In 1913 five major pieces of legislation were passed to totally revamp Japan’s judiciary system, resulting in the elimination of 128 of the existing 312 judicial districts and the dismissal of 232 judges and public prosecutors out the total 1510 holding office at that time. In addition, a provision was added to the Court Organization Act making it possible to transfer judges against their will. The present article is an attempt to clarify in what manner judicial issues were addressed and its impact during that time through an investigation of the discourse surrounding the major judicial reforms of 1913.
In the legal provisions regarding the dismissal of judges and public prosecutors, judges, the number of whose appointments had been fixed independently and who enjoyed higher levels of status security, were now put on an equal footing with prosecutors, as only the total number of dismissals between the two offices was determined. Consequently, the reduction in the number of judges was overwhelmingly larger than the minor decrease in prosecutors. Then a strict vetting of prosecutors was conducted, which resulted in the dismissal of far more than the reduced number of appointments.
While the procedures for dismissal and the Courts Organization Act reform bill threatened to hamper the independence enjoyed by court presiding officers, the discourse at the time tended to concentrate on issues directly related to the elimination of district courts in terms of the interests of the general public, resulting in rather lackluster deliberations in the Imperial Diet. Although new provisions had been introduced which clearly threatened the status security of judges, such issues were not sufficiently taken up in the Diet deliberations, due to the existence of other points of debate more easily open to dispute.
It was in this way that due to the new legislation being uncritically enacted, the term “occupation” (shoku 職) as appearing in Clause II of Article 58 of the Imperial Constitution, containing provisions regarding the status security of judges, became understood as meaning “official” (kan 官), as the interpretation that even if a court “officer” is not dismissed, he can be relieved of his “duties” was adopted in 1921.
The reasons why the independence of the judiciary was not sufficiently guaranteed under the Meiji Constitution include not only 1) the priority given to the Ministry of Justice over the courts in the Courts Organization Act, but also 2) the reinterpretations of the law gradually conducted by administrative authorities, 3) amendments made to the law, and 4) a serious dearth of resistance to such actions on the part of Diet members, judges and legal scholars. In sum, the major judicial reform of 1925 is one excellent example how the hollowing out of independence on the part of the officers presiding over the courts was promoted by not only the Ministry of Justice and the Imperial Diet, but also the field of jurisprudence itself.
The Research Institute of National Policy (Kokusaku Kenkyukai 国策研究会 ; hereafter RINP), which is a private research organization studying administrative policy, was founded in 1934 as the National Policy Research Club (Kokusaku Kenkyu Doshikai 国策研究同志会). Before World War II, RINP was sometimes referred to as the “Citizens Planning Agency” (Minkan Kikakucho 民間企画庁), on which sat influential figures both active in the private and public sectors, who gathered together to study various issues and whose findings often exerted profound influence on national-policy making.
Much of the research done to date on the RINP has focused on the close connection between the Institute and the Ministry of the Army's Military Affairs Bureau and has characterized it as a think-tank for the Army, despite its existence as a non-government citizens organization. However, little has yet been revealed regarding how exactly themes suggested by the Army were reflected in the Institute’s research and how its findings were presented to the Military Affairs Bureau. To clarify these questions, this article examines the drafting of the Comprehensive National 10-Year Plan (Sogo Kokusaku Jukkanen Keikaku 総合国策十ヵ年計画), which according the research to date was drawn up by the RINP at the request of the Bureau and eventually became the blueprint for the “Basic Outline of National Policy” for the 2nd Konoe Cabinet’s “new regime” enacted between June 1940 and June 1941. In contrast, this article presents a new interpretation of the RINP, in general, and its involvement in the drafting of the “National 10-Year Plan”, in particular.
The author finds that the Plan was in fact not researched and drawn up by the RINP per se, but in effect by a group of reformist bureaucrats in conjunction with Army staff members, all of whom were associated based on personal relationships. The whole process of drafting the plan was kept completely secret, to the extent that a dummy group was organized within the RINP to disguise the activities of the actual planners. It therefore follows that the political influence attributed to the Institute as an Army think-tank has been greatly exaggerated. Rather, the Army utilized the Institute merely as a carefully micro-managed front to exert its influence covertly on national politics.