Leiden Network for Japanese Constitutional Research

Photograph by Cyril Bèle. Creative Commons.

Constitutional revision is again on the political agenda in Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announcing that he would like to see revision by 2020. There are perhaps good strategic reasons to place revision on the table. The constitution’s Article 9 was written after the Second World War to limit Japan’s military capability. However, strategic developments, including China’s increased naval activity and North Korea’s nuclear program have, according to revisionists, made Japan’s military restrictions obsolete. Despite this focus on strategy in broader public debates, Abe has made it clear in his writings that he also sees revision as connected to a sense of national pride and identity.

Aligned against revision, meanwhile, is an array of intellectuals and activists either keen to preserve the pacifist elements of the constitution or concerned that Abe’s approach to constitutionalism erodes the rule of law. While constitutional revision looks more likely than ever before, it is hardly a foregone conclusion.


This project proposed to highlight the topic of debate on the constitution in Japan by establishing a Leiden Network for Japan Constitutional Research.

It aimed to encourage debate on Japan’s constitution from a number of perspectives, to provide access to resources on constitutional practice and revision that are not yet available in English, to facilitate research into the domestic implications of the constitutional debate, and to bring into focus the significance of this debate for the political authority of human rights in Asia.


  1. Field research in Japan, leading to the publication of peer reviewed articles
  2. A symposium in early 2018, and a second symposium with many of the same speakers in Asia in 2019.
  3. The development of a website and online database for English resources on the constitutional debate.

In order to improve the availability of historical and contemporary sources in English on the constitution of Japan, we will establish a database including such features as an interactive timeline and access to translations of primary sources and articles on the constitution.


Dr. Erik Herber, until his passing in January 2020
Marte Boonen MA (Res.)

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Published On: January, 2018