Japan's open government movement continually expanded throughout the Heisei era. Launched in the 1970s by a handful of activists, it led to action at the national level when the Murayama administration appointed a committee of experts to draft an ‘information disclosure’ law in 1995. This served as the blueprint for a statute passed by the Diet in 1999.
The 1999 law established a simple procedure that enables anyone to demand access to information held by national government agencies. Tens of thousands of requests are filed each year. Although the law designates categories exempt from disclosure, much valuable information is released. News reporters have used the law to produce countless stories based on otherwise non-public information. At times they have exposed cases of shocking government malfeasance.
This chapter tells of the political struggle to adopt the information disclosure law and other open government reforms, illustrated by numerous examples related to consumer product safety, nuclear power regulation, deployment of Japan's military forces, operations of US military bases in Japan, and other topics of great interest to the Japanese people.