Please read this interview with Taro Kono, a LDP member of the Lower House of the Diet since 1996.

Asahi News : POINT OF VIEW / Taro Kono / Japan needs true debate in post-bubble era

Quote Originally Posted by Asahi
Since I first set foot on the Diet floor, however, I had never had a chance to speak at a plenary session (excluding heckling and other irregular remarks), until I took the floor on July 26 to ask about Group of Eight (G-8) discussions.

Most of the other Liberal Democratic Party members of the Lower House who were elected for the first time in the 1996 poll have never been allowed to take the floor in a plenary session.

Parliaments in other countries are often described as bastions of free speech. But there is no real debate in the Japanese Diet.

The only time real debate happens is at rather unusual occasions of real political storm that take place once every 10 years or so, like the recent vote on the bills to privatize postal services.
This is bad enough, but the worst is to come :

Quote Originally Posted by Asahi
There is no chance for individual lawmakers to voice their opinions before the votes.

For the majority of bills that are approved unanimously or by a standing vote, each party declares in advance which way it will vote.

The official records of votes show only the parties' advance declarations.

In other words, if your party declares it will vote for a bill, you are officially recorded as having voted for the bill even if you didn't actually stand up during the standing vote.
What is this system ? Can they call that democracy at all ? The current political system of representative democracy in most developed countries in the world is already only a dwarfed version of real democracy (where referendums should be held for all important issues), but this Japanese system is not even representative democracy. It is an oligarchy where a few party leaders decide for the whole party. Add to this that the LDP has ruled the Diet since in creation in 1958, and the Japanese system really appears like little more than a one party autocracy like in China.

Let's carry on :

Quote Originally Posted by Asahi
There is no real debate on the pros and cons of bills even during committee sessions. Most of the time is devoted to opposition parties questioning ministers about the bills.

In short, Japan's democratic process is not functioning.

It is not merely in the parliament that democracy is dysfunctional in this country. That much is clear from the way leaflets are distributed by candidates during Japan's general elections.

In these leaflets, the candidates make all kinds of sweet-sounding but vague campaign promises without mentioning anything about the necessary costs or financing: "I will create lively farming villages, ensure a rich old age for people, realize education that helps children develop their own individuality and build up infrastructures necessary for the local community," and so on.

These catchphrases are all hollow and so eerily similar that it is hard to tell from them which party the candidate belongs to.
They say nothing about how, as mere individual candidates, they will be able to honor all their election pledges if they are elected.

Such shenanigans have long been part of the tradition of Japanese elections.

Moreover, the number of leaflets candidates are allowed to distribute within their districts, under the Public Offices Election Law, is far smaller than the number of households actually in the districts.

Candidates cannot distribute even the limited number of leaflets freely within their districts. They are allowed to give them only to people who come to their campaign offices or speeches.

In other words, candidates can only distribute their election leaflets to the people who are most likely to vote for them.
These are the words of a (visibly disgruntled) member of the Diet. I would also like to add that campaining politicians being forbidden to distribute leaflets or pamphlets to most of the population, or even to advertise through websites during the election period (!), their only recourse to reach people who don't go to their few public speeches, is to pass around neighbourhood in a van and shout their name in loudspeakers. Since they don't have time to express their political ideas, so they just say their name and "vote for me". This is mostly useless as they clearly annoy more people than attract their attention or interest.