was a watershed event that broke through foregoing taboos on discussion of constitutional revision. The leading political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, published a new draft constitution in November 2005 and subsequent prime ministers have announced their intention to pursue the issue vigorously. The other political parties, major newspapers, economic organizations, and a variety of newly formed civil society groups have also become involved.
While proposals to amend Article 9 (the clause renouncing war) have received the most discussion, changes proposed for the constitution itself and for related laws could significantly alter Japan’s military defense (the U.S.-Japan Alliance, especially), the status of women, imperial succession (including provisions for female succession to the throne), the educational system, and public corporations (a category which includes non-profit organizations, foundations, social welfare organizations, and religious organizations). In tandem with a revised constitution, proposed new laws and revisions of existing codes could make wide-ranging, significant changes to political, diplomatic, economic, social, and religious institutions. Because of the potential for historic change, constitutional revision provides an ideal focus for Japanese studies as a whole.
Founded in 2005, the Constitutional Revision Research Project meets to discuss, analyze, and document the process of constitutional revision in Japan. In addition, the project seeks to situate the contemporary process of constitutional revision in the longer historical context of constitutionalism in Japan, and to link data collected about the current process to related historical documents, such as those generated in the course of debate about the drafting of the Meiji and postwar constitutions.
In addition to meetings, archiving relevant digital materials from a wide range of sources related to constitutional revision is a major focus for the project. Because information on current activities of individuals and groups involved in the issue is mainly “born digital,” a collection of around eighty related websites is harvested periodically to ensure that the debate and process of constitutional revision will be preserved and made available to scholars.