Country Listing

Japan Table of Contents



The Japanese had been exposed to bureaucratic institutions at least by the early seventh century A.D., when the imperial court adopted the laws and government structure of Tang China (see Nara and Heian Periods, A.D. 710-1185 , ch. 1). However, the distinctive Chinese institution of civil service examinations never took root, and the imported system was never successfully imposed on the country at large. But by the middle of the Tokugawa period (1600- 1867), the samurai class functions had evolved from warrior to clerical and administrative functions. Following the Meiji Restoration (1868), the new elite, which came from the lower ranks of the samurai, established a Western-style civil service (see The Emergence of Modern Japan, 1868-1919 , ch. 1).

Although the United States occupation dismantled both the military and zaibatsu (see Glossary) establishments, it did little, outside of abolishing the prewar Home Ministry, to challenge the power of the bureaucracy. There was considerable continuity--in institutions, operating style, and personnel-- between the civil service before and after the occupation, partly because MacArthur's staff ruled indirectly and depended largely on the cooperation of civil servants. A process of mutual co-optation occurred. Also, United States policy planners never regarded the civil service with the same opprobrium as the military or economic elites. The civil service's role in Japan's militarism was generally downplayed. Many of the occupation figures themselves were products of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and had strong faith in the merits of civil service professionalism. Finally, the perceived threat of the Soviet Union in the late 1940s created a community of interests for the occupiers and for conservative, social order-conscious administrators.

Data as of January 1994