In This Article Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan

  • Introduction
  • Journals Based in Japan
  • Journals Based Outside of Japan
  • Survey-Based Data
  • Data on Elections and Politicians
  • Prewar Party and Electoral Politics: Historians’ Perspectives
  • Prewar Party and Electoral Politics: Political Scientists’ Perspectives

Political Science Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
by
Go Murakami, Benjamin Nyblade
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 November 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0067

Introduction

Outside of western Europe and its former settler colonies, Japan has had the longest history of parliamentary government and is regularly hailed as one of the most successful non-Western democracies. Japan’s first parliamentary elections were held in 1890, albeit an election held with the franchise restricted to a small subset of the population. The franchise was gradually extended in the subsequent decades, with suffrage extended to all adult males in 1925 and universal suffrage adopted during the occupation of Japan following World War II. However, the political elites and parties that developed in the Diet were merely one part of a political system that included powerful unelected political actors. As in many pre-democratic parliamentary systems, the legal status of Japan’s Imperial Diet (1890–1945) was formally purely advisory to the monarch. The postwar Constitution instituted popular sovereignty, universal suffrage, and parliamentary supremacy. Given the increased importance of parties and elections, it is thus unsurprising that the focus of most studies of Japanese party and electoral politics is on the postwar period. The study of Japanese electoral and party politics is a thriving area of research, both for Japanese academics and in the English-language comparative politics and political behavior literatures. Japan has been an appealing country for scholars of party politics and voting behavior in large part due to the ready availability of data, its unusual electoral system, and history of one-party dominance. Reliable “modern” survey data in Japan dates back into the 1960s and regular election studies started in the 1970s. Furthermore, a substantial flow of Japanese graduate students to English-speaking (primarily US) political science graduate programs, who often returned to Japan but maintained their ties to the English-language political science community, led to frequent collaboration and greater integration of studies of Japanese politics into the broader political science community than has been typical for non-English speaking countries. That being said, much of the cutting-edge work on Japanese politics is published only in Japanese, and it is incumbent scholars of Japanese party and electoral politics to keep up with the very active Japanese-language scholarship in these areas. Although the majority of the references in this bibliography are to English-language works (given that we expect most readers to not read Japanese), we have also included both foundational and recent works published in Japanese that we feel are important for scholars of Japanese politics to know.

Journals Based in Japan

Two Japan-based English-language journals, Social Science Japan Journal and the Japanese Journal of Political Science, were founded in the late 1990s and have seen an excellent mix of Japanese and foreign scholars publishing in the area of Japanese electoral and party politics. There are also several key Japanese-language journals that scholars should regularly read, most notably Rebaiasan (Leviathan), Nenpō Seijigaku (The Annual Review of the Japanese Political Science Association), and Senkyo Kenkyū (Japanese Journal of Election Studies).

  • Japanese Journal of Political Science. 2000–.

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    This journal, published by Cambridge but led by a Japanese editorial team, publishes broadly in all subfields of political science. However, there is particular emphasis on Japan and Asia, and it has been a frequent outlet for work on Japanese electoral and party politics since its founding.

  • Nenpō Seijigaku. 1953–.

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    Nenpō Seijigaku is the prestigious journal published by Nihon seiji gakkai (the Japanese Political Science Association). Published annually, the journal covers a wide range of subfields of political science, history, and philosophy. Except for some recent volumes, most of its articles are publicly available online at J-Stage. This journal is the successor to the Nihon seijigakkai nenpō seijigaku (1950–1952), which is also available at J-STAGE.

  • Rebaiasan. 1987–.

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    Rebaiasan was born partly as a critical response to the dominant approach to “political studies” (seijigaku) through the 1980s in Japan, and placed a strong emphasis on incorporating empirical data and cutting-edge methodological developments. Published twice a year, it is now the premier journal in Japan, and articles cross a wide range of areas in political science.

  • Senkyo Kenkyū. 1987–.

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    Senkyo Kenkyū, published by Nihon senkyo gakkai (the Japanese Association of Electoral Studies), is a subfield journal focusing on the elections, public opinion, and party politics. This journal was integrated with Senkyo gakkai kiyō (Review of Electoral Studies) in 2008, and now is published twice a year. Except for some recent volumes, most of its articles are publicly available online at J-Stage. The journal has an alternate online location as well.

  • Social Science Japan Journal. 1998–.

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    Based at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science, this journal publishes articles from a wide range of social sciences, with a particular emphasis on political science. This journal is a frequent outlet for Japanese scholars publishing in English, in part because the editorial process has allowed for review of manuscripts in Japanese first before translation for publication into English.

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