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--> Civil Society <--
My 2006 book from Stanford University Press, Japan's Dual Civil Society: Members without Advocates, addresses civil society and this is one of the areas of my greatest research interest.

cover for Japan’s Dual Civil Society

-->  Political Parties and Legislative Organization in Japan <--
Another major research area for me is the organization of political parties and legislative organization in Japan, especially the Liberal Democratic Party.

--> Comparative Political Parties and Legislative Organization <--
I am also interested in comparative analysis of legislative organization and political parties.

--> Comparative Civil Society Research <--
This includes the JIGS 2 comparative research project.

--> Neighborhood Associations <--
I am currently working on a book with Yutaka Tsujinaka and Hidehiro Yamamoto that utilizes data from the first ever nationwide survey of NHAs in Japan













































J A P A N E S E    C I V I L    S O C I E T Y

Some of my research is aimed at trying to understand the empirical configuration and extent of Japan’s civil society, as well as analyzing the causes and consequences of that configuration. My 2006 book from Stanford University Press investigates these kinds of things. This book is in the "Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific" series. Information on this book series is available on the Stanford University Press website (click here) and the East West Center website (click here). 

The book won two prizes. In 2008, the 24th Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize was awarded to the book (info on the prize and Ohira Foundation). [Click here for a short Mainichi Shimbun article on the award.] In 2007, the book was awarded Honorable Mention for the Japan Non-Profit Organization Research Association's Yujiro Hayashi Award for the best book on Japan’s nonprofit sector in 2005-2006. Click on the links to see a few reviews from The Japan Times (which featured the book in a section on the "Best Asia Books" of 2006), Oxford's Social Science Japan Journal , The Journal of Japanese Studies, and Pacific Affairs.

A Japanese version of the book, translated by Hironori Sasada, appeared from Bokutakusha Press in 2008. R・ペッカネン,佐々田博教訳『日本の市民社会の二重構造:政策提言なきメンバー達』The Bokutakusha website is here.


cover for Japan’s Dual Civil Society

2006. Japan's Dual Civil Society: Members without Advocates. Stanford University Press.

Abstract from the Stanford web site:

This book provides an overview of the state of Japan's civil society and a new theory, based on political institutions, to explain why Japan differs so much from other industrialized democracies. It offers a new interpretation of why Japan's civil society has developed as it has, with many small, local groups but few large, professionally managed national organizations. The book further asks what the consequences of that pattern of development are for Japan's policy and politics. The author persuasively demonstrates that political institutions—the regulatory framework, financial flows, and the political opportunity structure—are responsible for this pattern, with the result that civil groups have little chance of influencing national policy debates. The phenomenon of “members without advocates” thus has enormous implications for democratic participation in Japan.

The US Embassy in Tokyo invited me in fall 2008 to give a series of lectures at US Consulates around Japan. In this series was a talk and roundtable I gave at the Tokyo American Center. A Japanese transcription of the event is here. (I also gave talks on US Japan relations, including one sponsored by the Liberal Democratic Party of Shizuoka Prefecture. Coverage in the Shizuoka Shinbum here.)

I've also written or co-written several journal articles and chapters in edited volumes as part of my research on civil society:

Yuko Kawato, Yutaka Tsujinaka, and I have a piece on civil society and Japan's triple disasters, currently under review.

2010. Yuko Kawato, Robert Pekkanen and Hidehiro Yamamoto. "State and Civil Society in Japan." The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics, Alisa Gaunder, ed. Routledge: New York, 2011. Pp. 117-129.

2008. Yuko Kawato and Robert Pekkanen. "Civil Society and Democracy: Reforming Nonprofit Organization Law." In Sherry L. Martin and Gill Steel, eds, Democratic Reform in Japan: Assessing the Impact. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2008, pp.193-212.

2004. “Japan: Social Capital without Advocacy.” In Civil Society and Political Change in Asia: Expanding and Contracting Democratic Space, Muthiah Alagappa, ed. Stanford University Press.

Click here to see Stanford's site for information on the book.

  2004. “Source of Policy Innovation in Japanese Democracy" Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Special Report 117 “Japanese Political Reform: Progress in Process,” pp.9-15 (January)

  2004.  “After the Developmental State in Japan.” Journal of East Asian Studies Vol. 4 No. 3.

Abstract : "After the Developmental State in Japan" 

This article contends that a quiescent civil society comprised an important element of the Japanese developmental state in the past. Moreover, the very success of the developmental state brought Japan to a new level of affluence. In turn, this led to the increasing prominence of civil society organizations, which is corrosive to the very political insulation requisite for the developmental state. The article makes three specific arguments here with evidence. First, civil society groups are proliferating in Japan.  Second, the type of groups that are appearing most rapidly are different—with the greatest growth in the type of groups that particularly emphasize their independence from the state bureaucracy. Third, civil society groups are beginning to flex their muscles, particularly in forging new relationships with political parties (especially the Democratic Party of Japan) and in certain policy areas (such as welfare). Caveats apply; such growth will take time, and many continuities exist from the heyday of the developmental state. However, the trends identified above will very likely continue in the medium term.

For more information on this issue and the Journal of East Asian Studies, click on this link:

  2003. “Molding Japanese Civil Society.” In The State of Civil Society in Japan. Frank J. Schwartz and, Susan J. Pharr eds. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press

This book on the Japan Non-Profit Organization Research Association Yujiro Hayashi Award for the best book on Japan’s nonprofit sector in 2003.

For a photo and table of contents, click here or for the Cambridge link, click here.

This book has also been widely reviewed. For a  review of this book in the Japan Times newspaper (August 29, 2004), click here. For the Foreign Affairs review of this book, click here. For a review by Professor Brian McVeigh on H-US-Japan, click here. For a review by Keiko Hirata in The Journal of Japanese Studies, click here.

My chapter in this book, as well as my forthcoming book from Stanford University Press, grew out of my dissertation research. My dissertation committee chair was Susan Pharr who was one of the editors of this book. She was an ideal dissertation committee chair, as she is one of the leaders in studying Japan's civil society. Her work on this topic includes the concluding chapter to this edited volume. She is also the Director of the US-Japan Relations Program at Harvard University. See their website for more information.

J A P A N E S E    C I V I L    S O C I E T Y

As part of my investigation into the regulatory framework for civil society organizations in Japan, I've looked in detail at the legal system. Here are some things I've written explicitly on that topic:

2004. “Recent Changes in Japanese Laws for Not-for-Profits” International Journal of Not-for Profit Law (co-authored with Hana Heineken).

2003. “The Legal Framework for Voluntary and Not-for-Profit Activity.” (Co-authored with Karla Simon) In The Voluntary and Non-profit Sector in Japan: An Emerging Response to a Changing Society, Stephen Osborne, ed., London: Routledge

2001. "Civil Society and its Regulators: Non-Profit Organizations in Japan." Washington DC: Japan Information Access Program, Policy Paper.

2001. "A Less-Taxing Woman? New Regulation on Tax Treatment of Nonprofits in Japan." International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law 3 (3).

And, I’ve also researched the politics that determine the regulatory framework, particularly the 1998 NPO Law.

2003. “The Politics of Nonprofit Regulation.” In The Voluntary and Non-profit Sector in Japan: An Emerging Response to a Changing Society, Stephen Osborne, ed., London: Routledge

2000. “Hou, kokka, shimin shakai [Law, the State, and Civil Society].” Leviathan Vol. 27 (Autumn) [in Japanese] 

2000. "Japan's New Politics: The Cae of the NPO Law." Journal of Japanese Studies Vol. 26, No. 1. Winter.

Here's the abstract for the 2000 Journal of Japanese Studies article below.

Abstract: Japan's New Politics: The Case of the NPO Law

The Special Nonprofit Organization Law that Japan passed in 1998 demands attention as a shift in state-civil society relations in a nation long characterized as a “strong state.” Removing many impediments civil-society organizations faced, the law significantly expands the scope of groups that qualify for legal status and curtails stifling bureaucratic supervision. Changed electoral institutions altered incentives for politicians and produced this law. It is also part of broader changes—including an increase in Diet members’ bills, a move toward a Freedom of Information Act, decentralization, and deregulation—in Japanese society and politics, all striking at centralized bureaucratic power.

For more information, see the JJS website:

For a recent newspaper article on the 10th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake, click Christian Science Monitor newspaper article.

J A P A N E S E    C I V I L    S O C I E T Y

I am privileged to be collaborating with Japan’s leading scholar of civil society, Yutaka Tsujinaka of the University of Tsukuba. Prof. Tsujinaka heads a long-term and intensive project comparing civil societies across a variety of states. I strongly recommend his recent book to anyone interested in Japan’s civil society.


Tsujinaka, Yutaka, ed. 2002. Gendai nihon-no shimin shakai, rieki dantai (Modern Japanese Civil Society and Interest Groups), Tokyo: Bokutakusha, ISBN4-8332-2319.

For details on this ambitious project, see the project website: (Japanese) (English)

We have two co-authored works, one in Pacific Affairs and the second in an edited volume by the German Institute for Japanese Studies publication.

2007. "Civil Society and Interest Groups in Contemporary Japan." Yutaka Tsujinaka and Robert Pekkanen. Pacific Affairs 80 (3) Fall: 419- 437.

  2008. "Neighbourhood Associations and the Demographic Challenge." Robert Pekkanen and Yutaka Tsujinaka. In Florian Coulmas, ed. The Demographic Challenge: A Handbook about Japan. Leiden, the Netherlands: BRILL.