President Natsuo Yamaguchi
Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue
Councillors leader Yuichiro Uozumi
Founded 7 November 1998
Merger of Kōmeitō
New Peace Party
Reform Club
Headquarters 17 Minamimoto-machi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0012, Japan
Ideology Political Buddhism[1]
Social conservatism[3]
Political position Centre-right[4]
Colors none
35 / 475
25 / 242
Prefectural assembly members[5]
209 / 2,725
Municipal assembly members[5]
2,740 / 32,070

Komeito (公明党 Kōmeitō), formerly called New Komeito (abbreviated NKP), is a political party in Japan founded by members of the Nichiren Buddhist-based new religious movement Soka Gakkai.[6]

New Komeito (the party's former name) was formed as a result of a merger between the historic Kōmeitō party and the New Peace Party on November 7, 1998. The three characters 公明党 have the approximate meanings of "public/government" (公 kō), "light/brightness" (明 mei), and "political party" (党 tō). The combination "kōmei" (公明) is usually taken to mean "justice" or "fairness". The word "New" was not part of the Japanese name, but was used in English to distinguish the party from its predecessor. In September 2014 the party changed its English name from New Komeito back to Komeito.[7]

After the 2012 general election, the party held 31 seats in the lower house and 19 seats in the upper house.


Komeito's declared mission is to pioneer "people-centered politics, a politics based on a humanitarianism that treats human life with the utmost respect and care".[8] Domestically, the party proposals include reduction of the central government and bureaucracy, increased transparency in public affairs, and increased local (prefectural) autonomy with the private sector playing an increased role. With regard to foreign policy, the Komeito wishes to eliminate nuclear arms and armed conflict in general. However, in July 2015, Komeito backed prime minister's Shinzo Abe push for expanded military powers[9] although playing a moderating insider role in this development.[10] While most NKP politicians and core supporters are Soka Gakkai members, the Komeito platform scarcely remarks on religious issues.

Relationship with Soka Gakkai

The leadership and financing of the two groups are currently said to be independent, despite a 2008 Soka Gakkai International (SGI) press release stating that "official liaison meetings between New Komeito and the Soka Gakkai are held at least twice a year."[11][12] Also, the vast majority of party members are also members of Soka Gakkai and many Soka Gakkai members support NKP during election campaigns.[13]

Party organ

The party organ of Komeito is the Komei Shinbun. It is published by the Komei Organ Paper Committee,[14][15] and has also published a regional Hokkaido edition in the past.[16]



Komeito's predecessor party, Kōmeitō, was formed in 1962, but it initially formed in 1954 as the Kōmei Political League. It lasted until 1998.

In 1957, a group of Young Men's Division members campaigning for a Soka Gakkai candidate in an Osaka Upper House by-election were arrested for distributing money, cigarettes, and caramels at supporters' residences, in violation of election law, and on July 3 of that year, at the beginning of an event memorialized as the "Osaka Incident," Daisaku Ikeda was arrested in Osaka. He was taken into custody in his capacity as Soka Gakkai's Youth Division Chief of Staff for overseeing activities that constituted violations of election law. He spent two weeks in jail and appeared in court forty-eight times before he was cleared of all charges in January 1962.[17]

In 1968, fourteen of its members were convicted of forging absentee ballots in Shinjuku, and eight were sentenced to prison for electoral fraud. In the 1960s it was widely criticized for violating the separation of church and state, and in February 1970 all three major Japanese newspapers printed editorials demanding that the party reorganize. It eventually broke apart based on promises to segregate from Soka Gakkai.[18][19][20]

In the 1980s Shimbun Akahata discovered that many Soka Gakkai members were rewarding acquaintances with presents in return for Komeito votes, and that Okinawa residents had changed their addresses to elect Komeito politicians.[21]

Kōmeitō joined the Hosokawa and Hata anti-LDP coalition cabinets in 1993 and 1994. After the collapse of the anti-LDP governments and the electoral and campaign finance reforms of 1994, the Kōmeitō split in December 1994: The "New Kōmei Party" (公明新党 Kōmei Shintō) joined the New Frontier Party (NFP) a few days later in an attempt to unify the splintered opposition.[22] The other group, Kōmei (公明), continued to exist as a separate party. After the dissolution of the NFP in December 1997, former Kōmeitō members from the NFP founded two new groups: the "New Peace Party" (新党平和 Shintō Heiwa) and the Reimei Club (黎明クラブ, "Dawn Club") in the House of Councillors, but some ex-Kōmeitō politicians such as Shōzō Azuma followed Ichirō Ozawa into the Liberal Party. The Reimei Club merged into the New Peace Party a few weeks later in January 1998. Finally, in November 1998, Kōmei and New Peace Party merged to re-establish Kōmeitō (referred to in English now as "New Komeito" – the party's name is just Kōmeitō as before the 1994 split).

The Japan Echo alleged in 1999 that Soka Gakkai distributed fliers to local branches describing how to abuse the jūminhyō residence registration system in order to generate a large number of votes for Komeito candidates in specific districts.[23]

Current party

Komeito activists canvassing in front of Himeji Castle.

The current conservative, more moderate, party was formed in 1998, in a merger of Kōmei and the New Peace Party. It supported the ruling LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), and did well in the 2000 and 2001 parliamentary elections. "The LDP-Liberal coalition expanded to include the New Komeito Party in October 1999."[24] New Komeito has been (and continues to be) a coalition partner in the Government of Japan since 1999 (excluding 2009-2011 when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power). As such, New Komeito supported a (temporary) change to Japan's "no-war constitution" in order for Japan to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[25]

In the 2003 and 2004 Diet elections, the NKP did well, thanks to an extremely committed and well organized voter base coming from Soka Gakkai. The party shares its support base with the LDP, made up of white collar bureaucrats and rural populations, but also gains support from religious leaders. However, on 27 July 2005, NKP's Secretary General said that his party would consider forming a coalition government with the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) if, in a snap election, the DPJ gained a majority in the House of Representatives. On 8 August 2005, then-Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi dissolved the Lower House and called for a general election, due to the rejection of efforts to privatize Japan Post. The incumbent LDP-New Komeito coalition won a large majority in the 2005 general election.

Natsuo Yamaguchi became the party's leader on 8 September 2009 after the party suffered a major defeat in the Japanese general election, 2009 and became an opposition party. New Komeito lost ten seats, including that of party leader Akihiro Ota and general secretary Kazuo Kitagawa. On 8 September 2009, Yamaguchi replaced Ota as president of New Komeito.[26] On 16 December 2012, general elections swept the LDP/New Komeito coalition back into Government; former party chief Akihiro Ota (Ohta) is currently Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.[27]

In July 2015, Komeito backed prime minister Shinzo Abe's push to change the constitution to "give Japan’s military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts for the first time since World War II." This legislation, supported by the United States, would allow the "Self-Defense Forces to cooperate more closely with the U.S. by providing logistical support and, in certain circumstances, armed backup in international conflicts" and "complements guidelines in a bilateral agreement governing how Japanese and United States forces work together, which was signed by the two nations" earlier in 2015.[28]

Presidents of NKP

No. Name Term of office Image
Took office Left office
1 Takenori Kanzaki 7 November 1998 30 September 2006
2 Akihiro Ota 30 September 2006 8 September 2009
3 Natsuo Yamaguchi 8 September 2009 Incumbent

See also



  1. Metraux, Daniel A. (1996), "The Soka Gakkai: Buddhism and the Creation of a Harmonious and Peaceful Society", Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, State University of New York Press, p. 386
  2. Filus, Dorothea M. (2010), "Interreligious Education and Dialogue in Japan", International Handbook of Inter-religious Education, Part One, Springer, p. 788
  3. Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012), Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito, Routledge, p. 32
  4. Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012), Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito, Routledge, p. 86
  5. 1 2 Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications: Prefectural and local assembly members and governors/mayors by political party as of December 31, 2011
  6. Matsutani, Minoru, "Soka Gakkai keeps religious, political machine humming", The Japan Times, 2 December 2008, p. 3
  7. New Komeito changes name back to Komeito
  8. (New Komeito, 2002)
  9. NYT, 2015
  10. Mette Fisker-Nielsen, Anne (November 1, 2016). "Has Komeito Abandoned its Principles? Public Perception of the Party's Role in Japan's Security Legislation Debate". The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. 14 (21, #3).
  11. "About Us: On Politics and Religion". Komeito. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  12. Anderson, Joan (17 January 2008), "Soka Gakkai Representatives Outline Priorities to New Komeito", Office of Public Information of Soka Gakkai International
  13. Okuyama, Michiaki (Spring 2010). "Soka Gakkai As A Challenge To Japanese Society And Politics" (PDF). Politics and Religion Journal. 4 (1).
  14. "公明 (Komei)". NDL-OPAC (National Diet Library - Online Public Access Catalog). National Diet Library of Japan. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  15. "公明新聞. Kōmei shinbun.". WorldCat. OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  16. "公明新聞 北海道版 (Komei Shinbun - Hokkaido edition)". NDL Search. National Diet Library [of Japan]. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  17. http://www.has.vcu.edu/wrs/profiles/SokaGakkai.htm
  18. Ikuo Kabashima, Gill Steel Changing Politics in Japan 2012 Page 38 "Other smaller parties include Komeito (the party officially became known as New Komeito in 1998), a party that Soka Gakkai formed in 1964 from its precursor, the Komei Political League."
  19. John McCormick Comparative Politics in Transition 2011- Page 179 "Clean Government Party (CGP) (Komeito) New Komeito is the political wing of Soka Gakkai, Japan's largest lay Buddhist ..."
  20. Jeffrey Haynes Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics Page 17 "Talking to young Japanese people one normally gets very little sense of enthusiasm about Buddhism, and few people seem to take seriously the notion that the New Komeito Party is a Buddhist political party. The Komeito or 'Clean Government Party' ..."
  21. Yōichi, Kira (1986). Sōka Gakkai nanatsu no daizai : jitsuroku (Shohan. ed.). Tōkyō: Shin Nihon Shuppansha. ISBN 4406013881.
  22. Tun-Jen Cheng, Deborah A. Brown Religious Organizations And Democratization: Case Studies 2006 Page 279 "The demise of the Shinshinto into a variety of new splinter parties, including a revived Komeito (now called "New Komeito"), and increasing public dissatisfaction with the LDP-created political chaos. This situation was compounded by the ..."
  23. Endou, Kôichi (August 1999). "The Kômeitô: A Virus Infecting the Body Politic". Japan Echo. Archived from the original on May 26, 2000. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  24. Politics of Japan#Political Developments since 2000
  25. Daniel M. Kliman Japan's Security Strategy in the Post-9/11 World 2006 Page 79 "As the linchpin of the ruling coalition, New Komeito would have borne direct responsibility for the Japanese government's failure to visibly participate in the war on terror. Internalized gaiatsu therefore exercised greater influence over New Komeito lawmakers than their DPJ counterparts..."
  26. The Japan Times Ailing New Komeito taps policy chief as new boss 8 September 2009 Retrieved on 8 August 2012
  27. http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/96_abe/meibo/daijin/ohta_e.html
  28. "Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years", by Jonathan Soble, July 16, 2015, The New York Times

External links

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