Corruption in Japan – Top 10 Scandals

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Ever wondered what corruption is like in Japan? The country is famous for its honesty, but there is no perfect country and Japan has its cases of corruption, not only in the government but in many areas, from small to big things.

Politicians crying, suicides, money being used to buy video games, these are the reactions of some Japanese people who have been caught up in corruption scandals. These are some of the Japanese corruption scandals that we will see in this article.

Is corruption in Japan rare?

In Japan, corruption is rare because there are effective mechanisms to investigate and punish corruption. Despite the law being very strict, there are still cases of bribery and various corrupt schemes that are usually administered by the yakuza or companies.

Despite not being corruption, it is worth mentioning that not all Japanese people find money on the street and return it to the owner, which results in the arrest of some of them. Corruption cases in Japan are usually small and imperceptible due to the country's great security and laws.

But these cases can be harmful, involving false security in a certain building defrauding an inspection. Embezzlement of money, faxing companies, misuse of public goods, etc.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals

How do the Japanese view corruption?

Although the Japanese population is considered honest, there are some notable contrasts. Even with corruption cases being exposed, many Japanese turn a blind eye to these cases and end up re-electing a politician involved in scandals.

After cracking down on fraud and kickbacks, people seem to have been more outraged that their beloved politicians and bureaucrats were arrested than the corruption taking place.

The Japanese press and media can be quite aggressive in their reporting on scandals and corruption. Television coverage of such activities is generally comprehensive and complete. It even led to the suicide of some involved.

Some involved are asked why they did not delete corruption within a certain location. It is difficult for the Japanese to speak up as this can lead to the loss of all the rest of the organization involved.

Japan is very strict when it comes to scandals. As a consequence, the Japanese people may be reluctant to become “whistleblowers”… This may harm themselves, affect their careers for the rest of their lives, even if they are not involved in the scandal.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals

Types of corruption in Japan

Something very common is amakudari (天下り) a practice where Japanese bureaucrats retire to occupy high-level positions in some public and private companies. This is common in the financial, construction, transportation and pharmaceutical industries.

One of the risks of corruption in Japan is in the manipulation of bids known as Kansei Dango. Some project proposals are manipulated, it does not always involve money but these manipulations end up harming other proposals and foreign companies.

Many people annually give expensive gifts to their doctors, teachers, professors, bureaucrats, bosses and other people. Some do this as insurance for good treatment, promotion or employment recommendation.

American entrepreneurs doing business in Japan say a little “grease” is needed to quickly maneuver through bureaucracy. Nothing like a buck to speed things up.

A common practice is for bureaucrats to award a contract to a construction company and for that company to reward the bureaucrat with a well-paying job when he retires from the government.

Corruption seems to be particularly ingrained in Hokkaido's political culture. Much of the corruption revolves around construction companies trying to secure money for public works projects.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals

Corruption Scandals in Japan

To get an idea, Japan has 20 points in corruption. The least corrupt country is Denmark with 1 point, while Brazil has 79 points. Japan is not free from cases of misused spending, fraud and kickbacks. Let's see some cases that happened below:

  • About 90% of the road contracts in 2006 did not involve bidding;
  • An investigation found that 69 million yen of public works tax funds were spent on parties;
  • In 2006 there was a big scandal about the falsification of data related to the earthquake resistance of some buildings;
  • In 2001 a foreign affairs official spent about 4,000,000$ on horse racing and golf club;
  • In 2006, three governors were arrested and forced to resign due to bid-rigging scandals;
  • Other famous scandals were those of Ōura, Siemens and Teijin, these were considered the biggest scandals involving corruption in the history of Japan. I recommend doing an individual research on them;
  • For more reports of corruption in Japan, we recommend accessing this link. 

An investigation found that 46% of the budget of US $ 30 million in office supplies for the Chiba prefectural government was misused or misused with part of the money intended to purchase items such as video game consoles and ping pong tables.

One of the most common forms of corruption in Japan is kickbacks for construction projects. This form of bribery is one of the reasons Japan has so many bridges and railway lines, but less than half the population has sewerage.

At least, most of the time whoever gets caught ends up losing their jobs, but the law is flawed and some end up getting away with it.

Ministry of Finance sex scandals in Japan

Panties were seized in a raid and Two Ministry of Finance officials were arrested for demanding that bankers take them to “no-pan shabu shabu restaurants“, where waitresses in short skirts without panties serve customers.

Waitresses bowed to customers when they were given 10,000 yen tips. Bankers spent another 10 million yen on these and other entertainments, and only received warnings of investigations into bad loan scandals.

Other Ministry of Finance officials were reprimanded for taking “naps” with call girls in rooms rented by the MOF. One of them was found with 400 pieces of women's underwear in his home.

The official told police: "I took all the lingerie off the streets by pure chance." In April 1998, two ex-Ministry of Finance were indicted for receiving US$ 69,000 in bribes during restaurant nights and golf rounds.

Another 112 Ministry of Finance officials were reprimanded for improperly accepting meals and entertainment. In 2000, there were drastic reductions in bureaucrats' wines and meals.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals

The corrupt Japanese who cried

Nonomura became famous after crying in a corruption prosecution defense. He spent around 3 million yen (USD 30,000) of public money on train trips made during the past fiscal year.

When the politician is willing to explain the reason for travel and public spending, he simply starts crying profusely and stammering sentences, and later begins to squeak, kick and beat the table like a retard.

After insistence, Nonomura presented his resignation for the unjustified use of public funds and offered to return the amounts spent. I wish Brazil's politicians would resign and return the stolen money.

The recruit scandal

Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita was forced out of office in April 1989 after members of his party, the LDP, were embroiled in a back-and-forth scandal, sparking Japan's worst political crisis since the end of the Second World War.

PDL leader Shin Kanemaru was among those forced to resign. One of Takeshita's top aides committed suicide. Many thought he chose suicide to avoid revealing any wrongdoing about his boss.

In the Recruits scandal, LDP lawmakers accepted pre-float shares of Recruit Cosmos Co., a real estate subsidiary of the Recruits group, with the understanding that the shares would have high value when they were listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

In return, lawmakers bestowed favors on Recruit, which helped her expand her business. About 70 politicians and pundits bought shares before the company was listed. The scandal trial lasted 13 years and involved 322 hearings.

Takeshita resigned as prime minister after taking full responsibility for the Recruits scandal, but that wasn't the only crime he was tied to. Later, it was discovered that Takeshita's aides had asked the Japanese mafia for help in winning an election.

In 1993, his closest aid was indicted for tax evasion after millions of dollars worth of gold bullion and bearer bonds were found in his locker. Several companies were involved in the scandals.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals
I just can't forget the crybaby

The Lockheed Scandal

Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was forced to resign in 1974 over corruption allegations. In 1976, he was arrested for taking bribes in the scandal in which aircraft manufacturer Lockheed funneled funds to top government officials.

In exchange, L-1011 Tri-Star jets were sold to All Nippon Airways. The Lockheed scandal erupted in February 1976, when a Lockheed executive, A. Carl Kotchian, testified in the US Congress that Lockheed gave money to foreign officials to sell Lockheed aircraft.

The indictment took 16 Japanese politicians, including Tanaka. Kodama Yoshio, one of the founders of the LDP, was accused of accepting large payments from Lockheed. Tanaka was convicted in a lower court and died in 1993 while appealing to the Japanese Supreme Court.

Building Scandals and Earthquakes in Japan

There was a big scandal about the falsification of data related to earthquake resistance. Some buildings were condemned because earthquake resistance requirements were not met, but rather covered up in the years 2005 and 2006.

Residents of condominiums were forced to move and hotels were forced to close. Much blame was attributed to the architect Hidetsugu Aneha, which falsified the data. Aneha said he was pressured by his clients in the construction industry to falsify the data so they could save money on construction costs.

Investigations revealed that Aneha fabricated data from 99 condominiums and hotels, making them susceptible to collapse in a higher level 5 earthquake. The buildings must withstand level 7 earthquakes.

Aneha said he did this because he was asked by the manager of a construction company to reduce the amount of steel reinforcement with the understanding that the manager knew it would weaken the building. Aneha said that if he did not comply, he would lose business.

Later, Aneha said that falsified data was originally known as cost-saver and then continued falsifying the data to maintain its reputation. He was sentenced to five years in prison. The scandal raised questions about the credibility of the construction industry as a whole and hurt real state business.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals

Scandals involving Shinzo Abe's government

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration has been rocked by a series of inappropriate comments, mistakes and corruption scandals. Weeks after taking office, Abe was smitten by controversial comments from his ministers.

One health minister ended up calling women "baby-making machines" and defense ministers criticizing the invasion of Iraq by the United States' close allies.

Abe was also hurt by the revelation that a tax commissioner he appointed was using public housing to meet his girlfriends, despite having criticized the use of public housing by ordinary government workers.

In July 2007, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma was forced to resign over criticisms he leveled that the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both justifiable and unavoidable.

During a lecture he said: “I understand that the bombings ended the war, I think it was something that could not be changed as it was aimed at preventing the Soviet Union from entering the war”. The gaffe reinforced feelings that the Abe government was inept.

In May 2007, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Toshikatsi Matsuoka, committed suicide by hanging himself in a housing project used by lawmakers in Tokyo. He had been criticized by the opposition for dubious uses of his office expenses and questionable spending by an association he was affiliated with.

Two ministers of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who followed Matsuoka – Norihiko Akagi and Takehikiko Endo – were forced to resign because of the corruption scandals. Endo was forced to step down after just eight days in office.

Corruption in Japan - the 10 biggest scandals

Public money for video games and ping pong

An investigation found that 46% of the $30 million budget for office supplies for the Chiba prefectural government was misused or misused with part of the money intended to purchase items such as video game consoles and ping pong tables.

Of course, these 7 cases are just the tip of the iceberg in Japan. When reading our article about corruption in japan you will see that it is common to exchange gifts, favors, bribes, mainly involving public constructions and renovations.

I hope you enjoyed the article, if you liked it, share it and leave your comments. Do you know any more bizarre cases of scandal and corruption in Japan? If yes, share it with us!

World Corruption Ranking

In order to compare, we will leave below a ranking of the most corrupt and least corrupt countries in the world. This list is updated every year, so disregard and just use it as a basis to get a sense of the honesty of the countries.

The tables below have honesty points. How many points will Japan get?

The 20 most corrupt countries:

Responsive Table: Scroll the table to the side with your finger >>
rankmore corruptSpots
2Southern Sudan11
3North Korea12
14Congo Republic20
17Central African Republic20
20Democratic Republic of Congo21

The 20 least corrupt countries

Responsive Table: Scroll the table to the side with your finger >>
rankless corruptSpots
2New Zealand90
16Hong Kong77
18United States74

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