Political Bribery in Japan

By Richard H. Mitchell | Go to book overview

1. Legacies

DURING THE SEVENTH CENTURY the Yamato kingdom, which regarded itself as Japan's central government, tried to build a strong centralized state, using Chinese techniques for expanding political power. The Yamato political leadership was attracted to Chinese ideas and methods for state building because the Chinese system was based on a rational hierarchical authority, which the leadership wanted to use to end endemic strife among rival political forces. One of the strongest proponents of the Chinese-style state was Prince Shōtoku, who introduced a system of court ranks similar to those in Korean kingdoms ( 603) and who reopened diplomatic exchange with China ( 607-608). By creating a Chinese-style ranking system for officials based on merit, the central government aimed at strengthening its control.1

Prince Shōtoku is perhaps best remembered for the so-called Seventeen-Article Constitution ( 604). Although historians are at odds on its date and some feel that the prince had no hand in writing these articles, it is certain that the central government issued either these injunctions or similar rules to local officials. These seventeen injunctions, based on Chinese theories of state, created a new set of political ethics for the ruling class. Japan's ruler was equated with heaven, and officials were ordered to obey imperial decrees.2 Article 5 of the injunctions illustrates that authorities at the capital were concerned about officials taking bribes. This article reads in part, "Abstain from gluttony and discard the desire for wealth; you must judge lawsuits impartially. . . . Nowadays (konogoro) it is common for authorities, who aim at making profit, to look at the size of a litigant's purse before making a decision."3 The use of the term "nowadays" in this article is significant, because that word would be used for a current situation. Its use suggests serious complaints about officials from farmers.4

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Political Bribery in Japan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • A Note on the Transliteration of Japanese Words x
  • 1. Legacies 1
  • 2. the New State 10
  • 3. the Era of Party Government 41
  • 4. Purifying Politics 64
  • 5. Occupation Era 92
  • 6. "New" Japan 109
  • 7. Conclusion 133
  • Index 201
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