Japanese law sets annual donation limits for political campaigns. Such limits depend on who is making the donation and who is receiving it. The law also provides for spending limits, but these limits do not apply to all political activities. When a broadcasting station provides air time to candidates or parties, it must also provide the same opportunity to other candidates or parties upon request.
I. Classification of Political Organizations
Japan’s Political Funds Control Act designates organizations with political purposes as political parties, political fund organizations, and “other political organizations.”
Japan’s National Parliament (Diet) is a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. A political party is defined as an organization that has five or more members in the Diet, or has gained 2% or more of the valid votes in the most recent House of Representatives election or in one of the two most recent House of Councillors elections.
A political fund organization is one that was established for the purpose of funding a political party.
II. Donation Limits
Annual limits on donations by individuals are as follows:
- 1.5 million yen (about US$13,000) per candidate per year
- 10 million yen (about US$90,000) to “other political organizations” and candidates per year
- 20 million yen (about US$180,000) to political parties per year.
Corporations and other organizations, except for those classified as “other political organizations,” can donate only to political parties and political fund organizations and cannot donate to particular candidates or politicians, or to organizations classified as “other political organizations.” Politicians or candidates can receive corporate donations through political parties. The annual limit on donations by corporations and other organizations (except for those classified as “other political organizations”) is 7.5 million yen (about US$66,000) to 10 million yen (about US$90,000), depending on the size of the organization.
Regarding organizations designated as “other political organizations,” the annual limit on donations from one such organization to another such organization is 50,000,000 yen (about US$440,000). There is no limit on donations from such organizations to a political party or political fund organization.
III. Spending Limits
The Public Office Election Act regulates election campaign spending limits, depending on the types of elections.
The spending limit for those House of Councillors candidates chosen by proportional representation is 52 million yen (about US$458,000). There is no spending limit for those House of Representatives candidates chosen by proportional representation because the campaigning is done by political parties, not by individual candidates. House of Councillors proportional representation candidates are chosen nationwide, while House of Representatives proportional representation candidates are chosen in regional districts. Voters can record a candidate’s name or a party’s name on the ballot for House of Councillors proportional representation elections. In contrast, voters can record only a party’s name on the ballot for a House of Representatives proportional representation election.
The spending limits for those House of Councillors candidates chosen in plural-seat districts is calculated as follows:
13 yen* (districts with two elected members) or 20 yen** (districts with four or more elected members)
numbers of voters in
23,700,000 yen (about US$209,000)
number of elected members
* (about US$.11)
The spending limit for those House of Representatives candidates chosen in single-seat districts is calculated as follows:
numbers of voters in
19,100,000 yen (about US$168,000)
number of elected members
For example, in two districts in Saga prefecture, the spending limits were 24,017.300 yen (about US$210,000) and 24,415,900 yen (about US$215,000) for the 2014 House of Representatives election. In twenty-five districts in Tokyo Metropolis, the spending limits were between 23,894,100 yen (about US$210,000) and 26,498,700 yen (about US$233,000) for the same election.
However, these spending limits do not reflect the total amount of money that is actually and legally spent on a candidate. Though there are many regulations on election activities, many general political activities conducted by parties or supporting organizations are not technically counted as campaign spending.
IV. Media Air Time
Political parties fielding election candidates are allowed free campaign broadcasting on major broadcasting stations, including Nihon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Cooperation), during the campaign period. Candidates for the House of Councillors and House of Representatives from small districts are allowed free air time during the campaign period on NHK to explain their backgrounds and views.
The campaign period begins the day the candidate reports his/her candidacy or the party reports its lists of candidates to the appropriate election committee and lasts until the day before the election. Candidacy can be reported after the election is officially announced. Election announcements must be made at least twelve days before House of Representatives elections and at least seventeen days before House of Councillors elections.
When a broadcasting station provides free or paid campaign broadcasting for one candidate, it must offer the same opportunity to rival candidates upon request.
Prepared by Sayuri Umeda
Foreign Law Specialist
 政治団体とは [Regarding Political Organizations], MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS (MIC), http://www.soumu.go.jp/senkyo/seiji_s/naruhodo04_2.html (last visited Mar. 7, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/T48D-4PAG.
 Political Funds Control Act, Act No. 194 of 1948, amended by Act No. 69 of 2014, art. 3, para. 2.
 Id. art. 5, para. 1, item 2.
 Id. art. 22, para 2.
 Id. art. 21-3, para. 3.
 Id. art. 21-3, para. 1, item 1.
 Id. art. 21, paras. 1 & 2.
 MIC, 政治資金規正法のあらまし [SUMMARY OF POLITICAL FUND CONTROL ACT] 13 (2009), http://www.soumu.go.jp/main_content/000174716.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/8UHN-ZWZG.
 Political Funds Control Act art. 21-3, para. 1, items 2–4.
 Id. art. 22, para. 1.
 MIC, supra note 8, at 14.
 Public Office Election Act, Act No. 100 of 1950, amended by Act No. 60 of 2015, art. 194.
 Public Office Election Act Enforcement Order, Order No. 89 of 1950, amended by Order No. 427 of 2015, art. 127.
 Minutes of the Special Committee on the Establishment of Political Ethics and Public Office Election Act Reform, House of Representatives, No. 8 (Apr. 11, 2013) (statement of Shigeru Sato, member of House of Representatives), http://www.shugiin.go.jp/internet/itdb_kaigiroku.nsf/html/kaigiroku/007118320130411008.htm (in Japanese), archived at https://perma.cc/833G-U6TT.
 Public Office Election Act arts. 12 & 13.
 参議院選挙のしくみと投票方法 [Structure of House of Councillors Election and Methods of Balloting], LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY, https://www.jimin.jp/election/results/sen_san22/sansen_shikumi (last visited Mar. 7, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/RAY2-KUUH.
 衆議院選挙のしくみと投票方法 [Structure of House of Councillors Election and Methods of Balloting], LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY, https://www.jimin.jp/election/results/sen_syu45/shikumi (last visited Mar. 7, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/3GC6-VJ6Q.
 衆議院小選挙区選出議員選挙における選挙運動に関する支出金額の制限額をお知らせします [Notice of Maximum Spending Amount for Campaigning in House of Representatives Single-Seat Districts], SAGA PREFECTURE, https://www.pref.saga.lg.jp/web/kensei/sen-senkyo/_85013/_85345.html (last visited Mar. 7, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/6DVV-CRMP.
 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Election Committee Notification No. 157, Dec. 2, 2014, http://www.tokyoto- koho.metro.tokyo.jp/file/koho/id/3257/f/13023/2014_63.pdf (in Japanese), archived at https://perma.cc/HEW5- 6ERB.
 Public Office Election Act art. 150.
 Id. art. 151.
 Id. art. 129.
 Id. art. 86.
 Id. art. 31, para. 4.
 Id. art. 32, para. 3.
 Broadcast Act, Act No. 132 of 1950, amended by Act No. 26 of 2015, art 13.
Last Updated: 05/17/2016