As frequently pointed out by the Economist, Japan’s politics are dang confusing. Even more confusing when you have to keep straight political terms for government bodies, party names, etc., in two languages.
You might begin here: 参議院キッズ (House of Councillors Kids) website .
Admittedly, not an enticing web site name. But a good start if you want to up your J-politics vocabulary and general J-political understanding.
Key terms to get you started:
国会 (kokkai): In English this is known as “The Diet”. It’s Japan’s legislative body. Members are elected directly by citizens.
参議院 (sangiin): The House of Councillors, the ‘upper house’ of the Diet, where councillors serve 6 year terms
衆議院 (shuugiin): The House of Representatives, the ‘lower house’ of the Diet, where representatives serve 4 year terms
Phrases you might learn:
kokkaitte nani suru tokoro?
(This Diet you mentioned, what do they do there?)
note: the ‘this… you mentioned’ implication comes from the ‘tte‘ sound
donna hanashiai suru no?
(What do they discuss/consult about there?)
note: The “no” makes the question sound cute and little kid-ish.
More English background reading at the Economist Japan Political Structure page.
BONUS: If the kanji is overwhelming, might I recommend running Firefox with the Rikai-chan plugin? Gives you a popup dictionary right in your browser window, just mouse-over the kanji and a (usually accurate) reading and definition pop up.
NEXT UP: Something more fun than Japanese politics. Jeez.