House of Councillors (Japan)

The House of Councillors (参議院, Sangiin) is the upper house of the National Diet of Japan. The House of Representatives is the lower house. The House of Councillors is the successor to the pre-war House of Peers. If the two houses disagree on matters of the budget, treaties, or designation of the prime minister, the House of Representatives can insist on its decision. In other decisions, the House of Representatives can override a vote of the House of Councillors only by a two-thirds majority of members present.

House of Councillors


Akiko Santō, LDP (caucus: independent)
since 1 August 2019
Toshio Ogawa, CDP (caucus: independent)
since 1 August 2019
Political groups
Government (142)
  •   LDP & affiliated Independents (114)
  •   Kōmeitō (28)

Opposition (103)

Parallel voting:
Single non-transferable vote (147 seats)
Party-list proportional representation (98 seats)
Staggered elections
Last election
21 July 2019
Next election
Meeting place
Chamber of the House of Councillors

The House of Councillors has 245 members who each serve six-year terms, two years longer than those of the House of Representatives. Councillors must be at least 30 years old, compared with 25 years old in the House of Representatives. The House of Councillors cannot be dissolved, as only half of its membership is elected at each election. Of the 121 members subject to election each time, 73 are elected from the 47 prefectural districts by single non-transferable vote (SNTV) and 48 are elected from a nationwide list by proportional representation (PR) with open lists.[1]

Roles and responsibilities

The power of House of Councillors is very similar to the Canadian Senate or the Irish Seanad.[2] Most of the laws should be passed through both of the upper and lower houses. However, the power of the House of Councilors is very limited. For example, the House of Representatives can override the House of Councilors on issues of budget, international treaties and electing a government, and on other matters, the lower house can override the upper house with two thirds majority. However the upper house can indirectly delay or even block any bill from passing into law by just sending it back to the lower house for a new vote again and again until the bill "expires". But in practice, it rarely voted against the decisions reached by the lower house.[3] The House of Councillors also votes for any constitutional ammendment which needs a two-thirds majority of both the houses of the Diet, followed by a simple majority in a national referendum.[2]

Membership and Elections

Article 102 of the Japanese Constitution provided that half of the councillors elected in the first House of Councillors election in 1947 would be up for re-election three years later in order to introduce staggered six-year terms.

The House initially had 250 seats. Two seats were added to the House in 1970 after the agreement on the repatriation of Okinawa, increasing the House to a total of 252.[4] Legislation aimed at addressing malapportionment that favoured less-populated prefectures was introduced in 2000; this resulted in ten seats being removed (five each at the 2001 and 2004 elections), bringing the total number of seats to 242.[4] Further reforms to address malapportionment took effect in 2007 and 2016, but did not change the total number of members in the house.[4]

From 1947 to 1983, the House had 100 seats allocated to a national block (全国区, zenkoku-ku), of which fifty seats were allocated in each election.[4] It was originally intended to give nationally prominent figures a route to the House without going through local electioneering processes.[citation needed] Some national political figures, such as feminists Shidzue Katō and Fusae Ichikawa and former Imperial Army general Kazushige Ugaki, were elected through the block, along with a number of celebrities such as comedian Yukio Aoshima (later Governor of Tokyo), journalist Hideo Den and actress Yūko Mochizuki.[citation needed] Shintaro Ishihara won a record 3 million votes in the national block in the 1968 election.[citation needed] The national block was last seen in the 1980 election and was replaced with a nationwide proportional representation block in the 1983 election.[4] The national proportional representation block was reduced to 96 members in the 2000 reforms.[4]

Current composition

Composition of the House of Councillors of Japan (as of 24 May 2021 in the 204th National Diet)[5]
Caucus (English name)
(domestic name)
Parties Members
Term expires Total
July 25, 2022 July 28, 2025
Liberal Democratic Party / Voice of The People
Jiyūminshutō / Kokumin no Koe
LDP, Independent 203858 173754 112
Constitutional Democratic Party / Social Democratic Party
Rikken-minshutō / Shakai Minshu-tō,
CDP, SDP 81523 81422 45
Kōmeitō 7714 7714 28
Nippon Ishin
Nippon Ishin no Kai
Ishin 336 5510 16
Democratic Party for the People / New Green Breeze Association
Kokumin-minshutō / Shin Ryokufū-kai
DPFP, Independents 459 336 15
Japanese Communist Party
Nihon Kyōsantō
JCP 516 437 13
Okinawa Whirlwind
Okinawa no Kaze
Okinawa Socialist, Independent 011 011 2
Reiwa Shinsengumi
Reiwa Shinsengumi
Reiwa Shinsengumi 000 202 2
Independents 000 022 2
Your Party
Minna no Tō
N-Koku, Independent 101 101 2
Members not affiliated with any parliamentary caucus
Independents, LDP (President), CDP (Vice President) 022 325 7
One Shizuoka seat in the 2016 class (by-election to be held October 24, 2021)
011 000 1
Total 4873121 5074124 245

For a list of individual members, see the List of members of the Diet of Japan.

Latest election

See also


  1. Hayes 2009, p. 50
  2. Fahey, Rob (18 July 2019). "Japan Explained: The House of Councilors - Tokyo Review". Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  3. Reiko, Oyama (30 June 2015). "The Rightful Role of the House of Councillors". Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  4. 参議院議員選挙制度の変遷 [Changes to the electoral system of the House of Councillors] (in Japanese). Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  5. House of Councillors: retrieved 25 May 2021.
  • Hayes, L. D., 2009. Introduction to Japanese Politics. 5th ed. New York: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-2279-2