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Promoting Political Participation through Experience-based Political Education
Unformatted Document Text:  Introduction Japanese local policy process has been changing in a certain direction recently, and the emerging type of policy process requires a much greater civic engagement than before. Behind the recent change is the devolution of Japanese politics, triggered by the budget constraint. Under the new system, responsibility for the policy formation, not just for policy implementation, is delegated to the local government, especially in the areas of community development, welfare and education. The expanded responsibility made the local governments look for an active partnership with citizens and not-for-profits, and ordinances are being made to facilitate such cooperation in terms of manpower and budget. Such cooperation with citizens is further encouraged by NPO Act of1998, which simplified the process of incorporation of civic organizations 1 . This direction will enrich Japan’s democracy, if citizens learn about the problems, have their own opinion, conduct spontaneous discussion, and take action toward problem solution. Once they become familiar with local politics, their political knowledge will increase and their political interest and efficacy will be stronger, which further promotes their political participation. These positive developments are possible only if citizens themselves want to participate in politics. Otherwise, the emerging system will not only lead to few results, but end up subordinating the civil society to bureaucracy as free labor. The backbone of Japanese civil society organizations is not so strong 2 . It is pointed out that Japanese commitment to “the public” through organized activities is weak, and people are most likely to be self-centered, which derived from the “poor quality of life” caused by long hours of work 3 . Even our survey on high school students found similar “self-centeredness,” and students’ interest in private matters are greater than that in public matters, leaving their interest in civic participation at the lowest 4 . Thus, it is probably not so much of long hour of work, but political/political-social culture of Japan, which Almond and Verba characterized as subject 1 Tadashi Yamamoto, ed., Deciding the Public Good: Governance and Civil Society in Japan, Tokyo and New York: Japan Center for International Exchange, 1999. 2 Unlike the U.S., where civic organizations dominate among not-for-profits, Japan’s civil society was led by business associations. Civic organization started to increase in the 1970s, and outnumbered business associations in 1985. Still, civic organizations tend to act independently in the community whereas business associations tend to concentrate their activities, and civic activities are not thoroughly enrooted in the community. Yutaka Tsujinaka, “From Development to Maturity: Japan’s Civil Society Organizations in Comparative Perspective,” Frank J. Schwartz and Susan J. Pharr eds., The State of Civil Society in Japan , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 83-115. 3 Tadashi Yamaguchi, “On Civil Society, Public-ness, Policy Studies,” Policy Science 11-3 (2004): 14-15. 4 Cf. Authors’ survey data, Table 3. 3

Authors: Ishibashi, Shoichiro. and Chieko, Otsuru.
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Introduction
Japanese local policy process has been changing in a certain direction recently, and the emerging
type of policy process requires a much greater civic engagement than before. Behind the recent
change is the devolution of Japanese politics, triggered by the budget constraint. Under the new
system, responsibility for the policy formation, not just for policy implementation, is delegated to
the local government, especially in the areas of community development, welfare and education.
The expanded responsibility made the local governments look for an active partnership with
citizens and not-for-profits, and ordinances are being made to facilitate such cooperation in terms of
manpower and budget. Such cooperation with citizens is further encouraged by NPO Act of1998,
which simplified the process of incorporation of civic organizations
.
This direction will enrich Japan’s democracy, if citizens learn about the problems, have
their own opinion, conduct spontaneous discussion, and take action toward problem solution. Once
they become familiar with local politics, their political knowledge will increase and their political
interest and efficacy will be stronger, which further promotes their political participation. These
positive developments are possible only if citizens themselves want to participate in politics.
Otherwise, the emerging system will not only lead to few results, but end up subordinating the civil
society to bureaucracy as free labor.
The backbone of Japanese civil society organizations is not so strong
. It is pointed out
that Japanese commitment to “the public” through organized activities is weak, and people are
most likely to be self-centered, which derived from the “poor quality of life” caused by long hours
of work
. Even our survey on high school students found similar “self-centeredness,” and students’
interest in private matters are greater than that in public matters, leaving their interest in civic
participation at the lowest
. Thus, it is probably not so much of long hour of work, but
political/political-social culture of Japan, which Almond and Verba characterized as subject
1
Tadashi Yamamoto, ed., Deciding the Public Good: Governance and Civil Society in Japan, Tokyo and New
York: Japan Center for International Exchange, 1999.
2
Unlike the U.S., where civic organizations dominate among not-for-profits, Japan’s civil society was led by
business associations. Civic organization started to increase in the 1970s, and outnumbered business associations in
1985. Still, civic organizations tend to act independently in the community whereas business associations tend to
concentrate their activities, and civic activities are not thoroughly enrooted in the community. Yutaka Tsujinaka,
“From Development to Maturity: Japan’s Civil Society Organizations in Comparative Perspective,” Frank J.
Schwartz and Susan J. Pharr eds., The State of Civil Society in Japan , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp
83-115.
3
Tadashi Yamaguchi, “On Civil Society, Public-ness, Policy Studies,” Policy Science 11-3 (2004): 14-15.
4
Cf. Authors’ survey data, Table 3.
3


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