, the Shûgiin
or "House of Representatives" is the lower house
of the bicameral Diet
. It convenes in the Diet Building in Nagata-cho
The first House of Representatives convened in 1890. At that time, it was roughly analogous to the House of Commons in the parliament of the United Kingdom: representation was by general election (although there was no universal suffrage back then), and the upper house, the House of Peers, was for the nobility. In 1946, the Diet was altered to more closely resemble the United States Congress, and the House of Representatives took on a role closer to that of its sister organ in Washington, D.C.
The house has 480 representatives. 300 are elected directly by single-seat districts. The remaining 180 are chosen by proportional representation, and this is where it gets tricky. Japan is divided into 11 electoral blocs that overlay its 300 electoral districts, and each of these blocs returns a certain number of members (6-30) based on its size. So, when a Japanese citizen votes, they choose a candidate for their district and a party for their bloc. This "split voting" system was implemented in 1996.
The minimum age to be a representative is 25: terms are for four years.
Procedurally speaking, Japan's House of Representatives is basically an American House of Representatives thrown into a parliamentary setting. It has a similar committee system, and its relationship with the House of Councillors is almost identical to the American House's relationship with the Senate. However, Japan's House of Representatives is still like Commons in that it elects, and can be dissolved by, the prime minister.
The House chamber is 23 meters long, 32 meters wide, and 13 meters high. The Speaker of the House and Secretary General sit behind a rostrum at the front of the room, flanked by the ministers of state. The remaining seats are organized in a semicircle around the rostrum, and individual parties are seated in blocs.
The Liberal Democratic Party is, and has been for some time, the dominant party in the house, currently holding 241 of its 480 seats. The Democratic Party of Japan holds 125, the New Komeito 31, the Liberal Party 22, and the Japan Communist Party 20. 34 of the house's members are women.