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Constitutional Minipaper: Comparing The Meiji And Macarthur Constituti

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Michael H. Foki

History of Japan

Constitution Mini Paper


Two major changes in government were the driving force for the Meiji and 1947 (MacArthur) Constitutions to be drafted in Japan. The Meiji Constitution presented in 1889, was created during an era of restoration that reestablished the Emperor as head of the Japanese government and its people. This document served to not only bring back an old form of government to the Japanese, but effectively ended a disorganized duel system of government (Emperor and Bakufu) and unified a nation in order to compete with western powers. The occupation of Japan by the United States after Word War II also served to bring about great change in Japanese government. The result of this occupation was a drastic alteration of Meiji government along with its constitution in order to quill fears of Japanese aggression reemerging in the future. Both the Meiji and 1947 constitutions were major turning points in Japanese history, and can be compared due to their similarity.

Known as the Meiji Era (1868-1912) Japan was in a process of reconstructing its self into a modern nation when the right elements existed to make a constitution. With the Emperor as their national symbol, Japan's people railed to the threat of Western powers taking over their country. Beginning in 1853 a policy of isolation that was well established for close to 200 years came to an end. Commodore Matthew Perry and a fleet of American warships sailed into Tokyo bay with a request to open its ports for trade. Out matched by western technology and aware of imperialism being posed on china the Japanese had no choice but to open their nation to the world. The arrival of the west not only opened Japans ports but also resulted in a series of unequal treaties signed between the feudal Takugawa Shogunate and the Americans, British, and Dutch. To the Japanese people any treaties signed were unacceptable and something had to be done about it. Open rebellion eventually took place and the Shogun was overthrown. With the Takugawa gone marked an end to a duel system of government placing a figurehead Emperor in Edo, and a military government in Kamakura. In its place rose new central authority under the symbol of the Emperor. Before this new authority could give rise the Japanese searched for suitable examples of government that they could use to make there own government. Representatives were sent to Europe and brought back many ideas that were used to create Japans government. The information the Japanese brought back ended up shaping the new government into what it was during the Meiji Era. With this new government shaped by western and Japanese ideals still something was missing, the idea of a Constitution was being considered. Eventually this idea became reality and a constitution consisting of seven chapters, establishing an Emperor as ruler, diet (legislative body) as representation for the people, Penal laws, land rights, and the abolishment of the confusion style class system came into being.

Along with the Emperor and a constitution came the build up of Japans military. With the threat of western powers winning a war against Japan, the Emperor was convinced that he should build up a strong Navy, Army, and Air Force to ensure Japans security. Envoys were once again sent to western countries to gain knowledge of modern warfare and organization of a military. Upon there return delegates from these envoys suggested that a conscript law be established to draft solders for a modern military. This system effectively replaced the samurai and ensured the abolishment of feudalism. By the start of World War II the Japanese were a superpower in Asia Japans military had beaten the Russians, Chinese, and Korean giving the United States a reason to feel threatened by Japan.

The event that brought the United States to a panic came with the signing of treaties with Italy and Germany, and the invasion of Indochina by Japanese troops in the summer of 1941 . In response to these treaty and invasion the United States along with Britain placed embargoes

on Japan effectively cutting off supplies of oil and rubber. These two products were essential to the Japanese military and without them Japan would be sure to run out of their reserves quickly. This ensured a war between Japan and the United States because of Japans isolation in the Pacific, and after all debate was over Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. From 1941-45 Japan fought intensely against the United States but ultimately lost. Atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, and the Russians declaring war on Japan proved to be the endgame on August 14th Japan officially surrendered.

With this surrender marked a new turning point for Japan. For the first time in its history Japan had lost a war, and had a foreign country occupying their land. After the war Japan as a country



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