A Guide to Japan\’s Governance and Political Setup

A Guide to Japan’s Governance and Political Setup

Japan has a unique political system and governance structure that has evolved over centuries. The country has seen many changes and played a significant role in world politics, economics, and culture. From the feudal era to modern times, Japan’s political setup has undergone many transformations, leading it to be one of the most stable democracies in Asia. In this article, we will dive into Japan’s governance and political system.


Japan has a long history of feudalism, ruled by powerful clans and shoguns. It was not until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 that Japan started its modernization process, leading it to become a constitutional monarchy. Emperor Meiji ascended the throne and abolished the feudal system in favor of creating a centralized administrative power. Japan then gradually transitioned into a parliamentary system, giving the people a voice in government decisions.

Constitution and Government

Japan’s current constitution was enacted in 1947 and established Japan as a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The government consists of three branches: the legislative, executive, and judiciary.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of Japan’s government comprises a bicameral Parliament, called the National Diet, which is comprised of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. The House of Representatives has 465 members elected for a four-year term while the House of Councillors has 245 members elected for a six-year term. The Diet has the power to pass bills that are then implemented by the executive branch.

Executive Branch

The executive branch of Japan’s government is headed by the Prime Minister, who is the head of government and is appointed by the Emperor. The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Representatives, and they appoint the Cabinet, which consists of ministers in charge of different areas, such as Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Health. The Cabinet is accountable to the Diet and must resign if a vote of no confidence is passed.

Judiciary Branch

The judiciary branch of Japan’s government is headed by the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land. The judges are appointed by the Cabinet and approved by the Emperor. Japan has a civil law system mainly influenced by German law, with courts following personal interpretations of statutes rather than case law precedents.

Political Parties

Japan has a multi-party system, and since 1955 the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been the dominant party in government, except for brief periods in the 1990s. The LDP is a center-right conservative party that prioritizes economic growth and security policies. Other significant political parties include the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Komeito party.

Citizenship and Voting

Japan has a population of around 126.5 million people, and it is rare for non-Japanese citizens to gain citizenship. Japan follows a jus sanguinis or bloodline principle of nationality law, which means citizenship is primarily based on the nationality of a person’s parents. Japan allows dual citizenship, but citizens of some countries must give up their other nationality before becoming a Japanese citizen.

Japanese citizens can vote from 18 years old and must be registered on the electoral roll. Voting is not compulsory, and voter turnout in Japan is typically around 50-60%.


1. Is Japan a republic or a monarchy?

Japan is a constitutional monarchy with the Emperor as the head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of government.

2. Who is the current Prime Minister of Japan?

The current Prime Minister of Japan is Yoshihide Suga, who was appointed on September 16, 2020.

3. How often are elections held in Japan?

Elections for the House of Representatives are held every four years, while elections for the House of Councillors are held every three years, with half of the seats up for election each time.

4. Can foreigners vote in Japan’s elections?

No, only Japanese citizens can vote in Japan’s elections.

5. How is the Emperor of Japan chosen?

The Emperor is not elected but rather inherits the position through the imperial bloodline.

6. How many political parties are there in Japan?

Japan has a multi-party system, with several political parties represented in the National Diet. The Liberal Democratic Party has been the dominant party for most of Japan’s post-war history.

7. Does Japan have a written constitution?

Yes, Japan’s constitution is a written document that was enacted on May 3, 1947, and has been amended several times since then.

8. What is Japan’s judicial system?

Japan’s judicial system is a civil law system influenced primarily by German law. Courts follow personal interpretations of statutes rather than case law precedents.

9. Can Japanese citizens hold dual citizenship?

Yes, Japanese citizens can hold dual citizenship. However, citizens of some countries must give up their other nationality before becoming a Japanese citizen.

10. What is the role of the Supreme Court in Japan’s government?

The Supreme Court is the highest court in Japan’s judiciary and has the final say on legal matters. The judges are appointed by the Cabinet and approved by the Emperor.


Japan’s governance and political setup have evolved over centuries, culminating in a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The country’s unique history has influenced its political system, making it a leader in Asia for stability and democracy. Understanding how Japan’s government and political parties work can help us better understand their priorities and decision-making processes.