Gerald L. Curtis :: It probably will come
as a surprise to many people to learn that Japan has one of the oldest
parliaments in the world. The Japanese parliament goes back to 1889,
when it was first created, and to 1890 when the first elections were
held for the Japanese parliament.
So that one of the interesting and complicating features of modern Japanese
political life is that many of the traditions, many of the ways of doing
things in the Japanese parliament, go back to this old tradition of almost
a hundred years, influenced heavily by Prussia and by other European
In a period that was called the Meiji Period, the Japanese decided that
they needed to adopt at least the forms of modern political life that
were common in Western Europe in order to convince the Europeans that
Japan was a civilized country and deserved to be treated as an equal.
And so in the 1870s, after the so-called "Meiji Restoration" — when
the feudal period that was called Tokugawa was ended in 1868 — for
the next decade or so young Japanese leaders traveled around Europe and
the United States studying the political systems, the constitutions,
the education systems, all aspects of life in modern Europe and the United
In fact, the name for the Japanese parliament in English is the "Diet,"
and the Diet comes from the Prussian term and reflects the history of
Japanese parliamentary development from this period and the influence
particularly of Prussia and other European countries on Japan.