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Political Bribery in Japan

Political Bribery in Japan

Copyright Date: 1996
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    Political Bribery in Japan
    Book Description:

    Scholars often use the term "structural corruption" when discussing modern Japan's political system--a system that forces politicians to exchange favors with businessmen in return for funds to finance their political careers. Scholars argue that the origins of corruption can be found in the "iron triangles" formed by politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen during the postwar era or during the Pacific War years. In this examination of malfeasance in Japanese public office, Richard Mitchell systematically surveys political bribery in Japan's historical and cultural contexts from antiquity to the early 1900s. Mitchell's narrative serially considers scandals involving courtiers in the ancient imperial government, corruption among the shogun's samurai officials, and political bribery among bureaucrats and party politicians in the mid-nineteenth century. Mitchell concludes that bribery was as ubiquitous in premodern Japan as it has been in recent times. Focusing on the period since 1868, Mitchell discusses in fascinating detail changes in political bribery in the wake of suffrage expansion, estimates of the enormous amount of campaign money needed to win a Diet seat in both the prewar and postwar periods, and the low conviction rate of suspected takers of bribes. Here is a highly readable and reliable survey of an important yet largely neglected topic in English-language studies of Japanese political history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6396-8
    Subjects: Political Science, 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-ix)
  4. A Note on the Transliteration of Japanese Words
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    Political bribery, which dates from antiquity to the present, is an integral part of the political process in all states. Despite the fact that bribery is a ubiquitous phenomenon, thriving in every kind of political environment, many postwar observers appear to have thought that political bribery was concentrated in the developing world; the rash of corruption reports from European states must have caught them by surprise. An ongoing investigation of corruption in Italy resulted by March 1994 in the arrest of many politicians and businessmen for political bribery and other illegal activities.¹ France, too, is experiencing a wave of corruption...

  6. 1. Legacies
    (pp. 1-9)

    During the seventh century the Yamato kingdom, which regarded itself as Japan’s central government, tried to build a strong centralized state, using Chinese techniques for expanding political power. The Yamato political leadership was attracted to Chinese ideas and methods for state building because the Chinese system was based on a rational hierarchical authority, which the leadership wanted to use to end endemic strife among rival political forces. One of the strongest proponents of the Chinese-style state was Prince Shōtoku, who introduced a system of court ranks similar to those in Korean kingdoms (603) and who reopened diplomatic exchange with China...

  7. 2. The New State
    (pp. 10-40)

    The Meiji state, which replaced the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868, admonished officials to strive for national glory; like earlier regimes, however, the new government prescribed punishment for those whose devotion to duty permitted the taking of bribes. Nevertheless, in spite of official exhortations and new antibribery laws, the old pattern of corruption continued.

    The Shinritsu Kōryō (Essence of the New Code) of 1871, which was in force until 1882, stipulated punishments for officials who accepted bribes, persons who offered them, and persons who promised them. Depending upon the amount of the bribe and the person involved, punishment ranged from beating...

  8. 3. The Era of Party Government
    (pp. 41-63)

    The transition from cabinets led by elder statesmen or their protégés to cabinets formed by party leaders brought neither political stability nor a lessening of political bribery. Indeed, during the era of party government, politicians engaged in an orgy of mutual vilification, with opposition politicians who schemed to destroy a cabinet trying to discredit cabinet officers and their Diet supporters by charging them with indictable offenses. This excessive spirit of partisan competitiveness reinforced a public perception that the parties were corrupt.¹ One newspaper editorialized, “In Japan the political parties are hostile groups, and they make it their first business to...

  9. 4. Purifying Politics
    (pp. 64-91)

    The decline of party rule after 1932 opened the way for the emergence of “revisionist bureaucrats.” Revisionists advocated either ideological purification, state control of the economy, or both to increase the nation’s military and spiritual strength. Home Ministry revisionist bureaucrats, who wanted to destroy the alliance between Diet members and local elites, targeted electoral corruption, which the public viewed as widespread and which politicians could not defend.¹ On June 23, 1934, the Reformed House of Representatives Members Election Law, which gave prefectural governors more control over the election process, went into effect. The maximum penalty for vote buying was four...

  10. 5. Occupation Era
    (pp. 92-108)

    The primary goals of SCAP (the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, i.e., Gen. Douglas MacArthur; but used here to refer to Allied authorities in general) were the demilitarization and democratization of Japan. Although the first goal was accomplished easily within a few months, the second task was more difficult and took much longer. The Occupation agency within General Mac-Arthur’s headquarters that directed political reforms was Government Section. This key agency was headed by Brigadier General Courtney Whitney (from December 1945), whose deputy was Colonel Charles Kades (from September 1946). Reformers in Government Section planned to democratize political parties and...

  11. 6. “New” Japan
    (pp. 109-132)

    On April 28, 1952, Japan became a sovereign nation dominated by conservative political and business forces. One of the outstanding traits of this synergism of politics and business was the frequent occurrence of political bribery cases. During the 1955–1993 period, for example, major newspapers focused on an average of slightly more than one political scandal per year.¹

    By 1952, important businessmen, who had traditionally supported the party in power, were eager to regulate the flow of political funds; they wished to lower the cost of political contributions and to prevent sensational corruption scandals, which focused public attention on illegal...

  12. 7. Conclusion
    (pp. 133-158)

    From antiquity, the Japanese state promulgated statutes aimed at political bribery. Article 5 of the so-called Seventeen-Article Constitution (604), for example, commanded officials to handle law suits impartially and not to accept bribes. By 645, the central government’s antibribery regulations promised punishment for those who disobeyed. Concern with political bribery reflected, in part, the effect of various Chinese legal compilations, including the T’ang Penal Code, which spelled out in detail sanctions for those who offered and those who received bribes. Penal provisions to deter bribery and to punish offenders were maintained by later regimes; the Ashikaga shogunate, for example, specified...

    (pp. 159-160)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 161-184)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-200)
  16. Index
    (pp. 201-206)