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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

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

Brian Woodall

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813145013.003.0002

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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