Corruption in Japan - Top 10 Scandals

Have you 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 several areas, from small things 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 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. Although the law is very strict, there are still cases of bribes and various corrupt schemes that are usually administered by the yakuza or companies.


Although it is not corruption, it is worth mentioning that not all Japanese people find money on the street and give it back to the owner, which results in the arrest of some of them. Corruption cases in Japan are often small and unnoticeable due to the country's great security and laws.

However, these cases can be harmful, involving false security in a certain building, defrauding an inspection. Misuse of money, fax 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 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 that was taking place.

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

Some involved are asked why they did not delete a corruption within a given location. It is difficult for the Japanese to speak, 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 a “whistleblower”… This can harm themselves, affect their career 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 give expensive gifts annually to their doctors, teachers, professors, bureaucrats, bosses and others. Some do this as insurance for good treatment, promotion or job recommendation.

American businesspeople who do business in Japan say it takes a little "grease" to maneuver bureaucracy quickly. 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-paid job when he retires from the government.

Corruption appears to be particularly imbued in the political culture of Hokkaido. 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 a sense, 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 misuse of spending, fraud and kickbacks. Let's see some cases that happened below:

  • About 90% of road contracts in 2006 did not involve bidding;
  • An investigation found that 69 million yen of tax funds for public works 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 around 4,000,000$ on horse racing and a 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 provincial government was misused or misused with part of the money earmarked for the purchase of items such as video game consoles and ping pong tables.


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

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

Japan's Ministry of Finance sex scandals

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

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


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

The official said to the police: "I took all the lingerie from the streets by accident". In April 1998, two former Ministry of Finance were indicted for receiving US$ 69,000 in bribes in restaurants and golf matches.

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 prosecution defense against corruption. He spent about 3 million yen (30,000 USD) 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 to cry profusely and to babble phrases, and later starts to squeak, kick and hit the table like a retard.

After insisting, Nonomura resigned for the unjustified use of public funds and offered to return the spent amounts. I wish Brazilian politicians would resign and return the stolen money.


The recruit scandal

Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita was forced to step down in April 1989, after members of his party, LDP, were involved in a favor exchange scandal, sparking Japan's worst political crisis since the end of 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 from Recruit Cosmos Co., a real estate subsidiary of the Recruits group, with the understanding that the shares would be of high value when they were listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

In return, lawmakers granted Recruit favors, which helped it expand its business. About 70 politicians and experts bought shares before the company was listed. The trial for the scandal lasted 13 years and involved 322 hearings.

Takeshita resigned as prime minister after taking full responsibility for the Recruit scandal, but that was not the only crime he was linked to. It was later 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 in gold bars 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 on allegations of corruption. In 1976, he was arrested for taking bribes in the scandal in which aircraft maker Lockheed channeled funds to key government officials.

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

The prosecution 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.

Construction scandals and earthquakes in Japan

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

Condominium residents were forced to move and hotels were forced to close. Much blame was attributed to the architect Hidetsugu Aneha, which forged the data. Aneha said he was pressured by his customers in the construction industry to falsify the data so that they could save money on construction costs.

Investigations revealed that Aneha fabricated data for 99 condominiums and hotels, making them susceptible to collapse in a top-level earthquake 5. Buildings must withstand earthquakes at level 7.

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 that it would weaken the building. Aneha said that if she didn't comply, she would lose business.

Later, Aneha said that the falsified data was originally known as cost-saving and later continued to falsify 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 the Shinzo Abe government

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

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

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

In July 2007, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma was forced to resign because of criticism that the US atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justifiable and inevitable.

During a lecture, he said: "I understand that the attacks ended the war, I think it was something that could not be changed, as it was intended to prevent 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 estate 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 to which he was affiliated.

Two ministers of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who followed Matsuoka - Norihiko Akagi and Takehikiko Endo - were forced to resign because of 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 provincial government was misused or misused with part of the money earmarked for the purchase of items such as video game consoles and ping pong tables.

Of course, these 7 cases are just the tip of the iceberg in Japan. corruption article in Japan you will see that it is common to exchange gifts, favors, bribes, mainly involving buildings and public reforms.

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

World Corruption Ranking

For the sake of comparison, let's leave below a ranking of the most corrupt and least corrupt countries in the world. This list is updated every year, so disregard and use it only as a basis to get a sense of the honesty of countries.

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

The 20 most corrupt countries:

Responsive Table: Roll the table sideways with your finger >>
RankMore corruptPoints
2Southern Sudan11
3North Korea12
14Congo Republic20
17Central African Republic20
20Democratic Republic of Congo21

The 20 least corrupt countries

Responsive Table: Roll the table sideways with your finger >>
RankLess corruptPoints
2New Zealand90
16Hong Kong77