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Constitution of Japan (Part II – Preamble)

[This is a guest post written by Naritada Miura, a Student Assistant in the Prange Collection. This is the second post of the series of Constitution of Japan.  See Part I.]

Preamble

The first blog post for this series is the Preamble. Please see the full text of the Preamble from Nihonkoku Kenpo/日本國憲法 (Prange Call No. JQ-0051): 

Charles L. Kades Paper, p. 134


Based on my research, the Preamble first appeared on March 6th, 1946, “
Draft Constitution of Japan (Second Government Draft)” (2). By visiting our Charles L. Kades Papers (full-text available on Internet Archive), this document is open to the public. Unlike the current preamble, the first draft was written in literary style Japanese with difficult Kanji characters and Katakana. Henceforth, the first draft was not “user-friendly”.

For every Japanese people to read and to understand the new constitution, the GHQ chose colloquial style writing instead of literary style Japanese. The reason for this change is because we do not see a huge difference between the spoken and the written English in the U.S., unlike the Japanese; it is understandable for the American occupiers to think Japanese writings style discouraged many readers from understanding the text. As a result, it was a logical decision from their perspective to order the Japanese government in implementing colloquial style writing.

Once the decision was made and the GHQ drafted it in English, translating the original English text into Japanese was a great challenge. In the midst of translating the Preamble, on June 26th, 1946, Yoshio Suzuki from the Socialist Party criticized the poorly translated text by describing the Preamble as “a joke” (3). Modifying the words here and there, on November 3rd, 1946, the finalized Preamble converted all of its text into colloquial style Japanese with Hiragana, replacing the hard Kanji and Katakana characters. As a result, the GHQ achieved its goal, as the leading constitutional scholar, Tatsukichi Minobe acknowledges, “It must be said that this change is quite significant.” (4)

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Bibliography

  1. Kenpo Fukyu-kai Hyogo-ken Shibu (Ed.). (1947). “Nihon koku Kenpo” [The Constitution of Japan] (pp. 3-5). Kobe city, Tokyo: Kenpo Fukyu-kai Hyogo-ken Shibu. 憲法普及会兵庫県支部(編)(1947)『日本国憲法』 pp. 3-5, 憲法普及会兵庫県支部 (Prange Call Number JQ-0051)
  2. Charles L. Kades Paper [Online]. Draft Constitution of Japan (Second Government Draft), 6 March, 1946 [English] (p. 134). Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/mdu-prange-30402/page/n133
  3. Sato, Isao. (1948). “Kenpo Kaisei no Keika” [The Process of Amending the Constitution] (First ed. Second copy, p. 155), Tokyo: Nippon Hyoronsha. 佐藤功(1947)『憲法改正の經過』p. 155, 日本評論社. (Prange Call Number JQ-0165)
  4. Minobe, Tatsukichi. (1950). “Shin Kenpo Chikujo Kaisetsu” [Article by Article Explanation of the New Constitution]. (First ed. Nineteenth copy, p. 5). Tokyo: Nippon Hyoronsha. 美濃部達吉(1947)『新憲法逐条解説』p. 5, 日本評論社. (Prange Call Number JQ-0131)

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