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Government Basics: The Key Numbers Related to National Diet of Japan

By Staff Writer
January 06, 2023
For those who are not familiar with Japan's system of government, it shares much in common with other parliamentary systems, but has its own unique elements. This brief explainer with provide some of the essential information regarding the Japanese Diet.

The Diet consists of two houses: the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.
Exterior of Japan's Diet Building
The National Diet Building in Tokyo
The House of Representatives and the House of Councillors are similar in that they are both composed of members elected by the people, but there are differences that allow the bicameral system to fully function.

These differences include the number of members, term of office, voting rights, suffrage, electoral districts, and whether or not the House of Representatives is dissolved.
Interior of the Japanese National Diet Building, where the parliament meets
Inside the National Diet Building 
The House of Representatives has 465 members who serve four-year terms. The House of Representatives may be dissolved, in which case members of the House of Representatives lose their positions even in the middle of their terms. The right to vote in House of Representatives elections is reserved for Japanese citizens who are at least 18 years old, and the right to be elected is reserved for citizens who are at least 25 years old. The House of Councillors has both a single-seat constituency system and a proportional representation system.

The House of Councillors has 248 members, serving six-year terms, with half of the members elected every three years. Like the House of Representatives, the right to vote in these elections is open to all Japanese citizens who are 18 years of age or older, but the right to be elected is open to all citizens who are 30 years of age or older. Elections are held under both the electoral district system and the proportional representation system.

In addition, there are four types of sessions in the Japanese Diet: "regular sessions," "extraordinary sessions," "special sessions," and emergency sessions of the House of Councillors.

The "ordinary session" is convened once a year in January and lasts for 150 days. Once the 150 days are finished the session may be extended once.

An extraordinary session is convened when the Cabinet deems it necessary, when one-fourth or more of the total members of the House of Representatives or the House of Councillors request it, or within 30 days from the beginning of the term of office in the event of a general election of the House of Representatives or a regular election of the House of Councillors due to the expiration of the term of office. 

Special sessions are convened within 30 days from the date of the general election of the House of Representatives due to dissolution.

The terms of the extraordinary session and special session are determined by a resolution of the Diet, and may be extended up to two times.

An emergency session of the House of Councillors is called by the Cabinet when an urgent national issue arises during the dissolution of the House of Representatives. The emergency session of the House of Councillors ends when all urgent matters have been resolved. Emergency sessions have only been called on two occasions, in 1952 and 1953.
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