Every year on 3 May, Japan celebrates its Kenpō Kinenbi, or Constitution Day. Certainly, the importance of the day is overshadowed by the fact that it is smack dab in the middle of golden week, but the holiday signifies an important turning point in world history.
Japan's Constitution Day remembers the promulgation of the first and only national Constitution that renounces the right to use military force in order to settle international disputes. This ever important principle is codified in Article IX, an item that is often the subject of debate among politicians and Japan observers.
What is significant about this Constitution Day is that the National Archives is giving visitors the chance to see the actual Constitution in a limited-time exhibition. The 70-year old document is only accessible for public viewings on special occasions, and the archives is using the Constitution's birthday as an opportunity not only to showcase the Constitution, but other documents that represented the path that led to promulgation.
Included among those documents is the Japanese version of what is now known as "the MacArthur Draft." At the time of the Constitution's drafting, Japan was still under the administration of the Allied Occupation, and it was required that major legislation be routed through the Government Relations Branch of MacArthur's General Headquarters (GHQ). The original Japanese draft was simply a slight revision of the Meiji Imperial Constitution, which maintained the emperor as supreme, failed to include women's rights, and maintained many of the same principles that the GHQ believed could lead to Japan's return to dynastic Imperialism. Instead, General MacArthur ordered his staff to draft a counterproposal to the Japanese draft, which served as the foundation of the Japanese Constitution that was overwhelmingly accepted by public referendum in 1946 and promulgated in 1947.
Photo Courtesy of the National Archives of Japan (www.archives.go.jp)
All of this is part of the interesting exhibit at the archives, but it is only running until 7 May so you'll have to act quickly to see it. From Saturday through Wednesday (including holidays), the exhibit is open from 9:45 to 17:30, and on Thursday and Friday, it is open from 9:45 to 20:00 (except on 4 and 5 May, when it will close at the normal 17:30 time).
The archives are located near the Budokan north of the Imperial Palace. They are only about a 5 minute walk from Takebashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line.