When not trying to get elected, Japan's 700-plus Diet members (475 in the House of Representatives, 242 in the House of Councilors) conduct the weighty business of the nation. With the 193rd session of the national legislature under the current Constitution scheduled to commence on Jan. 20, let's look back on what this august body accomplished in 2016.

Japan's parliament has an impressive history. From its start in 1890 as the Imperial Diet, it has convened regularly as required by law ever since, notwithstanding war, deprivation, foreign occupation and American-imposed constitutional changes. One of these saw the aristocratic House of Peers replaced with the elected House of Councilors.

Of the Diet's two houses, the House of Representatives is dominant. It has the power to choose a prime minister, approve budgets and ratify treaties over the objections of the House of Councilors. A two-thirds majority of the Upper House can also pass legislation alone, though since the Liberal Democratic Party has controlled both chambers for most of the postwar period, recourse to this expedient has rarely been necessary.