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World War II was a disaster for Japan, and the country needed to do a complete turn-about before it could be accepted back into the international community. The Constitution, for example, needed to be completely rewritten to incorporate democratic principles and to reflect popular revulsion at military adventurism. Yet changing the laws was not enough. These new norms needed to be explained to and internalized by the general public. Education was crucial to this effort, and the Ministry of Education issued a plainly written side-reader in 1948 to explain the new Constitution to students. Entitled “Atarashii kenpou no hanashi” or “the story of the new Constitution,” the text highlights some of the major differences with the wartime Constitution and explains why these differences are so important. As such, the original Japanese and this lucid English translation are essential reference documents for anyone seeking to appreciate the thinking behind the Constitution and understand the debate now raging in Japan over possibly amending that Constitution.

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