Fourth Meeting

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Meeting Agenda

Matters relating to the Constitution of Japan

1. A free discussion was held on the topics of the Diet and the Cabinet, with particular reference to the bicameral system and to political parties.

2. A free discussion was held to conclude the Commission's research for the year.

3. Chairman NAKAYAMA gave an address. (Click here)

The Diet and the Cabinet, with particular reference to the bicameral system and to political parties
Main points of initial round of comments by representatives of each party

NAGAOKA Yoji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> The bicameral system offers the advantages of ensuring careful deliberation and reflecting the diverse opinions and interests of the public. The unicameral system offers the advantages of permitting efficient policy-making and preventing legislative gridlock.

>> The bicameral system may act as a brake on the mechanism that, under the parliamentary cabinet system, concentrates power in the Prime Minister. It thus risks weakening the Prime Minister's leadership, especially when, as in Japan, there are two chambers similar in nature and with almost equal powers. Moreover, the two Houses appear to conduct deliberations of much the same kind, and thus there is no denying the criticism that the House of Councillors is a copy of the House of Representatives.

>> In response to the above problems, some people advocate changing to a unicameral system. I cannot agree, because in a country with a population as large as Japan's, a unicameral system would not reflect the will of the people with enough sensitivity to the finer points, it would not ensure that a minority gets a voice, and it would not enable the legislature to oversee the executive branch vigorously enough. This is not to say, however, that I am satisfied with the existing bicameral system.

>> For a clearer division of roles between the two chambers, we could consider strengthening certain functions of the Upper House, such as oversight of the executive branch centered on review of the final accounts, and investigations from a long-term perspective. The question of the Upper House's powers should be approached with the idea of enabling its Members to express their views from a suprapartisan, all-encompassing vantage point, as the nonpartisan group known as the Ryokufukai did.

>> As for what kind of electoral system we should have under bicameralism, assuming that a do-shu system will be introduced at some point in the future, there is room to consider having the Upper House consist of representatives elected by the do-shu, which would give it a different representative function from that of the Lower House.

>> Political parties are essential to constitutional democracy as a medium between politics and the people, and they form the very heart of the parliamentary cabinet system; hence, it is appropriate to make provision for their status in the Constitution. Depending on how the actual provisions are worded, however, there is a risk of interfering with the freedom to form political parties or their freedom of activity. To avoid this risk, we should ensure that a party's accreditation does not depend on its ideology or positions. Concretely, the relevant article could stipulate the freedom to form political parties and their freedom of activity, in addition to establishing their significance, and it could also lay down provisions for intraparty democracy and a basis for enacting a Political Parties Law.

SUZUKI Katsumasa (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> We should maintain the bicameral system on the premise that the Constitution will be amended to introduce a do-shu system and make the Members of the House of Councillors into representatives of the do-shu.

>> In terms of reforms, assuming that the bicameral system will be retained, I am basically in favor of clarifying the division of roles between the two chambers. However, the proposal to put the House of Representatives mainly in charge of reviewing the budget and the House of Councillors mainly in charge of reviewing the final accounts should be approached with caution.

>> As the executive branch becomes increasingly oversized, it is necessary that the legislative and judicial branches, in particular, keep an adequate check to ensure that administrators remain in touch with the interests of the people in carrying out their work. We need to further improve and strengthen oversight over the administration, e.g., by introducing an ombudsman system.

>> With regard to the powers of the two Houses, it is worth studying the idea that the House of Representatives should be responsible for basic issues of national affairs, including foreign policy and defense, while a House of Councillors consisting of do-shu representatives should be in charge of the living environment, or issues that closely affect our residential lives.

>> We should give political parties a status in the Constitution because they have an important role to play in parliamentary democracy, and because their standing has risen dramatically as a real chance has emerged for the people to choose a government through party platforms. Further, we should make provision in the Constitution for such matters as the freedom to form political parties and their freedom of activity; on that basis, we should then employ various means, including a Political Parties Law, to put in place a framework that will ensure fairness and transparency.

>> With regard to the ideal form of the parliamentary cabinet system, we should ensure that policy-makers at Cabinet level are better prepared for the specialized nature of their tasks by requiring the main opposition party to create a "shadow Cabinet," and we should establish a framework allowing the main opposition party to become involved in administration within certain clearly defined limits.

>> We should set rules governing contacts between politicians and civil servants. Diet Members from the ruling party should be allowed access to civil servants only through Cabinet ministers.

>> I am in favor of popular election of the Prime Minister because of my experience as head of a local government, and because it is important in terms of democratic principles to have the people choose the head of the executive branch directly.

>> There is a worldwide trend toward lowering the voting age from 20 to 18. This would encourage young people to be aware of their rights and responsibilities as adults.

SATO Shigeki (New Komeito)

>> There is agreement within the New Komeito in favor of maintaining the bicameral system, clarifying the roles of the two chambers, and giving the House of Councillors the status of a "seat of common sense" and "seat of reconsideration."

>> The raison d'être of the House of Councillors lies in: (a) restraining a majority in the House of Representatives from making arbitrary decisions or going to extremes; (b) providing more than one conduit for public opinion in the Diet, and thus enabling the complexity of public opinion to be reflected in a multifaceted way; (c) providing a second set of proceedings to complement those of the Lower House and help reflect trends in public opinion; (d) maintaining a longer-term perspective and preventing sudden political upheaval because, in the Upper House, Members' terms are longer and only half the seats come up for reelection at one time; (e) responding, through convocation in emergency session, to a national emergency that occurs while the Lower House is dissolved.

>> Possible divisions of roles between the two Houses include: (a) having the Lower House focus on reviewing the budget and the Upper House focus on reviewing the final accounts, and strengthening the Upper House's administrative oversight function; (b) having the Upper House evaluate and review policies; (c) having the Upper House deliberate on "basic laws" from a long-term perspective.

>> Based on the precedence accorded to the Lower House, some people advocate reducing the powers of the Upper House by not allowing it to pass resolutions censuring the Prime Minister, but I am against any weakening of the Upper House's influence.

>> As for whether the two chambers should have different compositions, they should have different electoral systems while enjoying their present equal powers. Some people favor having large-sized multiple-seat constituencies for the Upper House and smaller-sized multiple-seat constituencies for the Lower House, but we should eliminate the similarities between the two electoral systems.

>> Political parties underpin parliamentary democracy and play an important role in unifying the people, and the Supreme Court has evaluated their existence and their activities positively. Although the Constitution does not explicitly provide for political parties, I see little need for such a provision because Article 21 contains an implicit guarantee, and because the various relevant laws, such as the Political Party Subsidization Law, are functioning as they should.

YAMAGUCHI Tomio (Japanese Communist Party)

>> The two Houses of the Japanese Diet are required to consist of elected Members, representative of all the people, and they are expected to accurately reflect the diversity of public opinion. Accurate reflection of the diversity of public opinion is also an underlying premise of their composition and their functions. For example, the Members of the two Houses serve terms of different lengths, and the will of the people at any given time is reflected in the composition of the two Houses through a system in which the timing of elections for the House of Representatives is decided by dissolving the House, while elections for half the Members of the House of Councillors take place every three years.

>> Matters pertaining to the method of election of Members of the two Houses are to be fixed by law, but in designing the system we cannot ignore certain things that are laid down by the Constitution, such as the equality of voters' rights.

>> The present situation is far from reflecting the diverse will of the people, as the single-seat constituencies that make up the bulk of the electoral system in the House of Representatives favor larger parties, with a resulting disparity between the proportion of the vote a party obtains and the number of seats it wins.

>> Political parties are essential to representative democracy, and although no specific provision is made for them in the Constitution, their freedom of activity is guaranteed in terms of the freedom of association. Through Article 21, the Constitution anticipates that political parties, which are a form of private association, will take on a public character by participating in the political process, and this continues to be an important principle.

>> The key issue for the future development of parliamentary democracy and the activities of political parties is putting an end to corporate donations that could be seen as bribes. The idea that, in addition to receiving subsidies financed by the taxpayer, political parties also receive corporate donations will never be acceptable to the public.

DOI Takako (Social Democratic Party)

>> It is problematic that the Research Commission on the Constitution includes members who regard the Commission's work as a procedure for revising the Constitution. That is not the spirit in which this Commission was created and in which it should be carrying out its task.

>> It seems to me that distrust of political parties has led to a distrust of politics in general. Some people advocate reviving party politics by seeking to regulate the parties with a Political Parties Law or by clarifying their role in the Constitution, but I am dubious, because the demand for these measures is not coming from the public. In attempting to resolve the lack of trust in political parties and the political process, what really counts is how concretely we exercise Article 99 and how faithfully we observe it.

>> One of the arguments for enacting a Political Parties Law is that it would mandate intraparty democracy, but that concept itself is ambiguous. Can the present method of electing party heads, which is subject to factional infighting, truly be called democratic?

>> Given the current situation in which minority voices are ignored and never taken up when bills are deliberated, even if a Political Parties Law were enacted, it would be the law desired by the majority, and it could infringe the freedom of association.

>> Article 21 is founded on the lessons learned from prewar experiences such as the repression of proletarian parties; accordingly, the freedom of activity of political parties should be considered part of the freedom of association.

Comments after the first round

MORIYAMA Mayumi (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> Speaking from my experience of having been a member of both Houses, I believe that both are important and both contribute to the governance of the nation.

>> One possible division of roles between the two chambers would be for the budget to be handled mainly by the House of Representatives and the final accounts mainly by the House of Councillors, but the important thing is that the Members of the two Houses be elected from different backgrounds.

>> When the Constitution was enacted, the intention was that Members should be elected to the Lower House from local electorates and to the Upper House from electorates on a national or prefectural scale. Through political reforms, however, we have arrived at the present electoral system in which the two Houses have similar electorates. This came about because they were considered separately in such venues as the Election System Council.

>> After first considering the ideal form of the Diet, including whether to retain the bicameral system, we should think about the electoral systems of the two Houses as an integral whole.

FURUKAWA Motohisa (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> If we take the approach of local sovereignty, for example, by adopting the do-shu system, we will need a chamber that represents the regions. Thus, it will be necessary to resolve the question of bicameralism at the same time as we arrive at an ideal vision for the nation and the regions.

>> To reflect the will of the people in politics and regain their trust in the political process, it is essential to correct the imbalance in the weight of a single vote in different electorates. To that end, we need to create an electoral mechanism that will automatically correct such imbalances to keep pace with population changes.

>> The Diet is both the sole law-making organ and the body that oversees the administration (the executive branch). Accordingly, we need to strengthen the latter function by establishing an Administrative Oversight Board within the Diet.

NAKAGAWA Masaharu (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> In thinking about the general direction that the nation's form of government should take, there is a consensus on moving toward decentralization, but we still need to obtain a consensus behind the goal of having two major parties competing for power, the alternative being coalition governments based on a multi-party system.

>> The House of Councillors should have a form consistent with ongoing decentralization. This calls for bold reforms, such as having heads of local governments concurrently hold seats in the House of Councillors.

>> In a unicameral system, it is possible that deliberations on bills and other proposals would come to an end before they received sufficient media coverage or were fully understood by the public. The fact that a bicameral parliament spends a long time deliberating on bills is actually a positive factor.

>> We should establish the constitutional status of political parties as a medium between the people and the political process, and we should create a system premised on "shadow Cabinets," as in Britain.

FUNADA Hajime (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> I believe we should retain the bicameral system. My main reasons for this are as follows: (a) Japan has had a stable bicameral parliamentary system since the end of the war; (b) the second chamber plays an important role in restraining excesses by the first; (c) a bicameral parliament can encompass diverse public opinion; (d) the role of the Diet today is larger than ever.

>> Regarding the division of roles, it has been proposed that the Lower House should focus on reviewing the budget and the Upper House on reviewing the final accounts. If we adopt this proposal, we should consider putting the Board of Audit in charge of part of the Upper House's function in relation to the final accounts.

>> To ensure that the Upper House reflects public opinion, in contrast to the Lower House's function of condensing it, the Upper House should preferably be directly elected on a proportional basis to represent the prefectures, or the do-shu if the latter system is introduced. Giving the two Houses different electoral systems in this way will lead to a division of roles between them.

>> Although the existence of political parties is recognized by Article 21, they cannot properly be equated with "association" in general. For this reason, and because party politics is the lifeblood of modern democracy, we should explicitly lay down a constitutional framework for the role of political parties, the freedom to form them, and related matters, and we should provide by law for any prohibitions, requirements, and so on.

HANASHI Yasuhiro (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> One advantage of the bicameral system is that Members' bills submitted in one chamber can be reviewed and checked by the other.

>> The fact that the two chambers inevitably end up with a similar composition can be said to be a defect of the present Constitution, because the only provisions for elections that it contains are in Articles 43, 44, and 14, and it does not stipulate any difference in their electoral systems. At the same time as we put more emphasis on ensuring that every vote in Lower House elections carries equal weight, we should make the elections to the Upper House different in some way, for example, by concentrating more effort on reflecting the interests of the regions.

>> Another defect of the present Constitution is that it provides absolutely no mechanism to restrain the House of Councillors. For example, if the Upper House votes down an important bill, resulting in a conflict between the law and the budget, the Cabinet has no say in the matter.

TSUJI Megumu (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> For the Diet to function adequately in what is becoming an "administrative state," the Board of Audit should be required to report directly to the Diet on its inspection of the final accounts, not to the Cabinet.

>> The bicameral system is important and should be kept in place, both to avoid the hastiness that results from deliberations by a single chamber, and to reflect the diversity of public opinion.

>> I am wary of making explicit provision for political parties in the Constitution. If we really want to achieve a national assembly that is trusted by the people and that reflects public opinion, we should foster a sense of ethics so that political parties hold themselves morally accountable, even without there being provisions to that end in the Constitution or the law.

>> We should also consider introducing a recall system for Diet Members, because at present, once an election is over, there is no check on their conduct until the next election.

NAKATANI Gen (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> Even if the bicameral system is retained, the House of Representatives, as the body that more directly reflects the will of the people, needs to be given greater responsibilities and powers. In particular, it should oversee foreign policy and reflect the people's wishes in that area. We should give the House of Representatives authority over the appointment of ambassadors and other high-ranking officials, including the appointment from the private sector.

OIDE Akira (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> I have long thought that the status of political parties as a bridge between the people and government should be established in the Constitution. On the other hand, I can also understand the calls for caution by those who fear that mandatory party-line voting will be reinforced if such provisions are written into the Constitution, and by those who place great importance on the freedom of political parties. The proposal needs to be carefully examined.

>> There is a saying among lawmakers that a second chamber is redundant if it reaches the same conclusion as the first and harmful if it reaches a different conclusion. This calls the efficiency of the bicameral system into question, but it would be dangerous to turn to a unicameral system on the grounds of efficiency alone.

>> Since there is a debate in progress about converting to either a federal or a do-shu system, we should keep the second chamber, taking full advantage of its function as a check on the first and giving its Members the character of provincial or state representatives.

YAMAGUCHI Tomio (Japanese Communist Party)

>> The bicameral system is essentially a way to ensure that the national assembly reflects the diversity of public opinion. The problem is not the design of the system, but how it is implemented. We need to take an overall view of how we want the system to operate.

(In connection with the comment by Mr. FUNADA)

>> The Constitution seeks to reflect, rather than to condense, the will of the people. In this regard, the single-seat constituency system of the House of Representatives can condense public opinion but cannot adequately reflect it. We should think about how to reflect public opinion in a bicameral system.


>> The proposed Law Concerning Persons with Developmental Disabilities has, in effect, undergone considerable review even in committee in the Lower House, where it was introduced. We need to study ways to reflect public opinion, including the treatment of Members' bills such as this one.

>> There is no need for any new constitutional provisions on political parties, since they are, ultimately, a form of private association and they have long participated in politics under the guarantee extended to their activities by the freedom of association.

AKAMATSU Masao (New Komeito)

>> It seems to me that the public is dissatisfied with aspects of the bicameral system, especially the fact that legislation is not passed quickly and the fact that there are large numbers of Members.

>> One thing that Diet Members themselves can do to reflect public opinion is to introduce Members' bills. The Members who make up the sole legislative organ, the Diet, should play an active part in law-making through Members' bills.

SHIBAYAMA Masahiko (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> In place of popular review of Supreme Court justices, we should give the role of nominating justices to the House of Councillors.

>> Both to stabilize governments in power and to make changes of government possible, we should place importance on the single-seat constituency system, which is able to condense public opinion. On the other hand, the system in the House of Councillors is appropriate as it stands, especially in light of the view that it is suitable for elections to that chamber to be less party-political in nature.

>> It is worth studying the idea of making the Members of the Upper House representatives of the do-shu. In view of the merits of direct elections, however, I think we should be cautious about the idea of holding indirect elections for the Upper House or choosing its Members by a system of recommendations.

(In connection with the comment by Mr. HANASHI)

>> We should study various ways to resolve conflicts between the budget and laws, including establishing the power to dissolve the Upper House and relaxing the conditions for repassage by the Lower House of a bill rejected in the Upper House. If we relax the conditions for repassage, we can ensure that the views of the Upper House are not disregarded by making joint committees of both Houses, which are now optional, more of a requirement.


>> I have no objection to establishing provisions on political parties in the Constitution. However, articles like the prohibition on unconstitutional political parties in Germany's Basic Law would not be consistent with the freedom of association set forth in Article 21.

DOI Takako (Social Democratic Party)

>> Constitutionalism breaks down if the parliamentary assembly, in which legislative power is vested, does not function adequately. In a parliamentary cabinet system, since the parliament is the source of the Cabinet, the Cabinet loses the support of the public if party politics becomes dysfunctional.

>> The Diet's control over the executive branch is not working when it comes to the Cabinet. For example, the Cabinet alone made the decision to have the Self-Defense Forces join the multinational coalition, and important treaties are excluded from review by the Diet. To correct this situation, the members of the sole law-making organ must be aware of their role and responsibilities.

MIHARA Asahiko (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> We must aim for a bicameral system that reflects the changing times. With a view to decentralization, and taking the U.S. Senate as a model, the electoral system for the House of Councillors should be designed in such a way that the voters choose regional representatives, thus providing a forum for opinion on the fiscal gap among local governments.

>> Critics of the current electoral system say it does not reflect the will of the people, but this has been achieved in the proportional representation part of the Lower House's combined single-seat constituency and proportional representation system.

>> We should keep the bicameral system, but reforms are needed in the House of Councillors. For example, Members should be elected based on districts, not population, so that regional opinion is reflected.

YAMAHANA Ikuo (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

(In connection with the comment by Mr. MIHARA)

>> As long as the Constitution stipulates, as it does in Article 43, that the Members of the Diet be "representative of all the people," the immediate problem is the disparity in the relative weight of a vote between electoral districts.

>> In the electoral system, in the short term, the disparity in the relative weight of a vote is a problem in relation to Articles 14 and 43; in the long term, the proposed introduction of a do-shu system gives rise to problems in relation to Article 43.

EDANO Yukio (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> In the debate on the bicameral system, I think we are agreed on the need to sort out the roles of the two Houses, but since constitutional amendments must also have the approval of the Upper House, we should consider which powers the House of Representatives is prepared to cede to the other chamber.

>> As a two-party system is likely to give rise to the complex situation of a different party holding a majority in each House, it will be necessary to increase the precedence of the Lower House with regard to legislation. On the other hand, I would suggest that some matters, particularly in the area of foreign policy, can be entrusted to the Upper House.

>> As a two party system will make changes of government more likely, we must rethink the present practice in which, under Article 7, the timing of the dissolution of the House of Representatives is decided arbitrarily by the government of the day. We need a system that places more value on popular participation in choosing a government, namely, the elected government, having been entrusted with power by the voters, should remain in office for four years to carry out its campaign pledges.

>> We should also rethink the fact that elections for the two Houses are held at different times, as this can result in the people's choice of the governing party in elections for the Lower House being out of step with its choice of the majority party in the Upper House.

NAGAOKA Yoji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> While I am in favor of maintaining the bicameral system, on looking at the historical background, one notes that the countries that have a bicameral parliament are either those that have retained a class system or those that have a federal or state system. It is questionable whether the present form of the House of Councillors is appropriate in a unitary state like Japan.

>> A supplementary resolution passed when the Constitution was enacted said that the duplication of electoral systems in the two Houses would result in losing sight of the significance of the House of Councillors. Having an electoral system in the Upper House that is very similar to that of the Lower House is problematic.

>> An Upper House that is a carbon copy of the Lower House is meaningless, but an Upper House with too much power becomes harmful.

>> In the parliamentary cabinet system, the people lend legitimacy to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives lends legitimacy to the Prime Minister. Thus, properly speaking, changes of government should be the result of general elections to the House of Representatives, but in actual practice they sometimes happen in elections to the House of Councillors.

>> The powers of the House of Councillors should be restrained. The requirement of a two-thirds majority in the Lower House to override the Upper House's rejection of a bill is too strict.

TOKAI Kisaburo (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> If we are going to have a parliamentary cabinet system, we should maintain two chambers in order to provide checks and balances.

(In connection with the comment by Mr. YAMAHANA)

>> The question of bicameralism should be considered in terms of both the functions and the electoral systems of the two Houses, but we should think first about what kind of system we want and then whether or not Article 43 presents a problem.


>> A unicameral system can speed up the political process, while a bicameral system is better in terms of providing a check. Single-seat constituencies condense the will of the people and make changes of government possible, but proportional representation reflects the will of the people better; the existing arrangement combines the two electoral systems with a good balance.

DOI Takako (Social Democratic Party)

>> Can a single-seat constituency system, with its many wasted votes, really reflect the popular will? The system was originally introduced to effect political reforms revolving around money in politics, but the ruling parties have shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm about solving this issue.

>> It is said that the government of the day would never choose a time that was unfavorable to itself to dissolve the Diet, but it is precisely at such moments that the public most wants an election. The opposition parties also need to make efforts to force the government to dissolve the Diet.

>> I am concerned that the opposition party which is aiming for government has come to resemble the main ruling party even in its policies. We should change the present single-seat constituency system which results in opposition candidates echoing the ruling party.

SAKAMOTO Goji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> I am in favor of keeping the bicameral system, but we should introduce two-year terms for the nationwide districts in the House of Councillors, as the present six-year terms are too long to be receptive and responsive to the trends of the times.

>> The House of Councillors ought to be the "seat of common sense," but currently it is not. I think we should establish new criteria, such as having each party recommend persons who have served in the House of Representatives for a minimum of twenty-five years.

>> With regard to the division of roles, we should think of the two Houses as the two sides of a coin, with the House of Representatives handling review of the budget and the House of Councillors handling review of the final accounts.

SATO Shigeki (New Komeito)

(In connection with the comment by Mr. YAMAHANA)

>> In reforming the House of Councillors, the question is whether the stipulation in Article 43, Paragraph 1, that Members be representative of all the people, should be considered an obstacle. It is certainly appropriate to think along the lines of the provision. It has been suggested that the Members of the House of Councillors should represent prefectures or professions, but I doubt whether those suggestions are compatible with the paragraph.


>> If the House of Councillors is to demonstrate a unique character, it should be unique both in its electoral system and in the way it operates. We will need to decide on a division of roles with the House of Representatives, expanding some powers and reducing others. There is room for consideration in such areas as relaxing the requirements for the Lower House to repass a bill rejected by the Upper House.

KANO Michihiko (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> We should maintain the bicameral system and, on that basis, clarify the division of roles between the two Houses. One possibility is to have the House of Representatives focus on reviewing the budget and the House of Councillors focus on reviewing the final accounts.

>> When Members of the House of Councillors are appointed to the Cabinet, it weakens the House's function of providing a check, and it cannot fulfill its role as the "seat of common sense." The House of Councillors should clearly state that its Members will not accept Cabinet posts.

(In connection with the comment by Mr. EDANO)

>> Foreign policy should be in the hands of the House of Representatives because, in a decentralized society, foreign policy and security are the main topics of national affairs.


>> The two Houses should be elected by different methods.

>> It is unclear whether campaign pledges are made by Members or by their parties. We should make explicit provision for political parties in the Constitution; for one thing, this would help the public understand them better.

YASUOKA Okiharu (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> The proposals made by the Constitutional Revision Drafting Committee of the Liberal Democratic Party's Research Commission on the Constitution are intended as a starting point for debate. The proposals bring together, in a comprehensive way, all the relevant themes debated in the two Houses. The bicameral system is currently being discussed in the Upper House also. The general public is interested in what form the bicameral system should take, and I intend to make efforts to further the discussion within the party, drawing on the debates in the Research Commissions of both Houses, among other sources.

EDANO Yukio (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

(In connection with the comment by Ms. DOI)

>> Surely the important point about condensing the will of the people is whether it is done before or after an election. When it is done before an election, it leads to a government being chosen in a way that the public can clearly see; when it is done afterwards, the result is liable to be a politics of collusion and backroom deals within the Diet.

>> Compared with the old system based on smaller-sized multiple-seat constituencies, it seems to me that single-seat constituencies and the contest between two major parties have resulted in a more vigorous confrontation between the government and opposition.

>> It is important to reflect the will of the people, as well as to condense it. We could have the House of Representatives play the role of condensing the will of the people in order to choose a government, and the House of Councillors play the role of broadly reflecting the will of the people.

>> Strictly speaking, the current phenomenon should be described as two major political forces, rather than two major parties, vying for power in single-seat constituencies. It is possible for multiple parties to coalesce into two political forces, each group campaigning with a common set of promises.

Free discussion to conclude the Commission's research for the year
Main points of initial round of comments by representatives of each party

FUNADA Hajime (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> We need to review the Constitution in order to improve our lives in the future. In the constitutional debate, we have taken an approach that might be compared to altering an old suit, mending the tears and letting it out where it no longer fits the realities due to changes in the international situation and so on.

>> While maintaining the essentials of the Peace Constitution, it is desirable to make explicit provision for individual self-defense and for the use of force under collective security, and to recognize the right of collective self-defense under very limited circumstances.

>> It is desirable both to enhance the symbolic function of the Emperor system and to open the way to female succession to the throne.

>> With regard to the rights and duties of the people, it should be emphasized that the exercise of rights carries with it duties, and that it is necessary to reconcile the exercise of rights with the public welfare. Also, we should add a number of new human rights and duties, including the right and the duty to preserve scenic value.

>> We should retain the bicameral system and clearly divide the roles of the two Houses. The powers of the Prime Minister should be strengthened and the political process should be speeded up. In regard to the judiciary, it is worth considering the creation of a Constitutional Court. In the area of public finances, it would be possible to explicitly set forth in the Constitution programmatic provisions (policy guidelines) affirming the necessity to maintain sound state finances.

>> There is a need to set in order the provisions relating to local autonomy, e.g., by clarifying what is meant by "the principle of local autonomy," and to make explicit provision for the introduction of a do-shu system and the establishment of local revenue sources.

>> As a member of the survey mission of a House delegation on the constitutions of the European Union, Sweden and Finland, I concluded that Japan too should introduce a parliamentary ombudsman, and that the European experience of integration with partial transference of sovereignty will be a useful reference point in thinking about future regional integration centered on Asia.

>> With regard to the procedure for constitutional amendments, we need to act without delay to put in place legislation stipulating the procedure for holding national referendums.

EDANO Yukio (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> For a long time the constitutional debate remained abstract and emotional, but it is showing signs of becoming more concrete and logical, especially since the beginning of this year—a development in which the establishment of this Commission has played a part.

>> I visited Europe with the House survey mission this year, and it was my impression that the process of consensus-building among the EU members and in the European Parliament, culminating in the enactment of a European constitution, would be a valuable point of reference for the constitutional debate in Japan.

>> I am not against the idea of making explicit provision for such things as new human rights and a do-shu system in the Constitution, provided that there are also parallel efforts to consolidate the necessary laws under the present Constitution. But I cannot help feeling uneasy when discussion revolves solely around adding new provisions to the Constitution, and meanwhile the practical steps that could be effected by means of legislation are not being taken.

>> When he claimed that "the area in which the Self-Defense Forces are stationed in Iraq is a noncombat zone," Prime Minister KOIZUMI got the requirements of the law mixed up with its effect, and in this he shows a tendency, which is becoming increasingly prevalent, not to take the rule of law seriously. It would be meaningless to change the Constitution under these circumstances, as politics is not being conducted on the basis of the rule of law.

>> The Self-Defense Forces' participation in the multinational coalition, which should not have been permitted under the government's own interpretation of the Constitution, was approved without adequate debate or explanation. If such things are permitted, whatever we might write in the Constitution will amount to no more than a meaningless formality.

OTA Akihiro (New Komeito)

>> In our investigation of the process by which it was enacted, it was recognized that the present Constitution was willingly adopted by the people. There followed a debate on the spirit and ideas that it embodies, that is to say, on whether the underlying thought is Japanese, or whether it is founded on Western constitutional thinking. We need to explore this area in more depth. Also, I believe that the 21st century will see a "clash of civilizations" or "clash of cultures," that is to say, a struggle among identities. We need to carry on a truly national debate by listening to opinion in every part of the country, thereby ensuring that regional cultures are reflected.

>> It is sometimes argued that Japanese today lack an awareness of the public dimension of life, that they have become hopelessly self-centered. But I take the view that human beings occupy two worlds, living as "I" in one and as "we" in the other; thus, we live in a matrix of human relationships, as implied by the Sino-Japanese ideogram for "human being" ("person" + "between"), and we also live in a relationship with nature. It is therefore important to bring to the fore the concept that individual dignity is based on the dignity of life and on human dignity. It is no use seeking a public dimension unless we first acknowledge the dignity of the individual.

>> That the Constitution provides for more rights than duties is only natural because it exists to contain the power of the state, taking respect for the individual as its guiding principle. We should take the debate in the direction of introducing a third concept, "responsibilities," in addition to rights and duties, and making it clear that the state has a responsibility to realize the interests of the people.

YAMAGUCHI Tomio (Japanese Communist Party)

>> The Commission's meetings during this Diet session centered on Open Hearings. Two important points were made at the hearings: (a) the use of force overseas should not be approved under any circumstances; and (b) we must be clear about the essence of constitutionalism. We must recognize anew that a majority of the public favors keeping Article 9, and that it is very important to inspect how politics is actually being conducted in the light of constitutional principles.

>> I felt that the desire to maintain the Constitution's pacifist and constitutionalist_stance was a kind of continuous underlying theme in the Commission's meetings throughout the year.

>> This Commission is a research body and was not established based on the premise of Constitutional revision. Since it was confirmed at the outset that the Commission would not have the power to present legislative proposals, in terms of constitutionalist principles, it is only proper to ask that it remain true to its purpose as a research body.

>> What we need now is not to revise the Constitution but to reform the way politics is actually conducted, based upon the Constitution. The important thing is to keep alive and put into practice the constitutional principles of peace, human rights, and democracy as we shape the nation of Japan in the 21st century.

DOI Takako (Social Democratic Party)

>> The Open Hearings during the current session were very meaningful. Reading the summaries written by members of the public who responded to the call to speak to the Commission, I was very moved by the many people who said, speaking from their own past experiences and their view of the international situation today, that Japan should take the path of firmly upholding Article 9.

>> The general public seems to be under the impression that this Commission's purpose is to consider proposed constitutional amendments, but it was established "to conduct broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution of Japan," and the Commission itself should make sure that the public knows that.

>> It is important to try to identify where the causes of constitutional problems lie and to look at how the Constitution is treated in people's everyday lives.

>> Some say that new rights—such as environmental rights or the right to know—do not exist in the present Constitution, but the problem is not that they are not mentioned in the text; the problem is the negative attitude of the government, including the resistance of the bureaucracy. We should improve the legal system, especially the basic laws, so that the spirit of the Constitution is actually put into practice.

>> The Constitution is there not to constrain the people but to contain state power. Article 99 puts public officials, including the Prime Minister, under the obligation to respect and uphold the Constitution, and thus it serves to realize values which can never be taken away, even by a majority vote.

>> This Commission is due to present its final report next year, and once we have a clear goal and schedule, the opportunity should be provided for every one of its members to present their views at the earliest possible stage.

Comments after the first round

NODA Takeshi (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> It seems to me that when the present Constitution was drafted, the Occupation GHQ had a preconceived image of Japan as a feudal, undemocratic and warlike nation, and that it was their intention to transform Japan based on these preconceptions. In actual fact, however, democratic ideas have roots in this country going back to ancient times, and as we approach the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, we should move away from such a mistaken and biased perspective, and I hope that this Commission will lay out a clear course of action before the public, and stimulate a national debate.

SAKAMOTO Goji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> The present Constitution was designed, in part, to smooth the way for implementation of the GHQ's Occupation policy. Now is the time to show to the full our pride as a people—our history and traditions—and declare our intention to play a central role in the international community. I call on this Commission to conclude its debate by choosing the course of constitutional revision.

FURUYA Keiji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> Although this Commission does not have the power to submit legislative proposals, in the course of the debate I sensed that a majority of members think that, sooner or later, we will have to revise the Constitution.

>> Other countries revise their constitutions flexibly to keep pace with the changing times. And now, after debating and studying the Constitution in a variety of forums, Japan, too, has reached the stage of carrying out revisions.

>> I hope that the possibility of revising the Constitution in future will be included in the purview of the final report.

>> As constitutional amendments cannot be realized without a law governing the procedure for national referendums as stipulated in Article 96, the legislature should enact a National Referendum Law without delay.

TOKAI Kisaburo (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> This Commission has conducted a very substantive debate. As it lacks the power to present legislative proposals, however, we should move before too long to create a body that has that power, and the final report should incorporate a statement to that effect.

>> Even though Article 96 guarantees the right to a national referendum, the necessary system has not been put in place; this is a case of negligence on the part of the legislature.

>> We should proceed by first looking at a vision for the nation and then asking whether it can be realized under the existing Constitution.

NAKAGAWA Masaharu (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> In some ways, the debate in this Commission gave the impression of a committee where everyone states their opinions with no follow-through, but I believe it has been meaningful nonetheless, as we have been able to address real-world problems.

>> I think that the constitutional debate should be framed with history as the vertical axis and the international environment as the horizontal axis.

>> We are now entering the stage of reviewing the Constitution, and it is necessary to foster a broad consensus on the direction in which the nation should steer its course.

>> In future, it will be necessary to establish a body with that capacity.

SHIBAYAMA Masahiko (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> In the areas of pacifism and education, the debate has taken human perfectibility as its premise, but we need to change our approach. Also, we should place importance not only on the individual but also on the concept of the public sphere.

>> If we amend the Constitution, I believe we need to proceed in two categories: first, amend the articles on which a national consensus can be reached; and second, for those articles where we cannot reach consensus, carry out revisions to the extent that we can agree. In any case, I think it would be difficult to make extensive changes all at once.

TANAKA Makiko (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> Article 15 places sovereignty in the hands of the people, and yet it remains difficult to define the precise relationship between the political process and the bureaucracy. Article 41 recognizes the Diet as the sole law-making organ, and yet, in actual deliberations, bills submitted by Cabinet are given priority. In view of deficiencies like these, I can only think that the quality of Diet Members is in question.

>> The Japanese people feel they have reached a dead end when confronted by actions that shake the very foundations of democracy, for example, the nontransparent way in which the government decided that the Self-Defense Forces would join the multinational coalition, or the recent meeting of the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics that took place behind closed doors.

>> While I can see that a general system of national referendums would have certain drawbacks, we should focus instead on the ways in which it can complement the parliamentary system and take steps to implement it.

AKAMATSU Masao (New Komeito)

>> When this Commission convened, I initially thought that after the scheduled five years of discussions, we should devote another five years or so to discussing revision of the Constitution.

>> Now, a majority of members already favor revision, but there are other members who see no need for revision and who want us to examine the extent to which each article of the Constitution has been realized.

>> Personally, I think that the latter position is important and should be addressed. I think we should devote the rest of the time that has been allocated to research to carrying out this work.

HANASHI Yasuhiro (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> In past constitutional debates, neither side seemed able to free itself from shackles that dated back to before the war. It is now time to cast off those shackles.

>> An ombudsman system is necessary to give real substance to Articles 16 and 17. In Article 9, we should make explicit provision for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces as a preliminary to imposing clear limits on their operations. Many other points also need to be looked at afresh, including the interpretation of "the public welfare," the fact that the Cabinet Legislation Bureau has an apparent monopoly on the authority to interpret the Constitution, and the methods of electing Members to the Diet.

>> The parties that favor constitutional revision should present concrete proposals. If revision is based on such proposals, the result should be a better Constitution.

FUTADA Koji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> The Constitution gives the House of Representatives precedence over the House of Councillors, but this is far from being the case in actual practice.

>> One reason may be that the membership of the Upper House, like that of the Lower House, is now factionalized into political parties; moreover, the law has acknowledged this state of affairs, as shown by the adoption of proportional representation in the Public Offices Election Law. This can only lead to even more partisanship in the Upper House.

>> The way the House of Councillors operates also needs reform, because its Members do not seem to be able to make objective judgments with a long-term perspective, in spite of being guaranteed six-year terms. We also need to study possible reforms at the legislative and operational levels, however, in case the Upper House is not receptive to the idea of reform through constitutional amendments.

MATSUNO Hirokazu (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> The public's attitude to the Constitution has changed greatly in the last ten years. In particular, it should be noted that the younger generation now has a different attitude to constitutional revision.

>> Two things are promoting constitutional debate among the younger generation: (a) they feel that Japan today has reached a dead end, and there is a direct connection between discussing a vision for the nation in order to find a way out and discussing the Constitution; (b) tremendous advances in the sciences and technology, especially IT and biotechnology, have had an impact on human rights and other constitutional values.

>> In discussing the Constitution, we must recognize these changed public attitudes. Further, we have reached the stage where there is concrete work to be done, not just discussion.

>> As the first step in responding to the changes in the public's attitude, at a minimum, we should set up a national referendum system for constitutional amendments.

MIHARA Asahiko (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> Japan rose from the ashes of defeat with the steadfast desire to be a full member of the international community. By this point, however, we should aim to be a nation that can provide a model for others. I feel that this is the right time to review the Constitution from that perspective.

>> Thus, we should draft the final report from that perspective, and, after it has been submitted, consideration should be given to creating a body with the power to submit legislative proposals.

MATSUMIYA Isao (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> Every nation makes ongoing efforts to review its constitution in order to make the choices best suited to conditions at any given time.

>> Japan, too, should be making ongoing efforts in this regard, and indeed the five years of debate in this Commission represent such an undertaking. We should now proceed to the next step and carry out the concrete work.

>> The lack of a system for national referendums on constitutional amendments means that the Diet has not done its duty. It is to be hoped that it will do the concrete work in the next step.

KATO Katsunobu (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> I was never comfortable with the argument that the Constitution was "imposed." On the other hand, it is also wrong to suggest that revising the Constitution will take Japan straight back to prewar times. I feel that we have overcome this polarization of the debate, and we now have a good environment for calm, clear discussion.

>> Of course, we must ascertain whether the Constitution's ideals are actually reflected in society. At the same time, however, we need to ascertain whether the Constitution can deal with various issues, both domestic and international, and whether it is meeting the needs of the Japanese people. If it proves necessary as a result, revising the Constitution will in fact lead to upholding its ideals.

>> The time has come to take the next step in the constitutional debate. Drawing up a detailed road map to guide progress toward a new constitution for Japan will lead to fulfilling the people's hopes toward the Constitution.

YAMAGUCHI Tomio (Japanese Communist Party)

>> As it is not empowered to submit legislative proposals, this Commission cannot arrive at a binding conclusion and, by definition, it should not be able to incorporate a course of action in its final report.

>> With regard to a system for national referendums on constitutional amendments, in reality there is no demand from the public to revise the Constitution, nor is there political momentum for revision, and there is therefore no need to realize such a system concretely at this point in time.

>> Properly speaking, constitutional questions should be handled in the various standing committees. I am opposed to creating a permanent Committee on the Constitution.

>> On constitutional matters, opinions that are in the minority in the Diet are not in the minority among the public. A majority of the public wants to uphold the values of the Constitution and to keep Article 9. There is a disconnect between the Diet debate and public sentiment.

>> Five years of research have shown clearly that the Constitution of Japan can amply display its strength in the 21st century. Proponents of revision often claim that it is unconstitutional under Article 89 to subsidize private schools, but there is an established interpretation that it is not unconstitutional, and there is no problem in this regard.

HIRAI Takuya (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> These five years of research have been very meaningful, but I doubt whether the constitutional debate has been easy for the public to follow. We need a level of debate that is more in touch with everyday life and somewhat easier to understand.

>> Social attitudes have been changing at an accelerating rate in recent years, largely due to advances in information technology. Against this shifting background, the Constitution is something we can look to for our identity. Our heritage of history and culture are important in talking about the Constitution because they are at the core of our identity, and handing on this heritage could even be called a duty of the people.

>> In the course of importing ideals and institutions from the developed nations as it modernized, Japan discovered what made it unique, but it did little to share this knowledge more widely. Our heritage offers insights on how to conduct ourselves in the years to come.

>> Article 96 sets the bar for constitutional amendments so high that it limits the choices of the next generation. We need to reconsider the procedure for amending the Constitution.

OMURA Hideaki (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> In our discussions with the public, it was my impression that a majority favors revising the Constitution to keep pace with the times.

>> In future, we must think for ourselves how best to protect our nation's peace and security within the international community. To that end, we should clarify the constitutional status of the Self-Defense Forces and the right of self-defense and state clearly that we will contribute to international peace and security.

>> We should discuss new human rights such as environmental rights and the right to privacy.

>> In these times of rapid social change which call for swift decision-making in the Diet, we should adopt a unicameral system.

>> This Commission, and the body which succeeds it, should put in place a detailed Law on National Referendums for Constitutional Amendments.

ITO Kosuke (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> In view of the existing Constitution's problematic early history, instead of revising it we should enact a new constitution that embodies our pride, confidence, and resolve in the 21st century.

>> The present Upper House has little reason to exist as its activities are very similar to those of the Lower House; we should therefore combine the two and adopt a unicameral system. If we retain the Upper House, at the very least, it should not provide Cabinet members and it should operate on a nonpartisan basis.

>> In enacting a new constitution, in addition to the existing three fundamental principles, we should give environmental stewardship the status of a fundamental principle with the aim of becoming an environmentally advanced nation.

KONO Taro (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> In thinking about Japan in the 21st century, I believe we must create a constitution that contributes to world peace and security. To that end, we should create a body in the Diet in preparation for initiating constitutional amendments.

>> We should revise Article 9 and make express provision for the right of self-defense and international contributions.

>> The recent loss of trust in the political process can be attributed to the fact that the Diet's deliberations have become a mere formality, largely due to party-line voting. Hence, as we discuss constitutional revision, there is also a need for a thorough debate on the parliamentary cabinet system, allowing for the possibility of adopting a presidential system.

>> The present bicameral system clearly leads to political or governmental paralysis. We should adopt a unicameral system.

DOI Takako (Social Democratic Party)

>> There are two basic principles in the procedure for amending the Constitution: (a) the amendment procedure must be strictly observed; (b) any amendments must be an extension of the present Constitution. It should be noted that the latter point contains a legal principle: there is no limit on changes for the better which develop out of the existing Constitution, but changes for the worse, that is, changes which are contrary to the existing Constitution, are not permissible.

>> During the current session, I submitted a written question to the Cabinet asking whether it has the power to submit draft constitutional amendments, and received the answer that it can do so under Article 72. In my view, the word "bills" in Article 72 should not even be construed to include proposed laws, much less proposals to change the Constitution. Furthermore, the Cabinet should not have the power to propose constitutional amendments because it is obligated by Article 99 to uphold and protect the Constitution.

>> It is sometimes claimed that the bar for constitutional amendments is too high, but if a proposed amendment cannot meet the procedure's requirements, then it should be understood that the people do not want it.

>> Some people point to the Constitution's origins and call for revision on the grounds that it was imposed by the Occupation, but it is the United States that now wants Article 9 revised. Hence, isn't it true that the case for constitutional revision at this time is itself being imposed?

NAGAOKA Yoji (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> I believe the existence of this Commission has been very significant as it has taken up many constitutional issues, not just those concerning revision, and thus has made the public aware of the wide array of issues relating to the Constitution.

>> It is a problem that the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which is an arm of the Cabinet, monopolizes the authority to interpret the Constitution. The Diet should judge for itself.

>> I feel that the public has become more aware of the issues involved in constitutional revision, but this will not lead to actual revision due to the rigid nature of the amendment procedure. We should discuss relaxing the amendment procedure, together with putting in place a Law on National Referendums for Constitutional Amendments.

KONDO Motohiko (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> Some people dismiss the question of whether the present Constitution gained the consent of the people when it was enacted, arguing either (a) that it was a legitimate revision according to the amendment provisions of the Meiji Constitution; or (b) that the general election of 1946 was a form of popular ratification. Neither of these arguments is persuasive, however. Given that the present Constitution provides for a national referendum on constitutional amendments, I propose that we should ask anew, in some form, for a popular vote of confidence.

>> Whether or not we revise the Constitution, the legislature has a duty to put in place a Law on National Referendums for Constitutional Amendments.

SONODA Yasuhiro (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> We cannot say categorically that the Constitution of Japan is rigid, since the U.S. Constitution is considered even more rigid than Japan's and yet it has been amended many times in the past.

>> The constitutional debate has not resonated with the public so far because we have not demonstrated concretely either the need for changes or their substance. Thus, the draft amendments due to be published next year by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan will likely be a step forward toward revision.

>> In discussing constitutional revision, we should go back to the basics and discuss what kind of nation we want to create, keeping uppermost in our minds the Constitution's goal of a national life endowed with liberty and plenty.

>> To dispel the public's distrust of the political process, we need to encourage people to participate in politics and government. To that end, the right to know should be written into the Constitution, so that the public has free access to administrative information and other resources.

WADA Takashi (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> In preparing to attend this Commission, I have endeavored to listen to public opinion. Public interest in the Constitution is certainly on the rise, but it is my impression that basic information regarding the detailed discussions of whether to revise the Constitution has not been made available.

>> Looking at the formal requirements, I think it would be appropriate to provide a procedure for creating the Constitution of Japan anew with the consensus of the people.

>> Looking at the substantive content, from my experience as a civil servant, I do not think that the present relationship between the Cabinet and the administration is ideal. Further, there should be a greater degree of tension between the Cabinet and the Diet. Before presenting proposed constitutional amendments, we must improve the way we conduct legislative business, and there must be thorough debate before any proposed amendments are presented.

NAKANE Yasuhiro (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> Seeing this Commission at work has made me think about what I should be doing as a Diet Member.

>> The constitutional debate revolves around Article 9, and any revision that did not include Article 9 would, I think, be meaningless. We need to revise Article 9 to make express provision for the Self-Defense Forces and to clarify the proper extent of our international contributions.

>> The Constitution should be revised if necessary, but before we do so, we should reconsider an ideal vision for the nation, and we should also look at each of the issues in terms of how much effort has been made to realize constitutional ideals. Likewise, after passing a law, we should check whether it is working adequately.

AOKI Ai (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> Even though the Constitution is a set of rules for community life and its intent is to enable the people to have better lives, there are few situations in which it comes to the public's attention, and we must therefore raise public awareness of the Constitution. It should be more personally relevant and easier to understand. If we revise it, we will need to make the effort to convey, concretely and in plain language, how people's lives will change as a result.

YAMAHANA Ikuo (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> Critics have long said that the Constitution reads like a translation, but my generation could not understand what they were complaining about. When I heard former Prime Minister MIYAZAWA say, "It sounded foreign to me at first, but as the times changed it came to seem more natural," I realized that the contrast between his view and that of my generation is a sign that the Constitution has been accepted and taken root as the times have changed.

>> Because the law and the Constitution can function only if there is a norm consciousness among the people, i.e., if the Constitution is viewed as "ours," I think there should be an opportunity for a vote of popular confidence. One of the important things about this Commission is that it provides an opportunity for the public to think about the Constitution. We need a constitutional debate that does not leave the public out.

WATANABE Hiromichi (Liberal Democratic Party)

>> This Commission has a major role as a forum for constitutional debate in the Diet. Through the media, it has stimulated public awareness of the Constitution and has distilled a wide range of constitutional opinion.

>> It is necessary to consider constitutional revision both in terms of the gap between the Constitution and reality, and in terms of continuity with the nation's future. To keep pace with the changing times, in view of the growing role of information technology and the need to protect the environment, I think we should make explicit provision for the right to privacy and environmental rights.

>> We should revise the Diet Law and refashion this Commission into a committee that can deliberate on legislative proposals. That committee should then discuss the concrete realization of a system for national referendums on constitutional amendments.

RYU Hirofumi (Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents)

>> Thinking back to when the creation of this Commission was itself under discussion five years ago, I view as a positive achievement the fact that the Commission has been able to conduct a wide-ranging constitutional debate without ruling any subject off-limits.

>> Looking back at the Commission's work, I think that every possible subject has been more or less covered in the debate, but it cannot be said that there is a positive momentum for constitutional change among the public. I think the public mood might be characterized as a willingness to see the Constitution revised if necessary. Since it is ultimately the people who decide, I suggest that this Commission should proceed to the next step and stimulate public opinion by setting out the specific issues, so that the need for revision is clear to the public, too.

>> I think that, in view of the gravity of revising the Constitution, the current requirement that two-thirds of the Members of both Houses approve the initiation of a constitutional amendment is appropriate. Some people regard Article 96 as unrealistically strict, but I think that, even in some cases where the political parties are opposed on individual items, the two-thirds requirement can be cleared if the issues are set forth clearly at election time, thus bringing public opinion actively into play.

SATO Shigeki (New Komeito)

>> I appreciate the way this Commission conducts its debates through brainstorming.

>> Looking back at the Commission's work, it is clear that differences in ideas about the Constitution are, essentially, differences in visions for the nation, and that each individual views the Constitution differently. If we are to present to the public a condensed position that represents the will of the House of Representatives, we need to establish clearly where we can reach agreement across party lines (for example, on maintaining the Constitution's three fundamental principles), where we absolutely cannot agree, and where we can reach a compromise.