Campaign Finance

Japan has Election Law and Political Funds Control Law that regulates the campaign activities and finance for political parties. Many of the regulations placed on campaigning tactics were introduced in 1925, when a revision was made to the Lower House Election Law (which originated in the late 1800s), which strictly controlled campaigning tactics. Many of these stipulations are still in place today. Candidates are bound by rules regarding the number of speeches they can make, the type of canvassing they can do, which written materials can be distributed and displayed, and campaign financing. Beginning in the mid-1990s, campaign funding was partially supported by public funds. The government allocated roughly $300 million in proportion to the number of seats each political party holds in the Diet. Thus, politicians are responsible for much of their own campaign financing.

Given the limitations on campaigning, candidates focus heavily on organizing their support groups and on personal interaction with potential voters. The face-to-face effort that occurs in local elections differs from the kind of glad-handing that characterizes many campaigns outside Japan, however. Candidates typically extend great rhetorical courtesy to the audience without focusing on any specifics of policy. One technique common in local elections involves candidates and their supporters lining up outside railway stations, bowing repeatedly to commuters and offering pledges of service. Campaign cars with loudspeakers are enlisted to drive through residential districts, intoning the name of the candidate without making a concerted sales pitch.

In Japan, foreigners and corporations that are in deficit or receive government subsidies can’t contribute to campaigns or parties. Labor unions and businesses can only give to parties and organizations established by parties, not individual candidates. One interesting feature of Japan’s finance law is that individuals and groups are only allowed to donate to parties during election periods. However, parties can distribute those donations to the individual candidates. Disclosure is required from political organizations, but not from the individual candidates. Even so, there’s no monitoring system in place to review financial records or to police those who violate these finance laws. Since parties can pass corporate contributions along to candidates, wealthy special interest groups are able to influence the outcome of elections.


Background: Politics and Political Campaigns in Japan, PBS, 2008,

Resources :

PDF : Corruption through Political Contributions in Japan- Report on Recent Bribery Scandals, 1996-2000 (2000) – Report on recent bribery scandals, 1996-2000 submitted for a TI workshop on corruption and political party funding in La Pietra, Italy.
PDF : Restrictions on Political Campaigns in Japan (Verena Blechinger: 1990)
Link : The Seven Wonders of Election Campaigning in Japan (Tosa Wave: 2012)
Link : Japan’s Twitter-Free Election Campaign (Time: 2009)
Link : Japan’s Next Election Campaign will be Tweeted, Emailed and Blogged (Global Voices: 2013)

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