Spirited Away is a Reality Show

As someone who grew up with Spirited Away, and hails it as a flawless masterpiece, naturally I am obsessed with getting other people into the film. Throughout my execution of this mission, I have noticed one common thread: everyone feels that the ending was anticlimactic. At first, I just dismissed my inability to see this problem as mere childhood bias. After all, I had seen the movie so many times that I have probably become desensitized to any flaws it may have.

However, after seeing the movie on the big screen with my roommate while living in D.C., something finally clicked. My roommate loved the film, up until the ending, as most seem to do. However, he explained his issue not just as one of anticlimacticness, but of a lack of payoff. He saw the driving force of the movie as Chihiro’s mission to return her parents to human form and return to the mortal world. If you did have to give the movie a simple synopsis for the sake of a magazine review or IMDB page, that is essentially what should be said. However, I also believe there is a huge misconception based on that very synopsis.

Spirited Away is not an epic fantasy story; it is a reality show. The fantasy adventure premise is merely a vehicle to transport you to a world. Once you are settled in this world, the movie is not about this central conflict. It is about Chihiro, a young immature girl, learning to adapt to a new environment, and mature into a responsible and strong individual.

It is, for this very reason, that the plot of saving her parents is somewhat abandoned for the second and third acts of the film, only to be quickly resolved in the last five minutes. The movie is not about that story, it is about a story of personal growth in a unique setting. But the conflict did get you invested in Chihiro and the characters that inhabit this world, didn’t it?

Reality shows are about people’s lives, individuals adapting to new situations and dealing with their own personal growth. Although person vs. person conflicts are present, they are often artificially inserted to get you more invested. Sound familiar? Hayao Miyazaki inserted an almost artificial fantasy conflict to get you into your seat, and then pushed it to the side to make room for the real Spirited Away.

It is also for this reason that there is no central antagonist in the story. Yubaba, the witchy owner of the bath house, may seem like an obvious candidate to point fingers at. Those assumptions would be misguided. What did Yubaba ever do to harm our protagonist? Yubaba didn’t turn Chihiro’s parents into pigs, her parents did that out of their own selfishness. Yubaba didn’t refuse to give Chihiro her parent’s back. Chihiro never asked for that directly, Haku told her to just ask for a job in the bath house instead. Rather than simply turning Chihiro into an animal, she decided to allow her to work. Yubaba was just a greedy, but overall redeemable person, using a bad situation to profit. Despite being a spirit, she was just being human.

That’s the core of Spirited Away to me, a story about people. Through Chihiro’s eyes, it’s a peak into a world that has been static for a long time, and will continue to be static after she leaves. Chihiro isn’t some epic fantasy heroine that is going to change the status quo of some fantasy world. She’s just a girl, thrown into a rough situation and learning to mature from it. Spirited Away is not a fantasy adventure, but a reality show peering into a fantasy world through the eyes of an outsider.

The Smash Pros: The Art of Long-Form Comedy

In my opinion, long-form comedy is the most satisfying form of comedy out there. Although I do love stand-up and short videos, to me, the pinnacle of the genre comes in the form of the the long game. The core of the artform of comedy is jokes: setup and punchline in that order. However, I believe that, if executed properly, a long joke can serve as the best the genre has to offer.

As explaining this with simple vocabulary is a bit of a challenge, I will use a case study. Garrett’s Response to the Falsely Made Poorly Played Stream is one of my favorite pieces of comedy of all time. This excerpt from internet comedy group Mega64’s 2013 MLK Day stream is essentially a 41 minute joke. Despite its mammoth length, it still manages to follow the comedic formula we have all become accustomed to. The setup to the joke is purposely made to be excruciatingly lengthy. This makes the punchline, which encompaces the last 5-10 minutes of the video, even more rewarding. If you are a fan of Mega64, or of good comedy in general, I would highly recommend checking out this masterpiece.

For a few years, this video remained in my consciousness as the cream of the crop when it comes to long-form comedy. When explaining that style of humor to others, that was the video I would always recommend. However, I recently discovered a series that not only is the best piece of long-form comedy ever made, but is one of the best written pieces of media. This is the YouTube mockumentary The Smash Pros.

A spoof of The Smash Brothers (a popular documentary that examines the competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee community), The Smash Pros is far from a simple derivative parody. It’s very hard to explain The Smash Pros to someone who hasn’t seen it. Saying it’s a mockumentary of a sub-par documentary about the competitive Melee scene doesn’t do the series the justice it deserves. I guess the best way to describe it would be that it takes a simple comedic premise, and develops an entire world, with its own rules, unforgettable characters, and flawless execution of long-form humor.

The first two episodes of The Smash Pros are admittedly very difficult to get through upon first viewing. The constant barrage of information that the writers throw at you may seem overwhelming at first. When I tried to watch the series for the first time, I dropped it after episode 2. I thought I just didn’t get it; I wasn’t a hardcore smasher. However, I urge you to push through. The Smash Pros is a series that needs to be consumed from start to finish before any judgement is passed. Upon completion, you will realise that a majority of this barrage is actually the setup points for the massive, climactic punchline that is Episode 5: The Grand Finale.

One of the key aspects I must point out is that, no matter how absurd they may seem, The Smash Pros universe is bound by rules. In what is probably one of the greatest climaxes and conclusions in writing history, The Grand Finale sees the slow collapse of this rule system. In the epicenter of this collapse is the genius payoff to the massive joke that is The Smash Pros. Although the comedic formula is the same, the setup and punchline is extended over an entire show. It gives the viewer an illusion of feeling lost; maybe they just don’t get it. But, if the viewer is patient enough to stick with it to the end, they realize that that they were supposed to feel lost; they were still in the setup. Their minds will hopefully be just as blown during the payoff as mine was, leading to one of the most satisfying and rewarding punchlines in the history of comedy.

The only series I can say comes close to this radical extension of the humor formula is Curb Your Enthusiasm. Curb enters the long-form comedy fray via its seasonal arcs. However, even then, these arcs are not present in every season. Furthermore, not every episode within a season weaves into the setup and payoff based narrative of said arcs.

Please be patient with The Smash Pros. Don’t make the same mistake I did upon my first viewing. Just power through, and you will be rewarded for your loyalty with one of the greatest pieces of comedy in history. Stay tuned for some more in-depth Smash Pros analysis in the near future. I have so much more to talk about, and I hope you’ll stick with me as I do so.

Moana and Wind Waker: Perfecting the Polynesian Ocean Explorer Aesthetic

May as well cash in on the Moana hype train for a second time. There is a particular aesthetic in media that I have become increasingly fond of over the years. This is that of the Polynesian ocean explorer. Today I am going to be explaining this aesthetic, as well as why I appreciate it, through two pieces of media that perfect it. These are Moana and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Moana takes a very direct approach with regards to implementing this aesthetic. After all, the movie is literally about a Polynesian girl who wants to explore the ocean. Every single trait of the aesthetic is there: island inhabiting tribes, personified sea life, traditional Polynesian fashion. However, the element that stands out to me the most is the exploration of the ocean itself.

Despite being from entirely different mediums, both Moana and Wind Waker perfectly portray the vastness of the oceans at hand. In both instances, the audience knows the true constraints of the body of water. In Moana, it is limited to the confines of Earth’s Oceania region. In Wind Waker, it is bound to the grid-based world map that the player is given early in the game. Despite these literal constraints, the writing manages to make the oceans seem endless.

The idea of Moana’s deep-seated calling for ocean exploration is presented very early in the film. This already gives the sea a sense of vastness, as she is truly unaware of its constraints. She has never left her island; she has no perspective as to the true size of the body of water. To her, it may as well be infinite. This cleverly ingrained theme is only amplified when she actually begins to explore the ocean with Maui. Together, they encounter many unique characters, islands, and magical entities. The feeling that you can come across almost anything only supports this illusion of oceanic endlessness.

Wind Waker, while extremely different, flaunts the very same aesthetic in a similar manner. Before comparing the game directly to Moana, I must explain the context of Wind Waker as a part of a media franchise. The Legend of Zelda, a video game series produced by Nintendo, is one of the most well known high fantasy sagas of all time. The series typically takes place in a somewhat generic high fantasy world known as Hyrule, which always has the typical geographical tropes. A volcanic mountain region, an aquatic lake/river region, a mystical forest region, and a harsh desert region can be seen in almost every game in the series, regardless of where it lands on the timeline. However, aside from minor strides in Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker was the first game in the franchise to truly turn this world upside down. During the time between Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker (the two games directly next to each other on the series’ timeline) the world of Hyrule was flooded by the gods. Wind Waker is the first game in the series to take place in the ocean that is the aftermath of this very flood. There is no longer a main continent, only small islands formed over the peaks of what used to be traditional Hylian landmarks. Now, rather than exploring a vast landmass on horseback, you are sailing across a massive ocean on a small boat.

Although Wind Waker naturally borrows many elements from its franchise predecessors, it manages to use this oceanic atmosphere to its advantage. It seamlessly blends the traditional European fantasy concepts that defined the series with a Polynesian ocean explorer aesthetic. Link, rather than living in a farming village or forest haven, now lives on a small tribal island. The attire of the villagers is influenced heavily by Polynesian style. Once you leave your village, you sail to many islands and come across a plethora of unique creatures, but this aesthetic still remains. In fact, many of the staple characters and enemies of the series get an oceanic makeover. The Kokiri get a re-imagining that feels like it stepped straight out of Polynesian mythology. The Zora race is replaced by the Rito, a group of anthropomorphic bird people that live in a society that is literally that of a Polynesian tribe. Bokoblins, rather than running around Hyrule as bandits, now patrol the seas from rafts and watch towers as pirates. Even the main antagonist of the saga, Ganondorf, now looks somewhat like a tribal chief.

However, what Wind Waker succeeds at the best with regards to this aesthetic brings me back to what Moana did so well. Despite there only being a limited number of original characters and creatures, as well as only 49 small islands to visit, the world of the flood still manages to feel massive and unexplored. This aesthetic doesn’t even wear down the more times you complete the game. With each playthrough you manage to notice new things. Whether it be a hilarious character you never talked to before, or a secret area on an island you thought you knew by heart, the world of Wind Waker still manages to feel endless after all these years. Although the second and final game to take place in the flood era of Hylian history, Phantom Hourglass, does not succeed in implementing this aesthetic successfully, we will always have the endless appeal of Wind Waker. This replayability is one of the main reasons why it is, and probably always will be, my favorite video game of all time.

This is also why I would love to see Moana sequels in the near future. There is just so much of this world still left to be explored. I would love to see new islands, meet new characters, and face new threats with Moana and Maui, as long as the movies continue to be as well written as the first.

How Moana Messed Me Up

When I think about movies I want to see in theaters, I place them in one of three categories. There’s the top tier- movies I must see in theaters, maybe even opening night. Then comes middle tier- movies I would like to see in theaters, but will take my time to see. Finally, at the bottom tier comes movies I will see if invited or if bored with a friend.

Despite being a new Disney animated feature, Moana fell into the third tier for me. I really don’t know why it did, I’m usually the first one out the door when it comes to Disney Studios and Pixar films. I think it may have just been a sheer lack of someone to convince me to see it. The last day before my good friend Zack (go check out his YouTube channel 123zc1, it’s well worth your time) and I left for the semester, we had a few hours to kill. We made a last minute decision to finally see Moana, and boy was that decision well made.

Moana is not the best Disney film by any means. Movies like The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame take that position. However, it is by far the one I’ve personally connected with the most, making it my hands down favorite. I can definitely say that Zack felt very similarly, but at a stronger level, as he was crying throughout most of the movie.

I’m entering a crossroads in my life that has put me in existential disarray. I will be graduating college, and entering the “real world” this year. I know that I will have to get a 9-5 job, and probably live with my parents until I can save up enough to leave Florida. Although not thrilled, I have come to terms with this seemingly inevitable future. This is the path for someone with a passion that does not lead directly to a sustainable career. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a driving passion in my life. Since a very young age, I have always wanted to be an author. Writing fictional stories is my calling. My characters live in my mind like real friends and family, becoming fully realized even before they are put to paper. Having written my first novel last year, I can tell you firsthand that there is nothing more thrilling and satisfying then acting upon your passion.

I can’t talk about the experience of seeing Moana at this time in my life without talking about the accompanying short film. Inner Workings follows the story of a man who is living the exact path I face. The moral of the short is that you have to include little things in your 9-5 office life that make you happy, or else you’ll be miserable. However, I’ve had some influences in my life over the past year that have made this short mean a bit more to me. The Pro Crastinators are a group of YouTube content creators that have served as my main creative influence and entertainment source over the past year or so. Each member serves as a shining beacon of success from abandoning the normal path, and focusing their entire lives on their creative passions. Whether it be anime analysis, writing/drawing comics, or documenting their slow path towards insanity on video, they have embraced their true purpose, and abandoned their ties to the typical life structure that society enforces. In other words, they are a very hedonistic, but intelligent bunch. They would take Inner Workings, and throw it in the trash. I can’t say whether the Pro Crastinators are the angel or the devil on my shoulder. What I can say is that Inner Workings falls right alongside with the ideals of my parents, grandparents, and mentors/advisors, who all believe that a stable 9-5 job is the way to go. Just add a few small things that give you joy and you’re good to go.

If Inner Workings represents the ideals of my family, Moana is the mindset of the Pro Crastintors. The very meaning behind the entire plot of the film is to ignore what society deems to be the correct life path, and follow the passion you have in your heart. Moana has a deep-seated desire to explore the ocean. However, her entire family and village swears by never leaving the island they inhabit, and fulfilling the traditional life path that they have all taken. The only human character who encourages Moana to act on her passion is her grandmother. Gramma Tala is to Moana what Jesse Wood is to me: the voice on one of my shoulders telling me to screw society and follow my passion for writing fiction. While the ocean in the film is a literal entity that calls to Moana from inside her heart, it is clearly symbolic of her internal passion.

I would like you to read the following lyrics. They are to one of the climatic songs of the film, I Am Moana. The first stanza is the ghost of Moana’s grandmother singing to her (I believe this ghost not to literally be present, but in her head). The second stanza is of Moana herself responding. I believe these words perfectly reflect the entire point of Moana as a work of art, and hope you agree:

 

I know a girl from an island

She stands apart from the crowd

She loves the sea and her people

She makes her whole family proud

Sometimes the world seems against you

The journey may leave a scar

But scars can heal and reveal just

Where you are

The people you love will change you

The things you have learned will guide you

And nothing on earth can silence

The quiet voice still inside you

And when that voice starts to whisper

Moana, you’ve come so far

Moana, listen

Do you know who you are?

 

Who am I?

I am a girl who loves my island

I’m the girl who loves the sea

It calls me

I am the daughter of the village chief

We are descended from voyagers

Who found their way across the world

They call me

I’ve delivered us to where we are

I have journeyed farther

I am everything I’ve learned and more

Still it calls me

And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me

It’s like the tide; always falling and rising

I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me

That come what may

I know the way

I am Moana!

 

I just need to replace all the specifics of the lyrics with things about me, and this song becomes about me. That’s the beauty of Moana as a piece of cinema. The film is made for self insert; you can’t help yourself but look at everything metaphorically. You can replace the plot elements, setting, specific passions, and characters with things that apply to you, and the story still works. Moana is the story of a girl following the voice inside her heart, and embracing her true passion. That’s the most inspiring thing imaginable to me, and that’s why this movie messed me up.

The Transformation of the Japanese Legislature in the Aftermath of World War 2

Note: This analytical essay was initially submitted as a final paper for a Comparative Political Institutions course, and has been edited modified for the purposes of this blog.

Modern Japan is considered by many to be a beacon of democracy. However, Japan didn’t’ always have the democratic prominence that it is known for today. Before the conclusion of World War 2, Japan was an imperial nation, striving to conquer the rest of East Asia. The transformation of Japan into a democracy ushered on a multitude of drastic institutional changes. These changes are extremely evident in the restructuring of the Japanese legislature.

Historical context is necessary to understand the scale of this institutional reconstruction. In the early historical periods of the Paleolithic, Jomon, and Yayoi, the Japanese archipelago was inhabited by a series of independent tribes. Combined, these eras lasted from roughly 10,000 BC to 300 AD. Due to the nature of this society, there wasn’t any formalized legislature of sorts to be discussed. However, this all changed with the onset of the Kofun period.

Early into the common era, 300 years to be exact, Japan was successfully unified under a single emperor, and the regime type of Japan shifted to authoritarian. The emperor and his small group of elites were known as the Yamato Court. “As for regional control, according to the Chinese Book of Sui … the country was already divided into kuni (provinces), which were subdivided into agata. These territorial units were governed by Kuni no Miyatsuko and Agatanushi, who were responsible for collecting tribute” (Yamato Court, jref.com). In other words, the Yamato Court divided what was once the territory of a multitude of individual tribes into provinces and subdivisions known as agata. These agata were then appointed a specific regional leader. These regional leaders were typically people who were already local leaders, but now officially approved by the court. The Kuni no Miyatsuko and Agatanushi were responsible for collecting tribute from the citizens of their specific regions. Although extremely primitive by today’s standards, this was the first sign of somewhat unified legislative action in Japanese history. Basic legislative practices as discussed continued with some failures and successes for quite some time. While various different dynasties rose and fell, the same basic principles of tribute and taxation applied. Further drastic changes in the legislature of Japan, however, came about with the emergence of the Edo Period in the early 1600s.

The Edo Period began with rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a military regime that ruled from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. They believed in complete Japanese isolationism, and disconnected the nation from all relations with the outside world. Therefore, all concentrations were on the internal politics of Japan. With this internal focus, the Tokugawa Shogunate completely changed the legislature of Japan on an unprecedented scale. By many standards, this was the first time the Japanese government had a true legislative branch. The Tokugawa Shogunate implemented a legislature very similar to a system of committees that you would see in modern legislatures. These groups were known as the Roju and Wakadoshiyori, the Ometsuke and Metsuke, and the San-Bugyo.

The Roju and Wakadoshiyori were responsible for ensuring smooth relations between the imperial court, the Buddhist temples, and the Shinto shrines. As Buddhism and Shintoism were the two most prominent religions in the country at the time, non-hostile relations between these religious institutions and the government was very important to Japanese stability.

The Ometsuke and Metsuke were responsible for monitoring the imperial court. They were appointed to do so in order to spot and thwart any form of rebellion against the government before it could truly take off. As the Tokugawa Shogunate was a military regime, rebellion was a genuine concern that needed to be monitored. Therefore, the Ometsuke and Metsuke were a pivotal part of the Edo Period legislature.

The San-Bugyo were, in modern terms, the accountants of the Tokugawa Shogunate. They were responsible for monitoring and organizing the funds and economics of temples, shrines, cities, and the Shogunate itself. As they dealt with the economics of the nation, they were a necessary component for the functionality of the Japanese government.

The conglomeration of these various groups composed a political institution that is very reminiscent to a simplified modern committee-based legislature. It was the first time Japan operated with a somewhat modernized government system. However, due to intense isolationism, the Edo Period prevented Japan from modernizing at the pace of the rest of the world. This issue would shape Japan, and the legislature of the nation, for the rest of its history.

As evident by the modern condition of Japan, the nation’s isolationism had to come to a close. With the dawn of the era that is known as the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan, as a nation, was completely reshaped. With what is perhaps the most drastic transformation of the nation (other than in the aftermath of World War 2), Japan ended its isolationism. The emperor at the time, Meiji, saw the technological, political, and imperial progress that western nations had made while Japan was isolated, and wanted to emulate it. For the first time in Japan’s history, a semi-democratic constitutional monarchy government was implemented. However, the slightly democratic components of the Meiji regime did not last for long. Using a variety of influences from a multitude of European nations, Meiji constructed a culturally appropriated government, borrowing what he considered to be the “highlights” of European culture. In essence, Meiji created a “European” nation in East Asia.

With the onset of the Meiji Restoration came the construction of a formalized legislature as we understand the term. Based on the success of bicameral legislatures in multiple European nations, Japan constructed their own bicameral legislative branch known as the Imperial Diet. What was unique about the Imperial Diet, and the other political institutions of the time, was that the emperor was actually a part of it. He was a member of all of the institutions below him, and used his membership to actively pass and uphold statute.

The Imperial Diet was composed of two branches, the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. Members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by voters. However, who was allowed to vote at the time was very limited. Male, purely Japanese citizens were the only people allowed to vote, with some limited exceptions. Members of The House of Peers, on the other hand, were all aristocrats, given positions based on their nobility.

The process of passing legislation in the Imperial Diet was somewhat similar to how it works in the current Japanese legislature. A bill must pass through both the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. However, after passing through both, it must also be approved by the emperor. The emperor had the final say on the passing of all statute within his empire, with no exceptions.

The Imperial Diet operated successfully for the rest of the 19th century, and most of the early 20th century. However, international history has prominent impacts on not just the members involved, but the world as a whole. While Japan wasn’t actively involved in World War 1, it suffered tremendous consequences from the conflict. After the war, most of the world entered a period of economic depression, Japan being no exception. This was not aided by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The earthquake nearly destroyed Tokyo, which was the current capital of Japan. Tokyo was the center of Japan’s imperial power, and the hub for all of the nation’s political institutions. This devastated the government of Japan at the time, and only amplified their intense economic depression. The Japanese imperial government, including all of the political institutions that composed it, were on the brink of collapse, and needed to find a way to survive. They found savior in the abandonment of any democratic tendencies, and the conquering of neighboring territory.

Japan had been enemies with its western neighbor China since its ancient inception. China served as a threat for imperial Japan, due to its sheer size and influence in the region. Before there was any official alliance, Japan was already receiving aid from Germany, and actively aggressing China. However, in order to ensure that the Japanese empire would be safe from its enemies (mainly China) during this time, the Japanese legislature decided to enter the Tripartite Pact. The pact, signed between the three major world powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan, ensured that each would be there to protect each other if they were to be attacked by a non-pact nation. “The Pact also recognized the two spheres of influence. Japan acknowledged the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe, while Japan was granted lordship over Greater East Asia” (This Day in History, September 27th 1940, history.com). In other words, while Italy and Germany were busy conquering the rest of the Europe, Japan would begin the acquisition of East Asia. The Tripartite Pact was responsible for officially entering Japan into World War 2 in 1940.

World War 2 was a disastrous time for Japan. Even after the defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the European front, Japan continued to battle the allied forces in the East Asian front. Imperial Japan was officially defeated in 1945, when two atomic bombs were dropped on the major Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With these bombs, the Japanese were given an ultimatum: surrender, or the rest of the archipelago would be destroyed. The emperor at the time, Hirohito, surrendered on the strict, non-negotiable terms of the allied forces. This is where the greatest legislative transformation in Japanese history took place.

The conditioning of Japan’s surrender was written in a document known as the Potsdam Declaration. This document was collaboratively drafted by the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. The requirements stated in the Potsdam Declaration, while seemingly simple, would completely transform Japan as a nation. Japan was to end all forms of imperialism. In other words, the nation was required to give up all of the territory that it conquered during its time as an empire. The territory that made up Japan was limited to the four largest islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Specific smaller islands were also allowed to remain under Japanese rule. This created the borders that define modern day Japan. To further prevent the threat of imperialism, the emperor was stripped of all of his power, and the title was reduced to a ceremonial status, similar to that of the queen in England. In other words, the emperor no longer had any political power. The allied forces were also allowed permanent military occupation in designated areas, in order to ensure Japan wouldn’t fall back into its imperialistic tendencies. The Japanese military was to be disbanded, and restructured on the terms of the allied forces. All Japanese industry and economics were allowed to continue, and actually encouraged, in order to foster capitalism. If not evident by the previous requirements, Japan was required to become a full-fledged democracy. The government was to promote freedom of speech, religion, and thought; something that was previously unheard of in the nation. However, what is pivotal to this discussion is the restructuring of every key political institution in the Japanese government; including the legislature

The modern Japanese legislature, while operating on a similar basis as its imperial predecessor, was ultimately transformed by the Potsdam Declaration. Japan has maintained this legislative system to date. Replacing the emperor, the legislative branch currently holds the largest amount of power in the Japanese government. The current legislature, located in the capital of Tokyo, was renamed from the Imperial Diet to the National Diet. The maintained bicameralism of the legislature is present in its division between an upper and lower house. The lower house is called the House of Representatives, while the upper house is called the House of Councillors.

The House of Representatives is made up of 480 members, who serve four year terms, unless removed from their positions earlier. However, not all of these members are elected in the same manner. House of Representatives elections are conducted in two ways. 300 representatives are elected through a single-member plurality, or first past the post, electoral system. The other 180, however, are selected via party-list proportional representation. In other words, each political party composes a list of potential candidates. As Japan has an open list electoral system, individual representatives are specifically chosen off of these lists based on popularity.

The House of Councillors is made up of 242 members, roughly half the amount of the House of Representatives. While half serve three year terms, the other half serve four. 146 are chosen through single non-transferable votes. These elections take place within each of the 47 prefectures that make up Japan. In other words, you can only vote for a representative in the prefecture that you reside in. The other 96, however, are selected proportionally. Since Japan uses an open list system, councillors are are individually chosen by the people, as opposed to the people voting for a party as a whole, who then decides on members for them. Councillors are voted upon off of a national list. In other words, if a person is not on this list, they can not be voted upon to occupy one of the 96 seats available.

Perhaps the most drastic institutional change with regards to the Japanese legislature is in power. As an imperial nation, the emperor had ultimate power. He had the final and strongest say over statute, as well as any other matters of the nation. However, as the Potsdam Declaration stripped the emperor down to a purely ceremonial position, the legislature is currently the most powerful institution in the Japanese government. The reduction of the power of the emperor position also allowed the legislature to be the only political institution in the nation able to pass statute, or make laws.

The legislature of Japan gained other prominent powers with the implementation of Potsdam reformations. The National Diet currently controls both the budget and international treaties of the nation. They also have the ability to investigate both specific members of government, as well as governmental institutions as a whole, if they begin to sense corruption or wrongdoing. To further this power, the Diet has the ability to impeach any government official, including the Prime Minister, if they are deemed unfit to serve. As many other legislatures do, they are also able to ratify the constitution, if necessary.

Both chambers of the legislature are required to have a single annual meeting, but are permitted to meet multiple times a year if necessary. In order for a meeting to count as legitimate, at least ⅓ of the members of each respective house must be present. Meetings are ceremonially begun and concluded by the emperor, regardless of his lack of ability to participate in said meetings.

The House of Representatives has more legislative power than the House of Councillors. However, to combat any unfair balance, the House of Councillors is able to postpone any budget or treaty decisions made by the House of Representatives. Regardless of this legislative structure, any bill must still be voted upon in both chambers, and must be given final approval by the emperor. However, unlike in imperial Japan, the emperor is required to approve every bill, making the action a tradition, rather than a legitimate political act.

Evidently, Japan has undergone multiple legislative transformations throughout its history as a nation. From isolationist, to imperial, to democratic; Japan’s legislature has been restructured to fit each period of the country’s history. With the fall of imperial Japan at the end of World War 2 came the transformation of Japan from an empire to a democracy. This major political transformation reshaped the legislature of the nation into the format it currently operates under today. As Japan is currently one of the most prominent world democracies, this legislative change is anything but unimportant.

Sources Cited:

  1. The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions (Edited By: R. A. W. Rhodes, Sarah A. Binder and Bert A. Rockman)
  2. Lecture Slides (Constructed By: Professor Kreppel)
  3. Websites Used