Governance Structure 統治体制
Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. The first article in the Constitution of Japan stipulates that “the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and the unity of people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.”
The division of powers is respected but not as strictly observed as in the United States. The national government consists of three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch (the cabinet) is formed by the prime minister and ministers are appointed by the prime minister. The prime minister is elected by the lower house of the Diet. The cabinet and the majority party work in close cooperation to make laws. Ninety percent of enacted laws are proposed by the cabinet.
Japan is divided into 47 prefectures and more than 1,600 municipalities and townships. Prefectures are administered by governors, municipalities by mayors, and townships by chiefs of village, all of whom are elected into office. These local governments work on the principle of decentralization. They are responsible for almost 60% of the public service provision and yet their tax revenues are 40% those of the national government.
The legislative branch has a two-house system: the House of Representatives (lower house) and the House of Councilors (upper house), both of which are elected by popular vote. By constitutional stipulation, the House of representatives, can override certain decisions made by the House of Councilors. The prime minister is elected by the House of Representatives, and budget proposals can be confirmed by a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives even if they are negated by the House of Councilors.
The judicial branch is independent of the rest of the government. The Supreme Court prosecutors are approved by a referendum at the time of general election. However, executive privilege is widely accepted in the national and local governments, and the plaintiff seldom wins in case of administrative litigation.