From Past to Present: Matsui Fuyuko and the Subversion of Women and Trauma in Nihonga
Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
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Looking back at World War II Japan, there is a general feeling that the government in this time was very authoritarian. However, during this time, Japan’s government did follow a constitution. One may naively think that a constitutional government cannot possibly become authoritarian. If the government managed to become authoritarian, what happened to the constitution? Was the it ignored or abused? Was it changed to suit the government’s wishes? Was the Emperor restricted in any way? In this thesis, I explore the powers and limits of the Japanese government under the Meiji Constitution. I chose different sections of the Meiji Constitution and studied the powers that the Emperor, the Diet and the administrative government had and the sort of rights that people had. I also researched to see if there were any loopholes that allowed the government to limit those rights, and whether there were any changes in the constitution that could have contributed to the government’s power over the people. As a result, however, I discovered two things: first, that the constitution was never amended and was used until the end of WWII, and second, that the politics and the relationship between the people and the government under the Meiji Constitution were quite complicated. While under the constitution, the government was able to legally have a great deal of power over the people, the constitution also provided some checks on the government. In fact, the constitution’s existence was in part created to please the people, so in itself it also was a check on the government. Old principles and practicality also provided incentive for the government and the people to use and abide by the constitution. This study of the Meiji Constitution, I believe, will give some insight into the powers and limitations of a constitution on a government.