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Constitution: Select newspaper editorials from 1948 and 1949

This is the sixth in a series on the Japanese Constitution of 1947.  See also the Constitution Series

The Constitution took effect on May 3, 1947 and is still in effect today.  As we approach the 70th anniversary of its enactment, we’ll share with you materials from the Prange Collection related to the drafting of the Constitution, its promulgation, reactions of the Japanese, and observances of Constitution Memorial Day.

Constitution Memorial Day, a national holiday in Japan celebrated on May 3, is a day to reflect on the democratic principles embodied by the Constitution.  In the early years following its enactment, there was a tradition of taking stock and asking the question, How successful have the Japanese been in embracing a democratic government?  The editorials below asked that very question.  One published in Chugoku Shinbun (Call No. NC0408) on May 3, 1948, cautioned that the Japanese people still had a lot of work to do before they could fully embrace the new Constitution.  They were advised to use this day to reflect on obstacles to full implementation.  The new Constitution, it was noted, is a road map for a properly functioning democratic government. One year later, on Constitution Memorial Day 1949, the newspaper’s stance had not changed substantially.  The editors still felt that the Japanese people did not fully understand the Constitution and how to incorporate its principles into their own lives.

An editorial published in Jiji Shimpo (Call No. NH0088) on May 3, 1948 was less critical and perhaps more optimistic.  Entitled, “新憲法一年の成績,”  it assured readers that the first year was merely a “training period” for the Constitution.  Below is an excerpt.

今日は僅々一年の訓練を経たばかりである。この一年の訓練中には、大小幾多の失敗を演じたに相違ないと同時に、また幾多貴重なる反省自戒の機会をも與えられた。新憲法の下に、民主的な、平和的な、文化國民としての訓練の第二年目を、希望と自信を以て迎えているのである。

On year later, in an article entitled, “新憲法実施二年の成績,” the paper again took the stance that two years was too short a time to completely absorb the new ideas in the Constitution.

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