Social Democratic Party (Japan)
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Social Democratic Party Japan
Social Democratic Party

Japanese nameShakai Minshu-t?
PresidentSeiji Mataichi
Hajime Yoshikawa
Deputy PresidentMizuho Fukushima
Founded1945 (SPJ)
1996 (1996) (SDPJ)
Headquarters2-4-3-7F Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0014
IdeologySocial democracy
Democratic socialism
Political position
International affiliationSocialist International
Colours     Light blue
House of Councillors[3]
House of Representatives[3]
Prefectural assembly members[4]
Municipal assembly members[4]

The Social Democratic Party (, Shakai Minshu-t?, often abbreviated to Shamin-t?), also known as the Social Democratic Party of Japan (, Nihon Shakai-t?, abbreviated to SDPJ in English) and previously as the Japan Socialist Party (, Nihon Shakait?, abbreviated to JSP in English), is a political party that at various times advocated the establishment of a socialist Japan until 1996.[5] Since its reformation and name change in 1996, it has defined itself as a social-democratic party.[6]

The party was reformed in January 1996 by the majority of legislators of the former Socialist Party of Japan which was Japan's largest opposition party in the 1955 system. However, most of the legislators joined the Democratic Party of Japan after that. Five leftist legislators who did not join the SDP formed the New Socialist Party which lost all its seats in the following elections. The SDP enjoyed a short period of government participation from 1993 to 1994 as part of the Hosokawa cabinet and later formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under 81st Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama of the JSP from 1994 to January 1996. The SDP was part of ruling coalitions between January and November 1996 (first Hashimoto cabinet) and from 2009 to 2010 (Hatoyama cabinet).

After the 2019 House of Councillors election, it has four representatives in the national Diet, two in the lower house and two in the upper house.

A SDPJ campaign van outside a station in December 2012



Former SDPJ Head Office in Nagatacho

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) 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 Sh?wa Denk? 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Logo of the JSP from the 1960s until 1996


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 Shintar? 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,[19] 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 (S?hy?), the public-sector workers' confederation, few efforts were made to attract non-union constituencies. Although some S?hy? 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 (Reng?) 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 (K?meit?, Democratic Socialist Party and Socialist Democratic Federation) and the Democratic Reform Party, the political arm of the Reng? 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 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. However, a movement for transforming the SDP into a new social-democratic and liberal party was unsuccessful. Under Murayama's successor Ry?tar? Hashimoto (LDP), the SDP remained part of the ruling coalition. Long before the disappointing result in the 1996 general election, the party lost the majority of its members of the House of Representatives, mainly to predecessors of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) that was formed in 1996, but also some to the NFP and other opposition parties. After its electoral defeat in the 1996 general election when it lost another 15 of its remaining 30 seats in the lower house, the SDP left the ruling coalition which it had entered as the second largest force in Japanese politics as a minor party.


The SDP won six seats in the 2003 general election, compared with 18 seats in the previous 2000 general election. Its motives against the Self-Defense Forces have reverted into abolishing it in the long term, returning into its opposition against the force it had applied in the 1950s.

Doi had been the leader since 1996, but she resigned in 2003, taking responsibility for the election losses. Mizuho Fukushima was elected as the new party leader in November 2003. In the 2004 House of Councillors elections, the SDP won only two seats, having five seats in the House of Councillors and six seats in the House of Representatives. In 2006, the party unexpectedly gained the governorship of the Shiga Prefecture. In the 2009 general election, the DPJ made large gains and the SDP maintained its base of 7 seats in the, becoming a junior partner in a new government coalition. However, disagreements over the issue of the Futenma base led to the sacking of Fukushima from the cabinet on 28 May and the SDP subsequently voted to leave the ruling coalition.[20]

As of October 2010, the SDP had six members in the House of Representatives[21] and four members in the House of Councillors.[22]

Following the 2012 general election, the party retained only six seats in the whole of the Diet, two in the House of Representatives and four in the House of Councillors. The count lowered to five seats in 2013.

In 2013, the party's headquarters in Nagatacho, where the party's predecessor the JSP had moved in 1964, were demolished. The headquarters moved to a smaller office in Nagatacho.[23]

During the nomination period of the 2016 House of Councillors election, the party signed an agreement with the Democratic, Communist and People's Life parties to field a jointly-endorsed candidate in each of the 32 districts in which only one seat is contested, thereby uniting in an attempt to take control of the House from the LDP/Komeito coalition.[24] The party had two Councillors up for re-election and fielded a total of 11 candidates in the election, 4 in single and multi-member districts and 7 in the 48-seat national proportional representation block.[25]

In the 2017 general election, the party managed to hold to its two seats it had prior to the election. Tadatomo Yoshida declined to run for re-election when his term expired in January 2018. Seiji Mataichi was elected unopposed in the ensuing leadership election and took office on 25 February 2018.[26][27]

Current policies

Party policies include:[6][28]


No. Name Term of office
Took office Left office
Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan
1 Tetsu Katayama 28 September 1946 16 January 1950
Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan (Rightist)
-- J?tar? Kawakami 19 January 1951 12 October 1955
Chair of the Japanese Socialist Party (Leftist)
-- Suzuki Mosabur? 18 January 1951 12 October 1955
Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Japan (Unified)
2 Suzuki Mosabur? 12 October 1955 23 March 1960
3 Inejiro Asanuma 23 March 1960 12 October 1960 (assassinated)
4 J?tar? Kawakami 6 March 1961 6 May 1965
5 Kouzou Sasaki 6 May 1965 19 August 1965
6 Seiichi Katsumata 19 August 1965 4 October 1968
7 Tomomi Narita 30 November 1968 26 September 1977
8 Ichio Asukata 13 December 1977 7 September 1983
9 Masashi Ishibashi 7 September 1983 8 September 1986
10 Takako Doi 9 September 1986 31 July 1991
11 Makoto Tanabe 31 July 1991 19 January 1993
12 Sadao Yamahana 19 January 1993 25 September 1993
13 Tomiichi Murayama 25 September 1993 19 January 1996
Chair of the Social Democratic Party
14 Tomiichi Murayama 19 January 1996 28 September 1996
15 Takako Doi 28 September 1996 15 November 2003
16 Mizuho Fukushima 15 November 2003 25 July 2013
17 Tadatomo Yoshida 14 October 2013 25 February 2018
18 Seiji Mataichi 25 February 2018 present

Election results

General election results

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
10,069,907 18.2 Opposition
1947 Tetsu Katayama
7,203,050 26.3 Coalition
1949 Tetsu Katayama
4,129,794 13.8 Opposition
1952 J?tar? Kawakami
Mosabur? Suzuki
8,001,745 22.6 Opposition
1953 J?tar? Kawakami
Mosabur? Suzuki
9,194,548 26.6 Opposition
1955 J?tar? Kawakami
Mosabur? Suzuki
10,812,906 29.2 Opposition
1958 Mosabur? Suzuki
13,155,715 33.1 Opposition
1960 J?tar? Kawakami
10,839,130 27.4 Opposition
1963 J?tar? Kawakami
11,906,766 29.0 Opposition
1967 K?z? Sasaki
12,826,104 27.9 Opposition
1969 Tomomi Narita
10,074,101 21.4 Opposition
1972 Tomomi Narita
11,478,142 21.9 Opposition
1976 Tomomi Narita
11,713,009 20.7 Opposition
1979 Ichio Asukata
10,643,450 19.7 Opposition
1980 Ichio Asukata
11,400,747 19.3 Opposition
1983 Masashi Ishibashi
11,065,082 19.5 Opposition
1986 Masashi Ishibashi
10,412,584 17.2 Opposition
1990 Takako Doi
16,025,473 24.4 Opposition
1993 Sadao Yamahana
9,687,588 15.4 Eight-party coalition (1993-1994)
LDP-JSP-NPS coalition (1994-1996)
Social Democratic Party era
1996 Takako Doi
1,240,649 2.2 3,547,240 6.4 LDP-SDP-NPS coalition
2000 Takako Doi
2,315,235 3.8 5,603,680 9.4 Opposition
2003 Takako Doi
1,708,672 2.9 3,027,390 5.1 Opposition
2005 Mizuho Fukushima
996,007 1.5 3,719,522 5.5 Opposition
2009 Mizuho Fukushima
1,376,739 2.0 3,006,160 4.3 DPJ-PNP-SDP coalition
2012 Mizuho Fukushima
451,762 0.7 1,420,790 2.3 Opposition
2014 Tadatomo Yoshida
419,347 0.7 1,314,441 2.4 Opposition
2017 Tadatomo Yoshida
634,719 1.2 941,324 1.7 Opposition

Councillors election results

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
3,479,814 16.4% 4,901,341 23.0%
1950 Tetsu Katayama
4,854,629 17.3% 7,316,808 25.2%
1953 Mosabur? Suzuki
5,559,875 20.7% 6,870,640 24.5%
1956 Mosabur? Suzuki
8,549,940 29.9% 11,156,060 37.6%
1959 Mosabur? Suzuki
7,794,754 26.5% 10,265,394 34.1%
1962 J?tar? Kawakami
8,666,910 24.2% 11,917,675 32.8%
1965 K?z? Sasaki
8,729,655 23.4% 12,346,650 32.8%
1968 Tomomi Narita
8,542,199 19.8% 12,617,680 29.2%
1971 Tomomi Narita
8,494,264 21.3% 12,597,644 31.2%
1974 Tomomi Narita
7,990,457 15.2% 13,907,865 26.0%
1977 Ichio Asukata
8,805,617 17.3% 13,403,216
1980 Ichio Asukata
7,341,828 13.1% 12,715,880
1983 Ichio Asukata
7,590,331 16.3% 11,217,515
1986 Takako Doi
9,869,088 12,464,579
1989 Takako Doi
19,688,252 35.1% 15,009,451 26.4%
1992 Takako Doi
7,981,726 17.8% 7,147,140 15.8%
1995 Tomiichi Murayama
6,882,919 16.9% 4,926,003 11.9%
Social Democratic Party era
1998 Takako Doi
4,370,763 7.8% 2,403,649 4.3%
2001 Takako Doi
3,628,635 6.63% 1,874,299 3.45%
2004 Mizuho Fukushima
2,990,665 5.35% 984,338 1.75%
2007 Mizuho Fukushima
2,634,713 4.47% 1,352,018 2.28%
2010 Mizuho Fukushima
2,242,735 3.84% 602,684 1.03%
2013 Mizuho Fukushima
1,255,235 2.36% 271,547 0.51%
2016 Tadatomo Yoshida
1,536,238 2.74% 289,899 0.51%

Current Diet members

House of Representatives

House of Councillors

Up for re-election in 2019

Up for re-election in 2022

See also


  1. ^ The Buraku Issue and Modern Japan: The Career of Matsumoto Jiichiro. Author - Ian Neary. P.67. Published by Routledge in London and New York in 2010.
  2. ^ The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Social Democratic Party of Japan political party, Japan". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved . Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ), formerly Japan Socialist Party, Japanese Nihon (or Nippon) Shakait?, leftist party in Japan that supports an evolving socialized economy and a neutralist foreign policy.
  3. ^ a b OfficialWeb. Social Democratic Party. Archived from the original on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ a b Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (30 March 2018). "Prefectural and municipal assembly members and chief executives by political party as of 31 December, 2017".
  5. ^ . National Diet Library. Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ a b "OfficialWebO". Social Democratic Party. Archived from the original on 31 July 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ Takemae, Eiji (January 2003). Allied Occupation of Japan. ISBN 9780826415219. Archived from the original on 3 May 2018. Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ Socialist parties in postwar Japan, by Allan B. Cole, George O. Totten [and] Cecil H. Uyehara, New Haven : Yale University Press, 1966.
  9. ^ James C. Docherty; Peter Lamb (2 October 2006). Historical Dictionary of Socialism. Scarecrow Press. pp. 186-. ISBN 978-0-8108-6477-1. Retrieved 2013.
  10. ^ Contemporary Japan by Duncan McCargo
  11. ^ "Towards Political Inclusiveness: The Changing Role of Local Government in Japan" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-12-02. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Hein, Carola; Pelletier, Philippe (2006-09-27). Cities, Autonomy, and Decentralization in Japan. ISBN 9781134341504. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  13. ^ Stockwin, J. A. A. (2003-12-16). Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan. Taylor & Francis. p. 239. ISBN 9780203402177. Retrieved 2015. Japan Tokyo governor minobe free health care.
  14. ^ 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 2015.
  15. ^ Gaunder, Alisa (2011-02-25). Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics. ISBN 9781136818387. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  16. ^ "FEATURE: Seeds planted by 'progressive' governments still sprouting in Japan". Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ "Controlled Decentralization: Local Governments and the Ministry of Home Affairs in Japan" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-07-12. Retrieved .
  18. ^ 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 2015.
  19. ^ Ian Neary (12 October 2012). War, Revolution and Japan. Taylor & Francis. pp. 141-. ISBN 978-1-873410-08-0. Retrieved 2013.
  20. ^ BBC News Socialists leave Japan coalition over Okinawa issue Archived 2010-11-03 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "The House of Representatives". National Diet of Japan. Archived from the original on 22 March 2011. Retrieved 2017.
  22. ^ "List of the Members". National Diet of Japan. Archived from the original on 22 March 2011. Retrieved 2017.
  23. ^ Japan Times Japan's Social Democratic Party moving HQ out of historic Tokyo building January 27, 2013 Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Opposition parties, activists ink policy pact for Upper House election". Japan Times. 7 June 2016. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  25. ^ ?310 [Fewer candidates with the demise of the third pole - 10 celebrity candidates] (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun. 23 June 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  26. ^ Takeshita, Yuka (26 January 2018). 2 (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ (in Japanese). Nihon Keizai Shimbun. 25 February 2018. Archived from the original on 27 February 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  28. ^ OfficialWeb(). Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  29. ^ Inada, Miho; Dvorak, Phred. "Same-Sex Marriage in Japan: A Long Way Away?" Archived 2016-06-16 at the Wayback Machine. The Wall Street Journal. September 20, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2014.


External links

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