American presidents generally try to appoint Supreme Court justices whose constitutional views are consistent with their own political philosophy. By contrast, Japan's Supreme Court is apparently the perfect place to send jurists whose opinions on the nation's most important law are politically inconvenient.

This was nicely illustrated by Prime Minister Shinzo's Abe's recent appointment to the top court of Tsuneyuki Yamamoto, the former director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. One of the government's most powerful agencies, the CLB oversees the drafting of most legislation passed by the Diet and provides legal advice to the government, including constitutional interpretations. In performing its advisory role, the CLB has long held that Article 9 of the Constitution does not allow the nation to participate in collective self-defense activities abroad in concert with other nations.

Yamamoto confirmed this view at a press conference after his appointment, stating: "This has been debated constantly for half a century. Changing the current interpretation is difficult. To realize the type of right to collective self-defense that can be exercised on the other side of the world, it would be more appropriate to amend the Constitution" (my translation).