Political Bribery in Japan

By Richard H. Mitchell | Go to book overview

6. "New" Japan

ON APRIL 28, 1952, Japan became a sovereign nation dominated by conservative political and business forces. One of the outstanding traits of this synergism of politics and business was the frequent occurrence of political bribery cases. During the 1955-1993 period, for example, major newspapers focused on an average of slightly more than one political scandal per year.1

By 1952, important businessmen, who had traditionally supported the party in power, were eager to regulate the flow of political funds; they wished to lower the cost of political contributions and to prevent sensational corruption scandals, which focused public attention on illegal and unsavory activities. Therefore, key businessmen urged feuding conservative politicians to stabilize the political world by forming a united party. Attracted by the lure of big political contributions and fearful of the unification movement among socialist politicians, the Liberal and Japan Democratic Parties merged into the Liberal Democratic Party in November 1955. This was the beginning of the long-lasting "1955 System." At the beginning of that year, an Economic Reconstruction Council, set up by the business world, pledged to supply election funds to conservative politicians.2 In the midst of the political maneuvering that resulted in the new conservative party, however, the business world's fears were realized when the fifth Yoshida cabinet ( May 21, 1953-December 10, 1954) was hit by a major political bribery case that reminded the public of the Showa Electric Company scandal and the fall of the Ashida cabinet.

The Shipbuilding scandal, which caught public attention in the spring of 1954, originated in a lawsuit between three businessmen at the Tokyo District Court in August 1953. Procurators investigating this case discovered two very large commercial bills (each for 10,000,000 yen and bearing the name of the Yamashita Steamship

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