Alternate History

Japanese national referendum, 1946 (Myomi Republic)

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The Japanese national referendum for the change of official name of Japan was held on September 7, 1946 to asks whether the citizens of Japan approved of the constitutional amendment of 1931 Constitution to change the official native name of Japan from "Nippon" to "Myomi".


Since the establishment of the Republic in 1931, “Nihon/Nippon” (日本) as official native name of Japan viewed obsolete and related to the old Imperial government by most of Japanese peoples. The movements to change the name of Japan began to emerges. The most influential among those movements was the “Movement for Name Reformation” (名前変化運動 Namae Henka Undō) abbreviated as Maedo (前動), established in 1932 and led by Kagawa Toyohiko, the social activist, prominent pacifist and influential leader of Christian People’s Party.

Maedo proposed for change the name of Japan from official “Nippon” to unofficial “Myomi”, the name of area where the Imperial Army declared surrender to the Revolutionary Army in 1930. However, “Myomi” (妙味) which means as “charm/magic” in Japanese cannot represent the national identity of Japan by the old conservative leaders.

In September 3, 1937, Central Bureau of Maedo convened the meeting in Gifu. Sazuhiko Yuzawa, the language professor from Keio University suggested Maedo to write “Myomi” with ateji ways.

There are three proposals by Yuzawa for how to write “Myomi” in kanji characters:

  • 明美 (use of On’yomi reading for both ”明”, which means “light”, “bright” or “brilliant” and “美”, which means “beautiful”)
  • 明湄 (use of On'yomi reading for both ”明”, which means “light”, “bright” or “brilliant” and “湄”, which means “shore”)
  • 命三 (use of On’yomi reading for “命”, which means “life” and Kun’yomi reading of “三”, which means “three”)

The Central Bureau of Maedo choose Yuzawa’s second proposal which more phono-semantic suitable. “Myomi” in those character can literally read as “the bright shore (of the Pacific Ocean)”, a reference for Japan as an archipelagic nation.

During the World War II, the government-in-exile of the Republic of Japan, more known as "Vladivostok Government" and the Anti-Fascist Japanese Liberation Forces used "Myomi", instead "Nippon" in its official name. Another resistance movements in Japan soon followed the government's step and use "Myomi" to refer the nation of Japan.

After the World War II, the name change movements strengthened following the reforms implemented by Allied Powers Transitional Administration for Japan. Maedo then submitted the proposal of “Myomi” as the part of constitutional amendment to the Legislative Council of Japan in April 21, 1946. Four parties of National Front (Constitutional, Social Democratic, Buddhist Association and Christian Party) openly supported the proposal, while the leading Front party, Nationalist Party still divided about those issue.

The lengthy debates occurred on the Legislative Council session between April 23 and May 29, 1946. Several conservative hard-liners, such as Maruyama Hiroshi refused the change of name of Japan because they considered the idea would ruined Japanese cultural identity. The President of the Republic of Japan, Nagayama Yoshida attended the Council session to give his response about the “Myomi Question” in April 12, 1946.

In May 30, 1946, the voting finally held in Legislative Council with the result 237 to approve and 67 to reject the name change proposal to be submit into the National Congress as the part of constitutional amendment. In its session on June 4, 1946, the National Congress decided to will approve the change of name of Japan through the popular referendum which will be held in United States military-occupied territories on September 7, 1946.

The intensive campaigns for support the change of name organized by Maedo. Some of Maedo campaigns carried out comprehensively and very organized. Newspaper and radio broadcast became the effective media for Maedo. The photograph of President Yoshida even used in campaigns to demonstrate the change of Japan's name as the part of 1919 Revolution since most of Japanese peoples still honored Yoshida as the representation of national independence.


In the ballots, the voters were asked:

“Do you solemnly approve to change of name of our country from ‘Nippon’ to ‘Myomi’?”

Choice Votes %
Invalid/blank votes352,901
Total 27,592,150 100

Voter turnout was 67,4%

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