A Look at Edo Castle, Japanese Politics and Imperial Power

The north entrance of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace (originally called ‘Edo Castle’) is accessible via a bridge, spanning a large moat.

Tokyo is Japan’s capital city, the world’s largest metropolitan area, and also the center of political and imperial power in Japan. Japan is a constitutional monarchy, which means that they have an emperor and a constitution. This is different from England, where there is a monarchy (The Queen), but no written constitution, or America, where we have a constitution but no King, Queen or Emperor. The Emperor and imperial family of Japan, however, have very little real power. Instead, most important decisions are made by Japan’s prime minister and members of the Diet, which is like the U.S. Congress – elected officials who represent regular citizens.

While the emperor may have lost much of the power that the title once held, he has not lost the traditional home of the imperial family: Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, a piece of history located in the heart of modern Tokyo.

The Imperial Palace  moat, as seen from the bridge at the  north entrance.

In November 1868, the imperial family relocated from Kyoto (which literally means “Old Capital” in Japanese) to what was then called Edo – now modern-day Tokyo. Edo Castle – now known as 皇居 (Koukyo – “imperial residence”) – has largely been destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries, due to fires and earthquakes, but within the outer walls one can still see some of the original castle walls. Walking on walls built hundreds of years ago, by people who shaped Japan’s history, was an experience that I’ll never forget.

Visitors take a close look at the original Edo Castle walls, now located inside of the Imperial Palace, along with a public park.

This process of destruction and re-building is a common theme throughout Japanese history, especially in Tokyo, which has seen wars, bombings, earthquakes and fires. Because Edo (old Tokyo) was built entirely from wood and paper, fires were serious business – In 1657, one fire burned for three days and killed more than 100,000 citizens of Edo.

The area that now survives as the Imperial Palace East Gardens is where Tokugawa Ieyasu originally began construction of Edo Castle, around 1600. Altogether, 3,000 ships were required to haul all of the stone used to build up the castle walls and fill the moat.

A view of modern Tokyo, as seen from the top of Edo Castle’s surviving original inner walls. Earlier, we saw a group of visitors looking up at the side of these walls, from the outside.

The castle was built of wood and stone, facing Edo Bay on one side, so that it would be more difficult to attack. The castle’s design also tells us a lot about how Japanese government worked at this time – inside the castle’s inner walls lived Ieyasu and other top government officials. In the outer walls lived the samurai, who defended and served them, and in the outer reaches of the city (then called the “low city”) lived merchants, craftsman and common people. Do you guys have any ideas about why Portland might have been built and organized the way that it was? Often the way a place is built tells us about why people built it and what they planned to do.

This guard house, located inside of the outer castle walls, is where samurai who served political leaders once lived.

Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had the castle built, is a very important figure in Japanese history. He ruled from only 1600-1616, but in this short time he created what was called a shogunate system of rule, and his Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for more than 200 years. This shogunate was a system of feudal rule, which also existed in a different form in Medieval Europe. In Japan, Daimyo ruled each region, taxing merchants, samurai, and various other classes. The Daimyo then paid taxes to the Shogun, who held all of the actual power, even while the Emperor was “officially” in charge. Because this system has strict divisions between different classes of people, life was hard for the lower class. However, this system brought Japan its longest period of peace in centuries. For more than 200 years Japan had peace under Tokugawa rule, after centuries of bloody civil wars.

The system of rule that Tokugawa created was, in fact, highly influenced by Chinese Confucianism, which also emphasized the dividing of classes based on “natural laws of heaven.” The classes were samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants. The samurai class was on top, and weren’t only the protectors and guards, but also the rulers and emperors.

A statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu, located near the Imperial Palace and close to Tokyo Station.

One way that peace was maintained during this period was through something called “Sankin Kotai” which means “alternate attendance.” Every other year, each Daimyo, had to make a trip to Edo and live there for one year. How did this help to keep peace? Travel was hard and expensive back then, and it kept them too broke to ever have enough money to overthrow the government. During this time, Daimyo were also required to have some of their family members live in Edo, at the Imperial Palace – while these people would have lived a nice palace lifestyle, enjoying arts and leisure, they were essentially hostages, meant to keep the Daimyo doing what the Shogun wanted them to do.

Recently, I attended a traditional Japanese kyogen performance, at the National Noh Theater house. This is the same kind of entertainment that people living in the palace would have appreciated at the time. Kyogen (which literally means “wild words”) is a hilarious kind of drama based on physical comedy, and often features poor servants outsmarting their masters – usually to steal some sake. It was shown between performances of the much more serious noh plays. Take it from me, noh plays are depressing and pretty boring, and kyogen really helps keep you awake between shows!

Tokyo’s national Noh theater. This traditional form of Japanese drama would have been appreciated by aristocrats living at the Imperial Palace. Any of you who have seen Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” would recognize a mask used in noh drama, because that’s exactly what the character “Noh Face” represents.

You won’t be able to understand these “wild words,” but I’ll bet you can get the idea from the performances!

Japanese politics is no longer quite as brutal as it used to be, but the old system has influenced both Japanese political power and Japanese life. Japanese society still has very strict divisions between classes and different professions. While people can associate with anyone that they want, people who are ‘higher’ in Japanese society (politicians, doctors, lawyers, teachers) are spoken to with special honorific language, which is called “keigo.” Keigo is also used with people who are older, or classmates who are ahead of us in our studies. In old Japan, merchants would have used “keigo” when speaking to samurai, who were the upper class, and among the only people to get an education in feudal Japan. You guys have learned about the knights of the round table – how were they similar to the samurai? How were they different? Did they receive an education?

This is the kanji for Bushi, which means “warrior.” Samurai lived what was called Bushido – “the way of the warrior.” Samurai, however, were also expected to be very educated. Most samurai composed poetry, practiced traditional archery, and read classics of Japanese and Chinese literature.

In politics, the Japanese emperor still lacks real power, but is an important symbol for many Japanese. Since the year 660, Japan has had 125 emperors, who are supposedly part of the same continuous family line. Real political power in Japan is found in the prime minister, as well as the members of the diet, who function like America’s congress or Britain’s Parlament.

One of the inner gates at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Japan is a liberal democracy, which means that the support of the people is important for politicians. You might have noticed in the news that Japan currently has political tensions with both China and Korea. Both of these tensions arise from the fact there has been a lot of war between these nations throughout history, and both involve small, worthless islands that each country wants to claim for themselves. Why make such a big deal over islands that aren’t worth anything?

Well, according to Shigemura-sensei, a professor at Waseda University, where I am studying, part of the reason is that the politicians in each of these countries wants to become more popular with their citizens. One way to become popular with citizens is to stir up feelings of national pride, and because China and Korea have been been Japan’s enemy in the past, each side occasionally resorts to bringing up the past in order to bring their own citizens together against a common enemy – even if they aren’t really an enemy at all.

This guard house sits just inside the castle moat, and outside of the castle’s inner walls. As a small island nation, once closed for hundreds of years to all foreign visitors, Japan has always been wary of invaders.

My class with Shigemura-sensei is interesting, mostly because we talk about political issues concerning Japan, China and Korea – in a class with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and American students. It is very interesting to hear the different perspectives that everyone has on these issues. When we discussed the issue of these disputed islands, Japan recently purchased the Senkaku Islands from a private seller, but they once belonged to China, and the Chinese students in my class explained why they felt this Island couldn’t be part of Japan. One of the reasons they were so offended is because China is a communist society, where everything that belongs to China technically belongs to the people. Japanese politicians chose to make this an issue, but they underestimated how strongly that common people in China feel about it. My classmate said he felt that some part of his own home was sold to Japan, and he can’t accept it.

Korean students, meanwhile, felt very strongly that the Takeshima Islands remain part of Korea. Meanwhile, most of the Japanese students said that they aren’t concerned about history or about these islands – they just want to get along, and stop paying for rivalries that happened before they were born. They aren’t that interested in politics or politicians, based on what they said.

This was a good reminder about how important it is to get multiple perspectives on important issues. Have you guys ever heard someone’s opinion that made you think differently about something? Have you ever changed your mind after someone else told you their point of view?

Tokyo’s Imperial Palace – A piece of history, right in the heart of the city.

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About Josh

Part-time journalist & student of communication studies.
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74 Responses to A Look at Edo Castle, Japanese Politics and Imperial Power

  1. Meredith says:

    I am beginning to develop a passion for ballet, and was wondering if there were any SPECTACULAR ballet theaters/schools in Japan, since both are a life-long dream. :D! So… uh.. um… yea…

    • Giovanni says:

      I personally think that the United States’s government is not that different than Tokyo’s government, as a matter of fact, just like the statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu, you can see a statue of Paul Bunyan right in my neighborhood. Also, Just like the Castle in Tokyo, you may be able to see historical landmarks,l such as Fort Bragg and other places. So anyway Josh, while in Tokyo you have done lots of things, what was your favorite part about Tokyo so far?

      • autofact says:

        Thanks for the comment, Giovanni. You must live near the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland! I used to live right in that neighborhood as well. It’s a beautiful part of town. It’s true, no matter what kind of government or history we have, we all have certain important monuments to our history and our culture.
        What does Paul Bunyan make you think of and why do you think that the story of Paul Bunyan is important for some people?

    • autofact says:

      Meredith, I don’t know off the top of my head, but I do know a girl who goes to Tokyo University and is a spectacular dancer. She’s in a dance club at her university, and has done many types of dance since she was a young girl. I’ve asked her to give me any information that I can pass along to you. As soon as I hear something from her, I’ll pass the information your way!

  2. Meredith says:

    I was never very good at ending statments like that^ one.

  3. haru says:

    in the kyogen, the said something about a “night stick”, probably the stick he was holding.

    • autofact says:

      Haru, that’s right – in that particular kyogen, the actor is showing off his moves, and when he shows off one particular move, he is tied to the pole. The move that he is showing off is called “night stick.”
      Great ears!

  4. Huy says:

    What did Tokugawa Ieyasu do in his 16 year rule that created the Tokugawa Shogunate system.

    • autofact says:

      Huy, this is a complicated question with a complicated answer. However, to explain simply what Tokugawa did to create the Tokugawa shogunate, he won an important battle before taking over, and then he made strong alliances with other powerful clans. These clans, or families with samurai serving them, helped to make his position strong so that others couldn’t seize power.
      He also made a lot of laws that kept other clans busy and forced them to spend money, so that they couldn’t plan a revolution. Finally, he made sure to consolidate power before passing rule onto his son.

  5. Andrew says:

    C & C. Both government don’t accept just anyone to work in the government. The government is powerful. One government is in Japan, one is in America. One has a little more influence than the other.

  6. Sophia says:

    I think it’s so cool that all over the world has so many different kinds of government. Do you like this kind of government?

  7. Danny says:

    Basically the difference between our government vs. Japan’s government is that Japan still has an imperial government, while we have a federal government (I think it’s federal), and so the emperor has more power than our president does, and while our capital, Washington D.C, is technically not a city, Tokyo is an official city.

    • autofact says:

      Danny, you make some really good points here, but there is one thing that you may be surprised to learn – even though the Emperor sounds like a more powerful position, the President of the United States actually has much more power than the Emperor of Japan. In fact, the Emperor of Japan actually has no real power. He isn’t allowed to, under the constitution of Japan, which was re-written after WWII, by the United States. So why do they still have an emperor? Like the Queen of England, it’s an important reminder of the national history and tradition.
      It is true, hoever, that in old times the Emperor of Japan had more power than the President of the U.S. has now.
      And you’re right of about Washington D.C. and Tokyo!

  8. Sameer says:

    The governments are very different. In the U.S. we have people elected or appointed, whereas in Japan, nobles get the high places. Did you know that as of the 9th century, all the high places in Japan were taken by nobles? However, they are very similar, because not just anybody gets in to high places in America or Japan. I heard the emperor has very little power in Japan. What powers does he have?

    • autofact says:

      Thanks for the comment, Sameer. The national diet of Japan, who are similar to the U.S. congress, are all elected officials, just like we have in America. They are like our senators and congressmen and women. It is true that the Japanese nobility have to be born into their positions, but you are correct that the emperor has little power. How little? Well, under the constitutional rules, the emperor of Japan can not actually be involved in any of the government’s decisions. So, while he is a powerful man, he has no real power at all. His power is all what we might call “ceremonial” or “symbolic” – can you think of anyone else of whom this is true?

  9. Kees says:

    I think one of the main differences of our government vs. Japan’s government is that we elect our president while Japan is still a monarchy. I think that the better way to run a country is a democracy. Although the Japanese emperor does not have very much power over the country.

    >_<

  10. Kees says:

    I forgot to ask you-Where does the emperor of Japan live?

    • autofact says:

      Kees, that’s a great question. The emperor of Japan and his family actually live in a newer house on the grounds of the Imperial Palace that I visited! Isn’t that amazing? It’s in an area where we could not visit, of course.

  11. Danny says:

    I also have a question for you, Josh: Who is the current emperor of Japan?

  12. sona says:

    something that is different in our government and Japan’s government is that our government is that we don’t have an emperor but Japan does. Something that is the same between our two governments is that both Japan and the U.S have a capital city.

  13. Marcella says:

    In America the government is similar to japan’s. There is a congress, and an emperor, but the emperor doesn’t have much power,and doesn’t get much of a say. Do you like life in Japan?

    • autofact says:

      Marcella, thanks for the great comment. I am enjoying life in Japan very, very much! I have only been living in Tokyo for 5 weeks, but I already feel like this is my home. I can’t imagine what it will be like when I don’t live here any longer!

  14. Duy says:

    A big difference of Japan’s government from our’s is that we have a president and Japan has an emperor because of it’s constitutional monarchy. The president of the United States has many powers and is responsible for many things, while Japan’s emperor has little powers and most decisions are made by the prime minister. Edo castle has been destroyed many times, why does Japan keep rebuilding it? Is it that special?

    • Duy says:

      Also I was just wondering why the re-build it over and over because it seems like such a hassle

      • Duy says:

        *do they

      • autofact says:

        Duy, this is a great question, and one that might be worth talking about in class during some free discussion time. One major theme in Japanese history, but especially in Tokyo, is the process of destruction and re-building. Because Japan was closed off to the west for so long, they didn’t modernize as early as some other nations, and Tokyo was built with wood and paper for much of its history. Because of Japan’s many earthquakes, and the constant risk of fire in a city built of paper and wood, Tokyo has been re-built so many times that some parts of the city don’t even fit together. In fact, part of the reason it is so big is because new areas would be moved into while old areas were re-built.
        So, rebuilding isn’t something strange for the Japanese. But even if it were strange for them, don’t you think they would have rebuilt the castle anyhow? Can you think of why it might be important to them?
        Let me put it to you another way, that might help you understand: Why was it important for America to rebuild at the site of the World Trade Center after terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001? This is a serious topic, but I think it’s worth considering, because it shows how important some places and buildings are as symbols.

  15. Annie says:

    Did you go in palace? What were the people in the video saying? Is the emperor really rich, even though they don’t really have any power?

    • autofact says:

      Annie, thanks for the questions. The emperor of Japan, even without power, is extremely rich, lives in a palace, and receives an allowance paid for by the people of Japan. His birthday is also a national holiday, and whenever they get a new emperor, this day changes depending on his birthday. People in Japan really do love the emperor.
      I did go around the palace grounds, but where the emperor and his family live today is separate from the parts of the palace that visitors can go to.
      I will see if I can find an English version of the play performed in that video, and if I do, I’ll post it.

  16. Anandi says:

    Something similar about the American government and the Japanese government is that they both have something like the Congress. A difference is that Japan has different classes of people. You wrote that samurais are rulers, does that mean that the emperor is a samurai? Could you tell if you saw a samurai that he/she was a samurai? Do they wear different clothes or anything like that? Is there any rules like ‘a samurai can only be male’ or anything like that? Does the emperor really do anything, or is he/she just a symbolic figure? Can the emperor be a boy or girl, and has that changed at all over the years?

    • autofact says:

      Anandi, thanks so much for the great, great questions. I hope that everyone reads this response, because these are some important issues. In feudal times, Japan had four important classes: Samurai, Farmers, Artisans, and Merchants. Samurai were at the top, farmers next, followed by artisans or craftspeople, like makers of clothing or shoes, and finally, merchants, who sold goods. The emperor does come from a samurai bloodline, and to this day many Japanese can trace their family bloodline back to either samurai blood or other typs of classes. The samurai were outlawed after the Meiji Restoration, when Japan’s society changed to the merchants becoming more important and the samurai becoming useless. However, in the old days, the samurai ruled partially through fear and intimidation, and partially through the fact that everyone respected the social order.
      In the old days, you could tell a samurai: They were the only people allowed to carry two swords, one of them long and one of them short. All other people could only carry one short sword. Samurai families had females, of course, and a daughter of a samurai was a member of the samurai class. However, she could not carry two swords (or any swords) and women did have a different place in society.
      The emperor must be a male, but right now there is an interesting debate going on as to whether or not they should allow women in the imperial family keep their titles when they marry. This would be a change, and they are also considering giving them other rights, like making their husbands princes. Currently, if a princess marries a “commoner”, she loses her royal title.

  17. harutheperson says:

    Have you gone to the arcades? you probably haunt, but if you have time and you are interested in it you should. if you go, you should play a game called Onepiece: Onepieberrymatch. it is a game for the maya Onepiece.

  18. harutheperson says:

    I think that the the japanese and american governments are similar because the prime minister and members of the diet are like congress.

  19. zephrym says:

    The Japanese constitutional monarchy is really cool. Doesn’t England do that too? The whole shogun, samurai thing is the part of Japan I’m intrested in thw most. Could you tell me a bit about it? Thanks. I agree with duy (that rymes). Why would the keep spending the time and resources to rebuild the castle.?

    🙂

    • autofact says:

      Zephrym, thanks for the comment. If you read through the comments, you’ll see some other things that I’ve posted about samurai elsewhere. Maybe I’ll post a video talking a little bit about them. One thing you should know is that even though most Japanese think of samurai as heroic figures now, they were basically the upper class people who had total control over the lower class. In reality, many of them were not very heroic, but kind of bullies. However, they were very loyal to their masters and they studied hard when it came to combat and literature.
      Did you know that samurai had to be able to compose poetry and read literature as well as be able to fight? Can you guess why?

  20. Julie says:

    I noticed that the American Government is a federal government and the Japanese is a Constitutional Monarchy. (If you research about hat it’s really interesting!) The emperor doesn’t have less power over the country. Plus we vote for our president but over there it’s completely different. A question for you. Is the emperor someone you could easily meet or are they protected like in the USA.

  21. Bebe says:

    Compare and Contrast: U.S. government is elective and the president has more power and is not just a figurehead, but was elected so he (or she) will most likely bring good changes to our country. In Japan, there is an emperor but he has less power and wasn’t elected.

  22. Cassidy says:

    One way Japan is different from America is that we have an elected president, while they have an emperor. Also our presidents we have had in the past usually aren’t related (although some of them are). One way America and Japan are similar is that the both the congress and the diet have to be elected. I can see why they would keep rebuilding the castle, it is a monument. I think if the white house go destroyed America would rebuild it. Also, can you please tell us what that play was about? thanks.

    • autofact says:

      Cassidy, here is a link to an English version of the play. This isn’t as funny as the version that we put on at Portland State a few years ago, but it’s pretty good!

  23. Edil says:

    The American government is made up of three branches. The Executive Branch (president), the Judiciary Branch (supreme court), and the Legislative Branch (congress). The president cannot put his decisions to action without permission from the congress. In Japan, they don’t vote for their emperors. Unless you are the current emperors son, you wont become an emperor because to be an emperor, you have to be the son of the previous emperor. So, If my dad was an emperor and he quit, my brother would become emperor (if he wanted to). Japan is a monarchy(the US is a federal government). Does the emperor or the prime minister have more power over Japan? Also, is the Japanese government similar to the British government?

  24. Bebe says:

    The emperor is also appointed by the prime minister, who is the real person of power behind the emperor’s figure. Japan is a constitutional monarchy and America is a federal republic. The president also has a bigger cabinet than the prime minister. We do have the same branches, Legislative, Judicial and Executive.

  25. Maeve says:

    I think that the two governments are different, with a few similarities. We have no monarch, whereas Japan has an Emperor, although it is similar, because both the Emperor and the President have limits to their power. Also, I was wondering, how many people are members of the Diet?

  26. Zhangxiang says:

    I want to say that the US and Japan seem to have pretty different governments. While Japan has one in which the power is “mostly” based on individuals, the US has one that the power is spread among three groups. Still, it seems to me that the President and the emperor are similar that they are both important but have limits to their power. The emperor has not much official power to make decisions and the President can’t control the Legislative or Judicial branches. Even a while after first copying the Chinese government system, it seems that the two countries government are still very similar. I also believe, as a Chinese person, that the islands were never sold. As you said, China works together as a team and would only sell the islands as a country. Plus, Japan has no proof such a receipt or even the name of the seller. Deep down, we think that the only reason Japan wants these “worthless” islands is because they can then increase their territorial boundary lines. Do you know about the Japanese insight of bringing the US into a possible war? What is the purpose? Last of all, do you know if Japan has a thing like the Judicial Branch?

  27. kevin vu says:

    Our government in the U.S are quite similar. The emperor in Japan, I’ve heard doesn’t have high authority as it use to have. That’s great because our “president” also can’t control all the power too,like Japan’s emperor. I don’t know if Japan does have election like we do but is a great thing to find out about. Who and what is the emperor’s name right now in Japan?

  28. Greta says:

    I think that these governments are fairly similar but I am not sure. But I think that Japan’s government is more like England’s as it has a system where a prime minister is elected, but also has a figure head. Their government is similar to ours as prime ministers are similar to presidents as as they have power but also have other people to assist them and stop them from bad decisions.

  29. Noah says:

    I think the government of Japan differs from ours, but I think the two governments also have a few similarities, like members of the diet are like our congress, and the emperor has limited power and is not a dictator, like our president. Who was the emperor at the end of the Edo period?

  30. Simon says:

    America does not have buildings as fancy as Japan’s, and America has a president while Japan uses emperors. America also uses several other countrie’s cultural ideas, like Japan.

  31. Justin says:

    Japan is a constitutional monarchy where leaders are passed down from noble heritage, while America has a constitutional republic where we vote for our leader. Japan’s emperor has very little political power and power over the semi-independent cities/towns. Was it fun to walk on the walls of Edo Castle?

  32. Sophia says:

    Also, what do you think is the strangest thing that you’ve seen in Tokyo so far?

  33. Trevionn says:

    The government for the Japanese is more emperor-like. I mean the u.s. has a president that has a lot of power but no emperor. one thing the Japanese and the Americans have in common is the power the officials have thank you for your time, and I’ll reply next week.

  34. Molly says:

    The U.S. elects a leader with a lot of power, and other leaders with not as much power (Senate and House). However, in Japan, the “leader” doesn’t really have power and is not elected. Japan does still have the group of “lesser” leaders that function much like our similar group.
    Which type of government is your favorite.

  35. Hannah W. says:

    It actually reminds me a lot of England. The Queen doesn’t have any substantial power anymore, she is more of a ceremonial figure. The Diet are a group of elected officials much like The Parliament. America has all elected leaders instead of a monarch or a title passed down from generation to generation.

  36. Shock000 (Gabe) says:

    I am sorry, but no clue

  37. Sam says:

    In Korea there is a palace in Seoul called Gyegongbokgung Palace. It was built in 1395 but it burned down I think three times (I can’t remember). It’s latest reconstruction was in 1867. I took a tour there in English and I saw rooms but not any gates. Gyegongbokgung means Greatly Blessed By Heaven in Korean. About the fighting over the islands I think you can have the ocean around the island if you get it, but it still is quite worthless. Korean drama videos are popular and lots of Asians watch it. I have seen ratings 15+ in age so I don’t think it’s very appropriate. Is it the same stuff in Japan?

  38. Rebecca says:

    What makes the islands ‘worthless’? Is it just that they’re small? Or are they completely unlivable? I’d think that even a tiny island can have a few houses on them, and if not, it does seem ‘not worth it’. I guess it might be nice to have your private island (I would buy that) but it’s not like they are going to build factories or cities on them.

    • autofact says:

      Rebecca, thanks for the great comment. The islands really have no value as far as the nations are concerned. If anything, they cost money for the nations who control them, because they have to station guards on them. They don’t serve any strategic military purpose, and no one could live on them because they are too small and the person would need to constantly have deliveries of supplies made.
      The reason that the nations are fighting over the islands is all about history: Some politicians know that some citizens feel a strong sense of national pride, and they hope that by ‘winning’ some small victory for their country, they can make the voters like them. So, politicians on both sides make this a big issue, while most people don’t care a lot about it – except in the case of the Chinese. They feel very strongly about the issue of the Senkaku islands, partly because they are a communist country, so “everyone” owns those islands if China owns them.

  39. Zaide says:

    Japan’s government is pretty different from ours, but not too much. They may have an Emperor but he doesn’t have all that much power. Most of their leading roles go to the Diet, which sounds like it is very similar to our government. But also, there is the fact that our President is elected while their Emperor is not. That makes a big difference because it means that the people choose their President, while they don’t get to make a decision about their Emperor. Wait, is it correct that the Emperor still gets born into his position? I thought so but I’m not sure. Thanks for writing, and keep telling us about all the awesome things that are happening everyday in Japan!

  40. gabriel says:

    so japans government is a kind of mix of england’s and america’s but it doesnt seem that different because it looks like the emporer doesnt have that much power. How much power does the collective diet have as a group?

    • autofact says:

      Gabriel, this is a great question: The national diet of Japan has sole power to create laws, and they also are the ones who appoint the prime minister. So, they have a lot of power!

  41. gabriel says:

    shokoo is not me. it is probably one of the other ones

  42. rowan132 says:

    The castle sounds really cool! It seems that the emperor is more then a figure head. That’s because he can vote for the prime minister just as everyone else:) plus he has a cool house:)

  43. Aaron says:

    I think though there are many differences between our government and Japan’s, one similarity is that the Diet is like Congress, and I always think that people make a bigger deal than it is worth about the presidential election, so that is kind of like how the emperor is just a figurehead. Also, why do people make such a big deal about the islands when they can just split them up?

    • autofact says:

      Aaron, thanks for the comment. The issue of the islands is a complicated one, but basically some of the people in the different countries (Japan, China, South Korea) feel strongly about the issue not so much because of the islands, but because they have had lots of wars and conflicts throughout history.
      During the 1980’s America and The Soviet Union were involved in what is called “The Cold War” which wasn’t actually a war at all. At this time, most Americans were taught to hate Russians and Russians to hate Americans. Our governments and our media taught us to stereotype each other, even though most Americans and Russians would have gotten along just fine. But, the governments disagreed and tried to make people hate one another. At this time, if there was an island that Russia and the U.S. were fighting over, it would have been a similar kind of issue, I think.

  44. kendall says:

    what do you think the goverment in japan would be like if they elected people like us?

  45. grace says:

    In class we are learning about cultural diffusion and how it changed japan. I was wondering if there is still an essence of japans original governmental ideas. Like if there are places where there are still people who’s family had stayed in the area that the different tribes were, kind of like the Indian reserve.

  46. Anna says:

    The Japanese government is a lot different from the American government. I didn’t know they still had an emperor. The castle is really cool! What is your favorite part of the castle?

  47. Dylan says:

    I think that Japanese government is very different from ours. We dont have emperors, and we have a constitution, unlike them. But, we also have similarities like both of our governments are very strict and serious.

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