Facts of Japan. Vol. 2.0

By and large, Japan is mostly free of corruption

I happened to catch an article about some corruption scandals cropping up in India recently, which are causing some big problems for the country. I’ve heard stories along these lines from friends who have lived in India before, for example the speed that the phone company installs your phone line is proportional to the size of the bribe you pay the clerk. That’s one good thing about Japan: compared to most countries, it’s very “clean,” and the idea that you’d get someone to do something by applying palm grease is all but unheard of — heck, you can’t even tip someone who has given you outstanding service, as the custom of tipping never caught on here. So important is personal honesty that a ridiculously small campaign contribution of just $500 has brought down Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who quit his post over the weekend when the news leaked out. (He received the campaign contribution from a “foreigner,” which is not allowed under Japanese campaign law, though the individual who made the donation is azainichi Korean, born and raised in Japan but maintaining South Korean citizenship for cultural reasons.) Of course, I’m not saying Japan is perfect. Influential Japanese politician Ichiro Ozawa is under indictment over a controversial land purchase, and Japan still has a big problem with hakomono, lit. “box-thing,” the name for pork barrel construction projects with little social value. Still. as a rule Japan does pretty well at keeping corruption at bay. When Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya was found to have been receiving financial and other perks from defense contractors, he was promptly arrested, and prosecutors descended on the Ministry of Self Defence to collect evidence. Can you imagine the U.S. Justice Department executing search warrants and scouring the Pentagon for evidence of wrongdoing under any circumstances?