Nationality Elements of citizenship Aliens and the Constitution

The semantics of Articles 10 and 14

Keywords related to status and equality in Japan's 1947 Constitution

By William Wetherall

First posted 12 May 2007
Last updated 20 July 2011

Keywords tried and true

The keywords of the 1947 Constitution are not particularly difficult to understand. Their meanings are clear from their semantic structures and histories of usage.

However an English term might have inspired a Japanese term when translating the GHQ draft into English, or at some point later in the process of drafting the Japanese version, the sense of the structure and usage of the Japanese term takes priority in any determination of its meaning. The Imperial Diet adopted the Japanese, not the English, version. Calling the English version the "official translation" does not invest it with legal authority.

日本国民 is the first word of the constitution. It replaced both 日本国人民 and 日本国ノ人民 in earlier drafts, and means the 民 (people, affiliates) of 日本国 (the country Japan).

In the context of Japanese law, 国 by itself (kuni) means "the state" and prefixed in Sino-Japanese terms (koku-) means "of the state". Unless otherwise qualified, it means 日本国 (Nihonkoku), the formal name of Japan.

国民 (kokumin) is short for 日本国民 (Nihonkokumin). As a Sino-Japanese term, 国民 means the 民 (people, affiliates) of the 国 (state) in question, namely Japan. However, 諸国民 mean the 民 (people, affiliates) of 諸国 (all countries) rather than 諸 (all) 国民 (nationals).

The following table includes not only words that survived in, and now define, Articles 10 and 14 in Chapter III of the 1947 Constitution, but also words that didn't make it. The latter include a few terms that appeared in the constitutions proposed by the Socialist Party and Communist Party.


Table of words related to nationality and discrimination
Words that survived, and didn't, in the drafting of Articles 10 and 14

Articles 10 and 14

Article 10 in the 1947 Constitution defines 日本国民 in reference to the use of 国民 in the title of Chapter III, 国民の権利及び義務 (Rights and duties of the people). Article 14 is a typical example of how 国民 is used in several articles to declare the topic of the article.

第三章 国民の権利及び義務

第十条 日本国民たる要件は、法律でこれを定める。

第十四条 すべて国民は、法の下に平等であつて、人種、信条、性別、社会的身分又は門地により、政治的、経済的又は社会的関係において、差別されない。 [Rest of article omitted.]

Chapter III Rights and Duties of the People

Article 10. The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by law.

Article 14. All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin. [Rest of article omitted.]

Construction of table

The words in the table figured in the development of Articles 10 and 14. The words are highlighted to show their status in Japanese law.

White background Term in use since Meiji period or as noted.
Pink background Term defunct since World War II or as noted.
Green background Term in use since after World War II.
Yellow background Terms used in various drafts but not adopted.

The words within each category are listed in order of the colors.

Words related to rights and duties



Literally power, authority, rights and interests, benefits, privileges. Term goes back to the writings of the 3rd-century BC Confucian philosopher Xunzi (荀子), in which it means power and influence and interests and benefits. As used in title of Chapter III of 1947 Constitution, 国民の権利及び義務 (Rights and duties of the people), the term was carried over from similar title of Chapter II of Meiji Constitution, 臣民権利義務 (Rights and duties of subjects).



Literally the tasks or affairs one carries out as required by the righteous obligations or propriety of one's position. The term appears in the Confucian Lunyu (論語) with this meaning. As used in title of Chapter III of 1947 Constitution, 国民の権利及び義務 (Rights and duties of the people), it was carried over from similar title of Chapter II of Meiji Constitution, 臣民権利義務 (Rights and duties of subjects).

Words related to national affiliation


loyal people

Literally loyal people or loyal affiliates. This was the general reference in the Meiji Constitution to people who were legally part of Japan's imperial nation as defined by nationality. It appears several times by itself in the promulgation edict and preamble, once in each of three articles (9, 28, and 50), and most importantly in the title of Chapter II, 臣民権利義務 (Rights and duties of subjects).

Nippon shinmin

Japanese subjects

Literally loyal people or subjects of Japan. This was the most common specific reference in the Meiji Constiution to people who were affiliated with Japan by nationality. All thirteen occurrences appear in Chapter II, 臣民権利義務 (Rights and duties of subjects). Each of the first thirteen of the fifteen articles of this chapter begin with the topical subject statement 日本臣民ハ, variously translated Japanese subjects, every Japanese subject, no Japanese subject.

Article 18, the first article in the chapter, states that the qualifications for being a Japanese subject shall be determined by law. This is the model for Article 10 of the 1947 Constitution, which similarly comes at the beginning of Chapter III, 国民の権利及び義務 (Rights and duties of the people), where it serves the same purpose of linking qualifications for national affiliation to a law of nationality.

Hirohito speaks of "people" rather than "subjects"

A lot is made of the fact that Hirohito, in his 1 January 1946 Imperial Rescript, denounced the notion of the emperor being a living god. Just as significantly, he referred to 日本国民 and 国民 rather than 日本臣民 and 臣民, thus breaking with conventions of the Meiji Constitution and anticipating those of the new constitution.

See Imperial Rescript denying divinity.

Nihon kokumin

the Japanese people,
a Japanese national

This is the first word to appear in the 1947 Constitution. It is also the most specific reference to people who are regarded as part of Japan's sovereign nation as defined by possession of nationality.

The term appears eight times in the 1947 Constitution.

Preamble (3) [we] the Japanese people
Article 1 (2) [the unity of, the will of] the people
Article 9 (1) the Japanese people
Article 10 (1) a Japanese national
Article 97 (1) the people of Japan

The term 我等日本国人民 was originally used to translate "We, the Japanese people" in the preamble of the 13 February 1946 GHQ draft. 日本国ノ人民 reflected "the people of Japan" (Articles 9 and 10) and 日本人 "Japanese" (Article 12) in the Japanese translation of the GHQ draft. Throughout the draft, 人民 was the usual translation of "people"in the most general sense.

By the 2 March draft, 国民 had replaced both 日本国ノ人民 and 日本人, and by the 6 March 1946 draft 人民 had disappeared and 我等日本国人民 had become simply 日本国民.


the people
Literally "people of country" or "affiliate(s) of country" -- i.e., "national(s)". This is the most common reference to Japanese in the 1947 constitution. It appears a total of eighteen times as follows.

Preamble (5) the people
Chapter 3 (1) the people
Articles, 11-13 (6) the people, who, their

Articles 13-14, 25-27 (6) all (of the) people

すべて国民 represents a colloquialization of 凡テ国民 in earlier drafts. The expression 全国民 (zen kokumin, "all the people") is found only once, in Article 43 concerning representation in both houses of parliament.

The 1947 Constitution uses 国 (kuni, -koku) in a number of phrases and terms. The English, which sometimes preceded the Japanese, is a bit inconsistent, even allowing for variations in the semantic ranges of related technical terms in both languages.

The following list gives just a glimpse of the extent to which the metaphors of the English and Japanese versions are different. At a certain point in the development of the constitution, the English version, which began as a model for the first Japanese version, failed to keep up with the changing details in the Japanese text. From the beginning, the English version mixed a lot of metaphors. In the end, the Japanese version is metaphorically more consistent and precise.

諸国民 all nations (Preamble)
諸国民 the peoples of the world (Preamble)
全世界の国民 all peoples of the world (Preamble)
いづれの国家 no nation (Preamble)
各国 all nations (Preamble)
自国 [no nation] itself (Preamble)
自国 [all nations] their own (Preamble)
他国 [part of untranslated phrase] (Preamble)
他国 other nations (Preamble)
わが国全土 throughout this land (preamble)

国際社会 international society (Preamble)
国際平和 international peace (Article 9)
国際紛争 international disputes (Article 9)
国際法規 treaties (Article 98)

国 state (Preamble, many articles)
国家 [our] national [honor] (Preamble)
国事 matters of state (several articles)
国政 government (Preamble, Articles 4 & 62)
国政 governmental affairs (Article 13)
国権 sovereign right of the nation (Article 9)
国権 state power (Article 41)


the people

The two graphs of this compound resonate with and complement one another semantically. 人 (jin, nin, hito) generally represents a "person" as a member of the human species, whereas 民 (min, tami) is more likely associated with a collectivity of "people" affiliated with a population, which could be a of a state or province, or of a tribe, nation, or race.

As suffixes, though, the two graphs are used very differently in Japanese.

民 (-min) as suffix

民 (-min) is used as suffix in Japanese legal terminology for indicating civil affiliation with a Japanese polity, beginning with Japan itself (国民 kokumin), but also its prefectures (都民 tomin、道民 domin、府民 fumin、県民 kenmin) and municipalities (区民 kumin、市民 shimin、町民 chomin、村民 sonmin).

It is also the most productive suffix for expressing affiliation with a community or cohort of people who share some circumstantial trait or condition -- 流民 (ryumin, drifters), 遊牧民 (yubokumin, nomads), 農民 (nomin, farmers), 難民 (nanmin, refugees), 移民 (imin, migrants), 居民 (kyomin, residents of a building), 住民 (jumin, residents of a community), 島民 (tomin, islanders) -- ad infinitum.

人 (-jin) as suffix

Whereas 人 (-jin) is more more likely to suggest a subspecies of humans. Hence while 日本国民 is legally defined in terms of civil or raceless nationality, 日本人 (Nihonjin, Japanese) is socially apt to exclude Ainu, Okinawans, and others of non-Yamato origin. And whereas 沖縄県民 (Okinawa-kenmin) are affiliates of Okinawa prefecture by virtue of their legal status, 沖縄人 (Uchinanchu in Okinawan, Okinawajin in Yamato) are "Okinawans" as a ethnoracial entity. If you want express pride in being connected with Hiroshima as a city, you call yourself 広島人 (Hiroshimajin). If you want to talk about survivors of the city's atomic bombing or you call them ヒロシマ人 (Hiroshimajin) -- another story.

人民 as term in East Asia

As stated under 日本国民 above, 人民 (jinmin) was used to express "people" in the Japanese translation of the 13 February 1946 GHQ draft. It was quickly replaced by 国民 (kokumin), because 国民 made more sense as a democratization of 臣民 (shinmin).

The term 人民 has been used in East Asia to mean "the people" of a country, or "the peoples" of two or more countries, since at least the 19th century. The term is used in the constitutions of both the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Both prewar and postwar ROC constitutions have a chapter called 人民之權利義務 (Rights and duties of the people). The people of ROC are also called 国民 or "nationals" -- a term reflected in the name of the Nationalist Party (国民党).

人民 has been the principle term for "people" as nationals of PRC in all of its constitutions. 国民 has come to have very limited use in PRC's constitutions.



Literally people or affiliates of the public. This term was used in an article in the rights and duties chapter of the 24 February 1946 Socialist Party proposal, apparently as a synonym of 国民 (kokumin).

Hirohito, in his 1 January 1946 Imperial Rescript, in which he denounced the notion of an emperor being a living god, used the expression 公民生活 (kōmin seikatsu) meaning "citizens' lives" or "lives of citizens / citizenry".

See Imperial Rescript denying divinity.



As pointed out above under 日本国民, the term 日本人 appeared once in the Japanese translation of the 13 February 1946 GHQ draft constitution and did not appear in later versions. While it has been the most common term for Japanese, it lacked the weight of formality required in legal usage -- somewhat in the same way that "American" lacks legal credibility as a reference to nationals of the United States (though stylebook rules on the use of "American" are more complicated).

日本人 (Nihonjin, Nipponjin) was widely used in early Meiji edicts to refer to Japanese, as it was in the 1873 Great Council of State Proclamation No. 103 permitting marriages with aliens and allowing alien spouses to become Japanese. The 1890 Meiji Constitution referred to Japanese simply 臣民 (shinmin) and 日本臣民 (Nippon shinmin).

The 1899 Nationality law uses only 日本人. The 1947 Constitution uses only 日本国民 (Nihon kokumin) and 国民 (kokumin), and the 1950 Nationality Law uses only 日本国民.

While 日本人 does have some currency in Japanese law today, practically all legal matters people affiliated with the nation of Japan are referred to as 日本国民 or 国民.


Literally a person of another [outside] country, including someone who is stateless. This is the most common legal term for a non-national of a country, meaning someone who does not possess the country's nationality -- in this case, someone who does not possess Japanese nationality and hence is not Japanese.

This term was used to translate "aliens" in Article 16 of the GHQ draft, which would have guaranteed aliens equal protection of the law. A shortened form for the GHQ articles survived in the 2 March Cabinet draft but was dropped from the 5 March draft when the forerunner of Article 14 was reworded to include "national origin" in it list of traits that were not to causes of legal discrimination.

Consquently the term 外国人 does not appear in the 1947 Constitution. Nor are there any other references in the constitution to "non-nationals" as such.

Elsewhere in Japanese law, the term is used to include all non-Japanese, including "stateless persons" (無国籍者 mukokusekisha), who are are nationals of no country and hence, strictly speaking, neither 日本人 nor 外国人.

Words related to people generally


every person

"nanbito" -- an assimilated form of "nanihito" -- is legalese for "everyone" and "no one". All nineteen appearances in the 1947 Constitution, whether in positive or negative statements, are followed by も (mo).

Articles 16-18, 22, 31-35, 38-40, 48 (18)

Article 20 (1)

All appearances but one are in Chapter III (Articles 10-40).

The Japanese translation of the GHQ draft had 何人モ (nanbito mo). March drafts had 何人ト雖モ (nanihito to iedomo), a stiffer form that was colloquialized in the 17 April draft as 何人も (nanbito mo) -- which came full circle back to the translation of the GHQ draft.


natural persons
Memoranda left by participants in the give and take over the language of the early drafts shows that there was considerable controversy of the term "natural person".

Apparently GHQ intended the term to mean all persons, regardless of their nationality (i.e., legal status), as this is the direction the wording took when 自然人 became just 人 (hito). In the end, the topical subject of what became Article 14 was nationalized as 国民 (kokumin).

"Natural person" makes no obvious sense in English.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary gives the following definition under "person" (Second Edition, 1987).

11. Law. a human being (natural person) or a group of human beings, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other legal entity (artificial person or juristic person) recognized by law as having rights and duties.

Kōjien gives the following definitions of 自然人 (5th edition, 1998, translations mine).

1. 生れたままの人。本性を失わない人。社会や文化の影響を受けていない人。

1. A person as born. A person who has not lost instincts. A person who has not received the influence of society or culture.


2. [law] Term used when specifying a person as an organism differentiated from a juristic person. In law, when saying simply person, ordinarily, both natural person and juristic person are included.


natural persons

As stated above, 人 (hito) briefly replaced 自然人 (shizenzin) as the topical subject of what became Article 14 -- here, too, as a term that GHQ insisted should mean "natural persons". This was later nationalized as 国民 (kokumin) -- which is very much a 法人 (hojin, juristic person).

The 1947 Consitution makes a few references to "human" and "humankind" as a species apart from law.

Preamble, Article 97 人類 mankind, man (2)
Preamble 人間 human [relationships] (1)

It also makes some references to "human rights" and to people as "individuals".

Article 11, 97 人権 [fundamental] human rights (3)
Article 13, 24 個人 individual(s) (2)

Words related to discrimination



The Japanese version of the 13 February GHQ draft had 差別的待遇 (sabetsu-teki taigu) or "discriminatory treatment" for "discrimination" in the GHQ draft. This became just 差別 in the 28 February draft.



The constitution states that the people shall not be discriminated in political, economic, and social "relations" because of the listed traits. This statement is made in addition to the statement that all the people are equal under the law. Presumably "relations" includes not only public relations sanctioned by law, but private relations beyond the sanction of law.



Though in the GHQ draft and its Japanese translation, race was dropped from the 28 February Cabinet draft but immediately restored in the 1 March draft, after which it remained unchanged.

GHG's insistance on the inclusion of "race" must have puzzled Japanese lawmakers, for Japan's laws had been raceless. That is to say, they had never differentiated race, or otherwise made race a cause for discriminatory treatment.



Creed, also missing from the 28 February draft, also reappeared in the 1 March draft and remained unchanged.

The intent here was to reinforce the guarantee of freedom of religion" (信教の自由 shinkyō no jiyū) in what became Article 20.



The 28 February draft, following the GHQ draft, included 性別 (sex) after 門閥 (lineage) and (birth).性別.

The guarantee of sexual equality in Article 14 reinforced the provisions of equality in marriage and spousal relations in Article 24. It also provided the authority for revising the Civil Code and other laws to eliminate sexual discrimination.

shakai-teki mibun

social status
社会的身分 was the translation of "social status" in the 13 February GHQ draft. It was dropped from the 28 February Cabinet draft then restored as 社会上ノ身分 (shakai-jo no mibun) in the 1 March draft. It became 社会的地位 in the 6 March draft and again 社会的身分 in the 5 April draft, after which it remained unchanged.


family origin

門地 appeared in the 6 March Cabinet draft, replacing 門閥 in earlier drafts, and remained unchanged. Both terms generally mean one's social position or character based on family background, and reflect "caste" and "clan" in earlier GHQ drafts and what had become, and remained, "family origin" by 6 March.

shakai-teki chii

social position

地位 (chii, "position") briefly replaced 身分 (mibun, "status") in the 6 March draft.

身分 had been, and continues to be, the standard legal term for status. It is most familiar in the expression 身分証明書 (mibun shōmeisho) or "document certifying status" -- in other words, "indentification certificate / card".

身分 includes all manner of attributes engendered by legal status. At issue at the time the constitution was being drafted was social differentiation based on attributes like sex and sibling status (gender and birth order), marital status (never married, married, divorced, widowed), nature of relationship within one's family (natural, adoptive, in-law), and other attributes defined by family law.

In Japanese law, a change of status that affects a family register, including marriage and divorce, but also acquisition or loss of nationality, is called a 身分行為 (mibun kōi) or "status action".

Presumably "social status" is broader than "legal status" and includes attributes that are not sanctioned by law but are ascribed by conventions of social predudice regarding caste or class, even race or ethnicity.

Regarding at legally sanctioned status attributes, the Civil Code was being slated for heavy revision in order to eliminate status discrimination within family law.

tokubetsu mibun

special status

特別身分 was used in the 24 February 1946 Socialist Party proposal. What were the socialists thinking?

Possibly "special" referred to a number of real and imaginary traits that could be ascribed to people for the purpose of differentiating status. Most likely it alluded to 特殊部落民 (tokushu burakumin, "special burakumin") -- as descendants of historical outcastes liberated in 1871 were then still called by reincarnated activists. Today this is considered a discriminatory expression.

On 19 February 1946, Matsumoto Jiichiro (松本治一郎 1887-1966), a seasoned buraku liberationist, helped found the 部落解放全国委員会 (Buraku Kaihō Zenkoku Iinkai) or Buraku Liberation National Committee (BLNC) to rejuvenate the 全国水平社 (Zenkoku Suiheisha) or National Levellers Association (NLA) movement which had lost momentum during the anti-socialist fanaticism of the 1930s and disbanded in 1942.

Matusmoto had been a member of parliment since 1936 and helped form the new Socialist Party in November 1945. In April 1947 he was elected to the new House of Councillors, which was seated when the new constitution came into effect in May 1947.

BLNC became the 部落解放同盟 (Buraku Kaiho Domei) or Buraku Liberation League (BLL) in 1955. Though originally based in Osaka, still the center of many of its operations, BLL has its headquarters in the Matusumoto Jiichiro Building in Tokyo.


family position

門閥 was used in all Japanese drafts from 28 February, replacing 階級 in the Japanese translation of the 13 February GHQ draft, until replaced by 門地 in the 6 March draft.

Theses changes need to be considered with other wording changes.

Translation of 13 February GHQ draft

28 February Cabinet draft

1, 2, and 5 March Cabinet drafts

6 March Cabinet draft

5 April draft, thereafter unchanged

Arguably there is some overlap between all these terms, which have a collective semantic range of birth, lineage, pedigree, descent, family origin, caste, clan, and class, position, status, standing.

The elements of 門地 and 門閥 are semantically clear.

門 gate, door → home, family.

地 land, ground → position, character

閥 left hand entrance of triple gate → rank, standing

地 (chi) is productive as a suffix in many terms in which it means "background" or "ground" on which a pattern appears. Sino-Japanese 門地 would be 家柄 (iegara) in Yamato -- a softer term for "family character" (cf. 人柄 hitogara, 国柄 kunigara).

閥 (batsu) is productive in terms related to religious sects, academic cliques, and political and other factions. Once a term for a large family conglomerate in Japan, the term "zaibatsu" is gobally used to mean a corporate or financial group or combine .



出生 appeared in the 28 Februray Cabinet draft with 門閥. It had appeared in the earlier Constitution Investigation Association proposal with 身分.

26 December 1945 draft
出生又ハ身分 (birth and status)

28 February 1946
門閥、出生、又ハ性別 ("lineage, birth, and sex")

The nuances of 出生 (birth) are arguably too biological, whereas terms like 門閥 (family position) would include non-biological as well as biological aspects of family origin.

kokuseki kigen

national origin

If ever a translation was contrived as a political expediency, it was 国籍起源 as an expression to represent in Japanese what GHQ had called "national origin" in English.

The expression "national origin" can imply many things, such as "country from which one comes (出身国 shusshin koku) and "country in which one was born" (出生国 shusseikoku). It can also mean just "nationality (国籍 kokuseki). And is very popular as an expression for racioethnic ancestry unrelated to one's country of birth, immigrant origin, or nationality.

In any case, 国籍起源 (kokuseki kigen) is not a meaningful translation of "national origin" in Japanese -- and Japanese lawmakers had good reason to get rid of both expressions.

GHQ was particularly enamored with the term "national origin" -- as common as it is in American legalese and vernacular, where it is a cause for both legal and social discrimination. Japan was in a good position to understand how deeply racialist the term was in reference to "Orientals" in the United States ineligble to naturalize, and "Orientals" outside the United States excluded from immigration quotas, both because of their "national origin" -- i.e., their putative "Oriental" race.

Short history of "national origin" in constitution drafts

Here is happily short, almost comical history of "national origin" in drafts of the 1947 Constitution.

Translation of 13 February GHQ draft
Article 13: 一切ノ自然人ハ・・・国籍起源
Article 16: 外国人ハ article]

Nationalization of Article 13
28 Feburary Cabinet draft
Article 13: 国民ハ凡て
Article 16: 外国人ハ (国籍ノ如何ヲ問ハズ)

1, 2 March Cabinet drafts
Article 13: 凡テノ国民ハ
Article 16: 外国人

Denationalization of Article 13
5 March Cabinet draft
Article 13: 凡テノ自然人ハ其ノ日本国民タルト否トヲ問ハズ・・・国籍・・・

Nationality dropped from Article 13
6 March draft

Redenationalization of Article 13
5 April draft

13 April draft

The elimination of "national origin" and "nationality"

The 28 February draft, in the process of nationalizing Article 13, dropped 国籍起源 from the article and added 国籍 to Article 16, which dealt with non-nationals. This reflected the desire of Japanese lawmakers to use "nationality" (a objective and raceless legal term) in lieu of "national origin" (which they viewed as a subjective term with racial nuances).

The 5 March draft subsumed Article 16, which specifically guaranteed equal protection under the law to aliens, into Article 13, by adding 国籍 to its list of traits that were not to engender discrimition in political, economic, and social relations.

Nationality was dropped from the 6 March draft, and by April, during the process of colloquialization, Article 13 was again nationalized.



階級 was used in the 11 November 1946 Communist Party proposal to mean "class", and in the Japanese translation of the 13 February GHQ draft to translate "caste".

11 November Communist Party

Translation of 13 February GHQ draft
caste or national origin

Edited copy of 13 February GHQ draft
caste or national origin
→ clan or nationality

6 March draft

The changes seen on the edited copy of the 13 February draft are most closely reflected in the language of the 6 March draft.

The drafters of the constitution -- including the GHQ contributors -- had little interest in "class" as a social metaphor. Whereas "class" a totally subjective notion, "nationality" was a legal status that no longer made sense in a provision concerning nationals.



民族 never appeared in any government draft between February 1946 and the adoption of the 1947 Constitution in November 1946.

民族 most notably appeared in the following proposals.

11 November Communist Party proposal

26 December 1945 proposal by
Constitution Investigation Association
一 、民族人種ニヨル差別ヲ禁ス
一 、国民ハ民主主義並平和思想ニ基ク人格完成社会道徳確立諸民族トノ協同ニ努ムルノ義務ヲ有ス

The 26 December 1945 proposal, by a private group of scholars, impressed GQH because it called for popular sovereignty while preserving the emperor as a ceremonial head of state. The proposal's provisions concerning "discrimination on account of racioethnicity or race" and the cooperation of nationals "with all racioethnic groups" were much less attractive.