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Growing Democracy in JapanThe Parliamentary Cabinet System since 1868$
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Brian Woodall

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813145013

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813145013.001.0001

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The Anti-Westminsterian Roots of Japan’s Parliamentary Cabinet System, 1868–1946

The Anti-Westminsterian Roots of Japan’s Parliamentary Cabinet System, 1868–1946

(p.31) 1 The Anti-Westminsterian Roots of Japan’s Parliamentary Cabinet System, 1868–1946
Growing Democracy in Japan

Brian Woodall

University Press of Kentucky

Japan’s present cabinet system inherited legacies from the authoritarian prewar order. Just as prewar cabinets played a subordinate role in executive affairs, postwar cabinets have been challenged to impart tactical direction to government policy. The decision made by American occupation authorities to govern a defeated Japan through the existing civil bureaucracy perpetuated a state of affairs in which cabinet meetings merely ratified decisions made by career bureaucrats. Likewise, the absence of a robust collective solidarity norm is the offspring of a prewar system in which ministers were individually responsible to a divine-right sovereign. In addition, the roots of many of today’s cabinet-related ministries and agencies can be traced to prewar organs. And then there is the human bridge embodied in the twenty-six prewar cabinet ministers who held portfolios in postwar cabinets. To understand these legacies, it is necessary to examine the historical process that produced an anti-Westminsterian prewar cabinet system. The point of departure is the Meiji Restoration that resurrected the Grand Council system and established cabinets dominated by a Satsuma-Chōshū cabal. The analysis then shifts to the failed experiment with “party cabinets” during the era of “Taishō democracy,” which, tragically, devolved into the “techno-fascist cabinets” that steered Japan into the Pacific War.

Keywords:   Meiji Restoration, Satsuma-Chōshū cabal, Grand Council (Dajōkan), cabinet system, ministerial portfolios, Taishō democracy, reform bureaucrats, control officers, techno-fascist cabinets, supra-ministerial planning agencies

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