Political Corruption and Scandals in Postwar Japan

―A Historical Overview―

April 19, 2018 6:30 PM (finished)

Steven R. Reed

((Very lately of Chuo University))

Date/Time April 19, 2018 6:30 PM
Location Room 549 5th floor, Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo  [map]
Abstract Japan has been plagued with political corruption scandals throughout its history. However, a closer look reveals a great deal of change in the kind of corruption that caused those scandals. I will describe a surprisingly wide variety of corruption scandals and trace the changes in type for the postwar period, from 1947 to date. I also analyze how corruption became public knowledge and trace the changing levels of transparency. I conclude that the political reforms of 1994 significantly enhanced transparency, which resulted in an increase in the number of scandals but a reduction in the levels of corruption. The lesson to be learned from postwar Japanese history is that one should worry about corruption when there are few scandals in the news. A dearth of scandals does not mean low corruption. It means that corruption is being successfully covered up.
Bio Steven R. Reed has recently retired from Chuo University where he taught for 25 years. His best known work is Making Common Sense of Japan (University of Pittsburg Press). He has recently co-edited and contributed to Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan, (Institute of East Asian Studies, The University of California, Berkeley) and the Japan Decides series from Palgrave Press covering the elections of 2012, 2014 and 2017. His most recent book is Political Corruption and Scandals in Japan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press), co-authored with Matthew M. Carlson, upon which this talk will be based.