TIMELINES: May 3, 1947, Japan enacted its new constitution drafted by what foreign power?

May 3, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Thursday, May 3, 2012


May 3, 1947, Japan’s American-drafted, post-World War II constitution went into effect after being ratified by Japanese lawmakers. Following the surrender of Japan by Emperor Hirohito in 1945, the old 1889 Meiji Constitution became void. On behalf of the United States, Cmdr. Douglas MacArthur assumed the role of Supreme Commander for Allied Powers in occupied Japan. After an initial attempt by Japan to draft its own constitution was rejected, MacArthur’s staff took over, incorporating a bill of rights, granting universal suffrage, and maintaining the emperor in a symbolic position—though completely stripping him of all powers. Perhaps the most notable of the provisions of the constitution was the prohibition on Japan’s ability to maintain “war potential”— effectively outlawing Japan’s right to wage war.


Last Friday, Japan’s opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—the nation’s largest political party that has held power almost continuously since its formation in 1955—released a revised draft of Japan’s Constitution, proposing two significant changes: Allowing “national defense forces” for self-defense purposes, which is assumed to also include the right to collective self-defense; giving the prime minister the right to declare a state emergency, and under that, giving the Cabinet powers to enact ordinances with the same power as laws. The latter provision was drafted with the tragedy of last year’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster firmly in mind, according to the LDP.