Katherine Matsuura
Harvard University. Japan Digital Scholarship Librarian

Re-envisioning Constitutional Revision in Japan

The Japan Digital Research Center of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies was established in 2017 for the purpose of developing new modes of support and collaboration amongst librarians, faculty, and students working in an increasingly digitized and networked environment.  Despite its recent beginnings, the JDRC serves as home to a resource representing both the oldest and newest Japan digital project at Harvard: Constitutional Revision in Japan.  It was originally launched in 2005 following the LDP’s publication of a new constitution draft and announcement that they would vigorously pursue revision.  Much of the debate was taking place on the internet and there was an immediate perception of need to capture and preserve these materials for a future generation of scholars and students.  

Web-archiving born-digital materials, however, proved difficult to contain within a narrow focus of Japan’s military defense and Article 9 (the clause renouncing war).  Over time, concern about the emperor’s gender, abdication of the throne, marriage equality, and other debates began to enlarge the scope of the project.  Simultaneously, the fragility of digital materials and ever-evolving technology also played a role in curtailing and restarting the project multiple times over its 18-year history.

The project, however, has adapted to changing trends. A sense of impending historical change no longer drives the project, but rather, there is awareness that constitutional revision is a lens for analyzing a full spectrum of views within society. The original question was whether Japan would change their constitution, and whether the ability to engage in war would be revived.  Over time, however, the ultimate question is “what kind of Japan do Japanese want to see?”

The Constitutional Revision Project has also moved beyond its origins as a web-archive, and it asks resource specialists in our field to think beyond preservation.  The new project site was launched this year and a multitude of new features will be ready for users in summer 2023.