Books on Constitution selling well amid amendment debate

by Chihiro Maeyama

Kyodo

With debates firing up across Japan on whether the pacifist postwar Constitution should be revised, books on the issue are selling strongly, prompting publishers to take advantage.

Law students preparing for the bar exam have traditionally been the principal buyers of books on the Constitution. Demand has grown, however, since debate on constitutional revision started gathering steam this spring.

Sales of Constitution-related publications at Sanseido Bookstore Ltd.’s flagship outlet in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward rose 30 percent in May from a year ago.

Encouraged, Akane Murakami, in charge of legal books at the store, started a special fair for such books at the end of May, putting dozens on display.

The offerings included a new book by young constitutional scholar Sota Kimura, comic books, and books for middle and high school students.

“We have never experienced this kind of trend in the past,” Murakami said. “I feel an increase in popular interest in the Constitution.”

In June, Shogakukan Inc. released a revised version of “The Constitution of Japan,” a long-seller that has sold 920,000 copies since it hit debuted in its ¥700 hardcover version in 1982.

The new edition has a thin paper cover and is available mainly at convenience stores for ¥525.

Among other features, the new version includes readings of all the kanji in the preamble and the 103 articles as well as the meanings of key words, such as “the right of belligerency” and “sovereign right.”

The book was the brainchild of Shuji Shimamoto, 67, conceived when he was in his 30s on extended sick leave as an editor at publisher Shogakukan.

Shimamoto said the book came from his realization that the Constitution was a highly valuable tool that could be used to make decisions.

Since there were no easy-to-read books about the Constitution at that time, Shimamoto decided to publish a book for households. He included 29 photos under such themes as “Earth,” “Nature” and “Life” so readers could readily understand each article of the Constitution. The size of the characters and the space between them were also designed for easy reading.

“To read the Constitution means that you imagine how this country should be in the future, whether you wish to preserve or change the Constitution,” Shimamoto said.

  • nobuo takamura

    I bought a book with the same title as this book close to 30 years ago. The comparison is quite clear, the earlier one is solid in a sense and the recent one is fluent to me. Quite a lot of revisions in designs and expressions are made to appeal to readers. The only core aspiration for peace dominates all the space and time.