Japan Socialist Party

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Japan Socialist Party

Japanese nameNihon Shakai-tō
FoundedNovember 2, 1945 (1945-11-02)
DissolvedJanuary 19, 1996 (1996-01-19)
Succeeded bySocial Democratic Party (Japan)
HeadquartersSocial & Cultural Center 1-8-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Social democracy
Political positionLeft-wing
International affiliationSocialist International[2]

Japan Socialist Party (JSP), or Social Democratic Party of Japan (日本社会党 (にっぽんしゃかいとう、にほんしゃかいとう, Nippon shakai-tō, Nihon shakai-tō)) was a left-wing political party in Japan existed from 1945 to 1996.

The party is founded by members of several former proletariat parties that existed before WWII including the Social Mass Party, the Labour-Farmer Party and Japan Labour-Farmer Party by 1945. In the 1940s, JSP was shortly in power from 1947 to 1948. From 1951 to 1955, the JSP was once divided into the "Leftist Socialist Party" (左派社会党) and the "Rightist Socialist Party" (右派社会党). In the same year, the two major conservative parties in Japan merged into the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a system called "1955 System" (55年体制) was established in Japan. Under the 1955 System, the LDP was continuously in power and the JSP, as the largest opposition party, was incapable of forming an alternative. On the other hand, during this period, JSP could hold around 1/3 seats in the National Diet to prevent LDP amending the Constitution of Japan.[1][3]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, under the leadership of Takako Doi, JSP earned a record-high number of seats. However, from the middle 1990s, shocked by the establishments of new conservative parties, the seats of JSP in the National Diet decreased significantly. Finally, JSP dissolved on January 19, 1996. The successor of JSP is the Social Democratic Party, which is a minor party only holding four representatives in the National Diet in 2020.

Two Prime Minister of Japan were from JSP: Tetsu Katayama and Tomiichi Murayama.



Former JSP Head Office in Nagatacho, the Social & Cultural Center (社会文化会館)

Socialist and social-democratic parties have been active in Japan under various names since the early 20th century, often suffering harsh government repression as well as ideological dissensions and splits.

The party was originally known as the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ) in English and was formed in 1945 following the fall of the militarist regime that had led Japan into World War II. At the time, there was serious conflict inside the party between factions of the right and the left and the party's official name in English became the Japanese Socialist Party (JSP) as the left-wing had advocated. The right had wanted to use the older SDPJ.

The party became the largest political party in the first general election under the Constitution of Japan in 1947 (143 of 466 seats) and a government was formed by Tetsu Katayama, forming a coalition with the Democratic Party and the Citizens' Cooperation Party. However, the Katayama government collapsed due to the rebellion of communists in the party. The party continued the coalition with the Democrats under Prime Minister Hitoshi Ashida; but the cabinet was engulfed by the Shōwa Denkō scandal, the largest corruption scandal during the occupation, allowing Shigeru Yoshida and the Liberal Party to return to government. In the period following the end of World War II, the Socialists played a key role in the drafting of the new Japanese constitution, adding progressive articles related to issues such as health, welfare and working conditions.[4]

The party was split in 1950–1951 into the Rightist Socialist Party, consisting of socialists who leaned more to the political centre; and the Leftist Socialist Party, formed by hardline left-wingers and socialists.[5] The faction farthest to the left formed a small independent party, the Workers and Farmers Party, espousing Maoism from 1948 to 1957. The two socialist parties were merged in 1955 and joined the Socialist International that year.[6]

The new opposition party had its own factions, although organised according to left-right ideological beliefs rather than what it called the feudal personalism of the conservative parties. In the 1958 general election, the party gained 32.9 percent of the popular vote and 166 out of 467 seats. This was enough result to block the attempt of constitutional amendment by the Kishi Nobusuke-led government.

However, the party was again split in 1960 because of internal conflicts and the assassination of Inejiro Asanuma and the breakaway group (a part of the old Right Socialist Party of Japan, their most moderate faction) created the Democratic Socialist Party, although the party was preserved. After that, the party's percentage of the popular vote and number of seats gradually declined. However, the party performed well on a local level and by the 1970s many areas were run by SDPJ mayors and governors (including those who were endorsed by the SDPJ), who introduced new social programmes.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

In 1977, some members, led by Saburō Eda (江田三郎) and Hideo Den (田英夫) respectively, left the JSP, and a minor party called Socialist Democratic Federation (社会民主連合) were formed by them in 1978.[16][17]


In the double election of July 1986 for both Diet houses, the party suffered a rout by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under Yasuhiro Nakasone and its seats in the lower house fell from 112 to an all-time low of eighty-five and its share of the vote from 19.5 percent to 17.2 percent. Nonetheless, its popular chairwoman Takako Doi led it to an impressive showing in the 1990 general election, with 136 seats and 24.4 percent of the vote. Some electoral districts had more than one successful socialist candidate. Doi's decision to put up more than one candidate for each of the 130 districts represented a controversial break with the past because unlike their LDP counterparts many party candidates did not want to run against each other. However, the great majority of the 149 socialist candidates who ran were successful, including seven of eight women.

Doi, a university professor of constitutional law before entering politics, had a tough, straight-talking manner that appealed to voters tired of the evasiveness of other politicians. Many women found her a refreshing alternative to submissive female stereotypes and in the late 1980s the public at large in opinion polls voted her their favorite politician (the runner-up in these surveys was equally tough-talking conservative LDP member Shintarō Ishihara). However, Doi's popularity was of limited aid to the party. The powerful Shakaishugi Kyokai (Japan Socialist Association) which was supported by a hardcore contingent of the party's 76,000-strong membership remained committed to doctrinaire Marxism, impeding Doi's efforts to promote what she called perestroika and a more moderate program with greater voter appeal.

In 1983, Doi's predecessor as chairman Masashi Ishibashi began the delicate process of moving the party away from its strong opposition to the Self-Defense Forces. While maintaining that these forces were unconstitutional in light of Article 9, he claimed that because they had been established through legal procedures, they had a legitimate status (this phrasing was changed a year later to say that the Self-Defense Forces exist legally). Ishibashi also broke past precedent by visiting Washington to talk with United States political leaders.

By the end of the decade, the party had accepted the Self-Defense Forces and the 1960 Japan–United States Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. It advocated strict limitations on military spending (no more than 1 percent of GNP annually), a suspension of joint military exercises with United States forces and a reaffirmation of the three non-nuclear principles (no production, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons into Japanese territory). Doi expressed support for balanced ties with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). In the past, the party had favored the Kim Il-sung regime in Pyongyang and in the early 1990s it still refused to recognize the 1965 normalization of relations between Tokyo and Seoul. In domestic policy, the party demanded the continued protection of agriculture and small business in the face of foreign pressure, abolition of the consumption tax and an end to the construction and use of nuclear power reactors. As a symbolic gesture to reflect its new moderation, the party dropped its commitment to socialist revolution at its April 1990 convention and described its goal as social democracy,[18] the creation of a society in which "all people fairly enjoy the fruits of technological advancement and modern civilization and receive the benefits of social welfare". Delegates also elected Doi to a third term as party chairwoman.

Because of the party's self-definition as a class-based party and its symbiotic relationship with the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (Sōhyō), the public-sector workers' confederation, few efforts were made to attract non-union constituencies. Although some Sōhyō unions supported the Japanese Communist Party, the party remained the representative of Sohyo's political interests until the merger with private-sector unions and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengō) in 1989. Because of declining union financial support during the 1980s, some party Diet members turned to dubious fund-raising methods. One was involved in the Recruit affair. Like other parties, it sold large blocks of fund-raising party tickets and the LDP even gave individual party Diet members funds from time to time to persuade them to cooperate in passing difficult legislation.


The party acquired seventy seats (down from 137) in the 1993 general election while the LDP lost its majority in the lower house for the first time since the 1983 general election and was out of government for the first time in 38 years. The anti-LDP coalition government of Morihiro Hosokawa was formed by reformists who had triggered the 1993 election by leaving the LDP (Japan Renewal Party and New Party Sakigake), a liberal party formed only a year before (Japan New Party), the traditional centre-left opposition (Kōmeitō, Democratic Socialist Party and Socialist Democratic Federation) and the Democratic Reform Party, the political arm of the Rengō trade union federation, together with the JSP. In 1994, the JSP and the New Sakigake Party decided to leave the non-LDP coalition. The minority Hata cabinet lasted only a few weeks. The JSP then formed a grand coalition (dai-renritsu) government with the LDP and the New Party Sakigake under Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, leader of the party from 1993 to 1996. Most of the other parties from the anti-LDP coalition forced back into opposition, united to form the New Frontier Party (NFP) and overtaking the JSP as second largest political party in Japan. The JSP lost in the 1995 House of Councillors election.

In January 1996, the New Socialist Party of Japan split off, Murayama resigned as Prime Minister and the JSP changed its name from the JSP to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as an interim party for forming a new party.

An illustration of the history of JSP


The JSP supported a neutralist foreign policy. It opposed amending the Constitution of Japan, especially the Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan.[1]

The so-called "lefists" in the JSP were Marxists in favour of scientific socialism. By contrast, the so-called "rightists" were in favour of the Social Democracy and they aimed at establishing a welfare state.[19]


No. Photo Name Term of office
Took office Left office
Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan
1 Tetsu Katayama.jpg Tetsu Katayama 28 September 1946 16 January 1950
Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan (Rightist)
Kawakami Jotaro 1952.JPG Jōtarō Kawakami 19 January 1951 12 October 1955
Chair of the Japanese Socialist Party (Leftist)
Suzuki Mosaburo.JPG Suzuki Mosaburō 18 January 1951 12 October 1955
Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan (Unified)
2 Suzuki Mosaburo.JPG Suzuki Mosaburō 12 October 1955 23 March 1960
3 Inejirō Asanuma 1955.jpg Inejiro Asanuma 23 March 1960 12 October 1960 (assassinated)
Saburo Eda.jpg Saburō Eda
12 October 1960 6 March 1961
4 Kawakami Jotaro 1952.JPG Jōtarō Kawakami 6 March 1961 6 May 1965
5 Kozo Sasaki 01.jpg Kouzou Sasaki 6 May 1965 19 August 1965
6 Japanese Socialist Party logo.svg Seiichi Katsumata 19 August 1965 4 October 1968
7 Japanese Socialist Party logo.svg Tomomi Narita 30 November 1968 26 September 1977
8 Ichio Asukata.png Ichio Asukata 13 December 1977 7 September 1983
9 Masashi Ishibashi.jpg Masashi Ishibashi 7 September 1983 8 September 1986
10 Takako Doi in Tokyo congressist election 2.jpg Takako Doi 9 September 1986 31 July 1991
11 Japanese Socialist Party logo.svg Makoto Tanabe 31 July 1991 19 January 1993
12 Japanese Socialist Party logo.svg Sadao Yamahana 19 January 1993 25 September 1993
13 Tomiichi Murayama 199406.jpg Tomiichi Murayama 25 September 1993 19 January 1996

Election results[edit]

General election results[edit]

Election Leader No. of
seats won
No. of
constituency votes
% of
constituency votes
No. of
PR block votes
% of
PR block votes
Japan Socialist Party era
1946 Tetsu Katayama
96 / 466
10,069,907 18.2 Opposition
1947 Tetsu Katayama
144 / 466
7,203,050 26.3 Coalition
1949 Tetsu Katayama
48 / 466
4,129,794 13.8 Opposition
1952 Jōtarō Kawakami
Mosaburō Suzuki
116 / 466
8,001,745 22.6 Opposition
1953 Jōtarō Kawakami
Mosaburō Suzuki
138 / 466
9,194,548 26.6 Opposition
1955 Jōtarō Kawakami
Mosaburō Suzuki
156 / 466
10,812,906 29.2 Opposition
1958 Mosaburō Suzuki
167 / 467
13,155,715 33.1 Opposition
1960 Jōtarō Kawakami
144 / 467
10,839,130 27.4 Opposition
1963 Jōtarō Kawakami
144 / 467
11,906,766 29.0 Opposition
1967 Kōzō Sasaki
140 / 486
12,826,104 27.9 Opposition
1969 Tomomi Narita
90 / 486
10,074,101 21.4 Opposition
1972 Tomomi Narita
118 / 491
11,478,142 21.9 Opposition
1976 Tomomi Narita
123 / 511
11,713,009 20.7 Opposition
1979 Ichio Asukata
107 / 511
10,643,450 19.7 Opposition
1980 Ichio Asukata
107 / 511
11,400,747 19.3 Opposition
1983 Masashi Ishibashi
112 / 511
11,065,082 19.5 Opposition
1986 Masashi Ishibashi
85 / 512
10,412,584 17.2 Opposition
1990 Takako Doi
136 / 512
16,025,473 24.4 Opposition
1993 Sadao Yamahana
70 / 511
9,687,588 15.4 Eight-party coalition (1993–1994)
LDP–JSP–NPS coalition (1994–1996)

Councillors election results[edit]

Election Leader No. of
seats total
No. of
seats won
No. of
National votes
% of
National vote
No. of
Prefectural votes
% of
Prefectural vote
Japanese Socialist Party era
1947 Tetsu Katayama
47 / 250
3,479,814 16.4% 4,901,341 23.0%
1950 Tetsu Katayama
61 / 250
36 / 125
4,854,629 17.3% 7,316,808 25.2%
1953 Mosaburō Suzuki
66 / 250
28 / 125
5,559,875 20.7% 6,870,640 24.5%
1956 Mosaburō Suzuki
80 / 250
49 / 127
8,549,940 29.9% 11,156,060 37.6%
1959 Mosaburō Suzuki
85 / 250
38 / 127
7,794,754 26.5% 10,265,394 34.1%
1962 Jōtarō Kawakami
66 / 250
37 / 127
8,666,910 24.2% 11,917,675 32.8%
1965 Kōzō Sasaki
73 / 251
36 / 127
8,729,655 23.4% 12,346,650 32.8%
1968 Tomomi Narita
65 / 250
28 / 126
8,542,199 19.8% 12,617,680 29.2%
1971 Tomomi Narita
66 / 249
39 / 125
8,494,264 21.3% 12,597,644 31.2%
1974 Tomomi Narita
62 / 250
28 / 130
7,990,457 15.2% 13,907,865 26.0%
1977 Ichio Asukata
56 / 249
27 / 126
8,805,617 17.3% 13,403,216
1980 Ichio Asukata
47 / 250
22 / 126
7,341,828 13.1% 12,715,880
1983 Ichio Asukata
44 / 252
22 / 126
7,590,331 16.3% 11,217,515
1986 Takako Doi
41 / 252
20 / 126
9,869,088 12,464,579
1989 Takako Doi
68 / 252
45 / 126
19,688,252 35.1% 15,009,451 26.4%
1992 Takako Doi
71 / 252
22 / 126
7,981,726 17.8% 7,147,140 15.8%
1995 Tomiichi Murayama
37 / 252
16 / 126
6,882,919 16.9% 4,926,003 11.9%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 日本社会党. 朝日新聞社Kotobank. Archived from the original on 2019-04-11. Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  2. ^ 社会主義インターナショナル. 朝日新聞社Kotobank. Archived from the original on 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  3. ^ Ken Saito (2019). 圖說日本大事記:1945-2017,改變與形塑現代日本的百大事件. 麥浩斯. p. 50. ISBN 978-986-408-463-0.
  4. ^ Takemae, Eiji (January 2003). Allied Occupation of Japan. ISBN 9780826415219. Archived from the original on 3 May 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  5. ^ Socialist parties in postwar Japan, by Allan B. Cole, George O. Totten [and] Cecil H. Uyehara, New Haven : Yale University Press, 1966.
  6. ^ James C. Docherty; Peter Lamb (2 October 2006). Historical Dictionary of Socialism. Scarecrow Press. pp. 186–. ISBN 978-0-8108-6477-1. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  7. ^ Contemporary Japan by Duncan McCargo
  8. ^ "Towards Political Inclusiveness: The Changing Role of Local Government in Japan" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-12-02. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
  9. ^ Hein, Carola; Pelletier, Philippe (2006-09-27). Cities, Autonomy, and Decentralization in Japan. ISBN 9781134341504. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  10. ^ Stockwin, J. A. A. (2003-12-16). Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan. Taylor & Francis. p. 239. ISBN 9780203402177. Retrieved 12 July 2015. Japan Tokyo governor minobe free health care.
  11. ^ Muramatsu, Michio; Iqbal, Farrukh; Kume, Ikuo (2001). Local Government Development in Post-war Japan. ISBN 9780199248285. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  12. ^ Gaunder, Alisa (2011-02-25). Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics. ISBN 9781136818387. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  13. ^ "FEATURE: Seeds planted by 'progressive' governments still sprouting in Japan". Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  14. ^ "Controlled Decentralization: Local Governments and the Ministry of Home Affairs in Japan" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-07-12. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  15. ^ Tsuzuki, Chushichi (2000-04-13). The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan 1825-1995. ISBN 9780191542459. Archived from the original on 3 May 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  16. ^ 社会民主連合. 朝日新聞社Kotobank. Archived from the original on 2020-02-26. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  17. ^ 江田三郎. 朝日新聞社Kotobank. Archived from the original on 2020-02-26. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  18. ^ Ian Neary (12 October 2012). War, Revolution and Japan. Taylor & Francis. pp. 141–. ISBN 978-1-873410-08-0. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  19. ^ 高山直人 (2019). 左翼大辞典. 明哲の舎. p. 7. GGKEY:9NSLG3F0CUC.