Lecture given at Philipps-Universität, Marburg, May 1989 (Center for Japanese Studies, Occasional Papers, 1990)
THE SUBJECT of this talk is the Japanese political system, and my intention is to give an analysis of the nature of the system, the way politics works in Japan and in particular the ways in which politics and the political system have been changing over the period since the 1950s.
Let me begin by referring to the so-called Recruit Cosmos scandal, which has been widely reported in the Western press and obsessively analysed the newspapers of Japan. The crisis arose as a result of the attempts by a particular company, the Recruit Co., to expand its influence and secure government decisions favourable to its interests, by making donations to politicians and others. The Recruit Co. operates in the business of exchanging information between job-seekers and organizations having job vacancies. This firm, under the leadership of an extremely ambitious businessman, Mr. Hiromasa Ezoe, offered quantities of unlisted securities to politicians, who were made aware that, once the shares were officially listed, they could be sold at a greatly increased value. Selected politicians from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and also, to a lesser extent, from the parties in opposition, were offered substantial numbers of these unlisted shares in the company. In many cases it was not the politicians themselves, but their assistants or secretaries, who were provided with the shares, and some leading politicians may not have known about the transactions at the time they were carried out. Even so, they stood to make a great deal of money from the subsequent appreciation in the value of the shares.
The story began to come out in the press form the early summer of 1988, but at first it did not appear to be an exceptionally important affair. Later, however, more information was revealed, more and more politicians were implicated until virtually every leading politician within the LDP and some politicians also in the parties of opposition (except for the Japan Communist Party, or JCP) were found to have received largesse from the Recruit Co.
Ultimately even the Prime Minister, Noboru Takeshita, was caught up in the tentacles of this affair, and has recently announced his resignation, though he remains in office until a successor can be found. Interestingly enough, the immediate reason why he has announced his resignation is that the opposition