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Justice in Japan

Justice in Japan: The Notorious Teijin Scandal

Richard H. Mitchell
Copyright Date: 2002
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    Justice in Japan
    Book Description:

    The Imperial Rayon Company corruption scandal (popularly known as the Teijin incident) was Japan's major interwar political bribery case. Compared to numerous Japanese corruption cases of the past century, the Teijin affair stands out as not only the most sensational of the pre-1945 era, but also the most important--perhaps because more than any other case, it has left an indelible mark on the public mind. Nevertheless, Japanese and foreign scholars have neglected this incident, which brought down an entire cabinet and produced a record-setting trial. The sixteen defendants, all prominent bureaucrats, ministers, and businessmen, were charged with illegally profiting from the sale of Imperial Rayon Company stock held by the Bank of Japan. In December 1937, after a more than two-year trial, all sixteen were found innocent when the judges declared that the case had been fabricated by the prosecution. Their verdict ranks in importance with the famous Otsu case judgment, the benchmark for judicial independence from the executive. Despite its importance, basic facts about the Teijin case remain obscure, as scholars repeat factual misinformation and produce farfetched conspiracy theories. This study, the first comprehensive, scholarly work on the subject in English or Japanese, investigates controversial and important issues regarding the origins, results, and significance of the incident. It illustrates transwar continuities within the judicial system by showing that the institutional flaws in the old criminal justice system, which were magnified by the Teijin investigation and trial, remain embedded despite reform attempts during the Occupation. While illuminating the basic institutional features that generated it, the author uses the incident to spotlight the considerable amount of political criticism and public conflict that existed in Japan in the 1930s.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6320-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Teijin Trial Defendants
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. A Note on the Transliteration of Japanese Words
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    The sensational Teijin scandal of the 1930s was Japan’s most notable interwar political bribery case. Compared to numerous Japanese corruption cases of the past century, the Teijin affair not only stands out as the most sensational of the pre-1945 era, but is also a leading candidate for the most important corruption case, because it left an indelible mark on the public mind. When people think about the financial world of the 1930s, the Banchōkai and the Teijin scandal come immediately to mind.¹ And the Teijin case lives on in the postwar era.² For example, the political critic Yayama Tarō, writing...

  7. Chapter 1 Criminal Justice System
    (pp. 6-20)

    The Tokugawa regime (1603–1867) was a transcendental administrative state in which superiors issued orders or delegated power to inferiors; the outstanding trait of this political system was a lack of legal redress against authority.¹ A long peace and commercial development, however, stimulated the emergence of two essentials of positive law: decrees (authority) and precedents (regularity).² A primary concern of the growing body of positive law was to reenforce the regime’s status regulations by a harsh criminal code. In 1742 the Kujikata osadamegaki assembled important precedents and statutes in a two-volume code; book 1 was mainly administrative orders, and book...

  8. Chapter 2 Background of the Scandal
    (pp. 21-43)

    Since the Teijin scandal and subsequent prosecution arose from a stock sale, a brief look at customary business practices, economic conditions, joint-stock companies, and “artificial silk” is called for. Furthermore, the state of business ethics, as judged by scholars and businessmen, is presented below in order to explain the press and public willingness to believe accusations of illegal acts by the purchasers of Teijin Company stocks.

    Japanese capitalism was plagued with contradictions. Businessmen found it difficult to discuss profit incentives, as they claimed to work for the nation’s advancement. Yet they praised private competition while eagerly taking state aid. After...

  9. Chapter 3 Saitō Cabinet
    (pp. 44-83)

    A proper understanding of the Teijin Company stock sale scandal, which destroyed the Saitō Cabinet, demands a close look at the cabinet’s origins. Only by embedding the Teijin scandal in a “thick” history of politics can an observer gain proper insights into this complicated affair. The politics of the Saitō Cabinet era, like the politics of earlier years, was a battle to control the cabinet. Immediately after the formation of the Saitō Cabinet, the ceaseless power struggle resumed, with political foes maneuvering to topple the cabinet. Among the political weapons employed was the venerable one of corruption accusations. Cabinet Ministers...

  10. Chapter 4 Preparation for the Trial
    (pp. 84-109)

    Neither Kuroda’s death nor a cabinet change stopped Tokyo procurators’ preparations for preliminary court hearings. Former minister Nakajima was interrogated by procurators after the Saitō Cabinet fell and was indicted; former minister Mitsuchi was questioned in August but not indicted until September. As suspects were arrested, between April 28 and September 13, 1934, procurators indicted them for various crimes. In brief, procurators decided that Teijin stock shares were sold at below fair market price, so the sellers were charged with misfeasance. Finance Ministry personnel and Nakajima, who were connected with the sale, were charged with bribery; Mitsuchi was accused of...

  11. Chapter 5 Trial
    (pp. 110-163)

    The trial began on June 22, 1935, and ended on October 5, 1937. Judges issued a verdict on December 16. Thus, the Teijin scandal resulted in the longest district criminal court trial in pre-1945 Japan; it continued for a record-setting 265 sessions, excluding the day the verdict was issued. There were criminal cases that lasted longer, but they involved appeals to higher courts. Fujii Goichirō, who presided over the sensational Blood Pact Group trial (the defendants were convicted of killing Dan Takuma and Inoue Junnosuke in 1932), was the chief judge. His assistants were Ishida Kazuto and Okazaki Tōichi. Kishi...

  12. Chapter 6 Aftermath
    (pp. 164-186)

    Even as the public chuckled over the monkey-moon analogy, Imamura Rikisaburō’s courtroom defense summary was being set in metal type.Teijin Incident Summation(Teijin jiken benron) was privately issued on January 1, 1938. This book, which presented the public with details about the sensational Teijin trial, must have annoyed already angry procurators.

    In several places Imamura cited examples of illegal actions by procurators in this and other cases (e.g., leaking information from Tokyo procurators to the press, pressuring a suspect in a high-profile political case to change dates in his statement in order to implicate another person, telling suspects that...

  13. Chapter 7 Postwar
    (pp. 187-205)

    Criticism of the criminal justice system was reinforced after August 1945 by the views of foreign reformers. During the American-dominated occupation, the problems of abuses by police and procurators as well as flaws in the court system were revisited. Thus, criminal justice system reforms put in place during the early postwar era are a synergetic product produced by domestic and foreign reformers. No doubt many foreign reformers were unaware of the Teijin scandal, investigation, and trial, but many of them were aware of police misconduct and the lack of safeguards to protect human rights.¹

    The basic American reform program that...

  14. Chapter 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 206-212)

    Tokyo District Court procurators had the authority to suspend prosecution or to indict Teijin stock sale suspects. Without indictments, this business scandal would probably have faded from public view with the conclusion of theJiji shinpōseries. But Procurators Kuroda Etsurō and Biwada Gensuke zealously pursued this investigation, indicting important politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen. What motivated Kuroda and Biwada? Already noted is their disgust with corrupt members of the elite who sought personal gain at the expense of community and national interests. Moreover, Kuroda and Biwada worked at the epicenter of the state’s anticorruption campaign; the Tokyo bureau during the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 213-242)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-256)
  17. Index
    (pp. 257-264)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)