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Justice in Japan

The Notorious Teijin Scandal

Richard H. Mitchell

Publication Year: 2002

The Imperial Rayon Company corruption scandal (popularly known as the Teijin incident) was Japan's major interwar political bribery case. Compared to numerous Japanese corruption cases of the past century, the Teijin affair stands out as not only the most sensational of the pre-1945 era, but also the most important--perhaps because more than any other case, it has left an indelible mark on the public mind. Nevertheless, Japanese and foreign scholars have neglected this incident, which brought down an entire cabinet and produced a record-setting trial. The sixteen defendants, all prominent bureaucrats, ministers, and businessmen, were charged with illegally profiting from the sale of Imperial Rayon Company stock held by the Bank of Japan. In December 1937, after a more than two-year trial, all sixteen were found innocent when the judges declared that the case had been fabricated by the prosecution. Their verdict ranks in importance with the famous Otsu case judgment, the benchmark for judicial independence from the executive. Despite its importance, basic facts about the Teijin case remain obscure, as scholars repeat factual misinformation and produce farfetched conspiracy theories. This study, the first comprehensive, scholarly work on the subject in English or Japanese, investigates controversial and important issues regarding the origins, results, and significance of the incident. It illustrates transwar continuities within the judicial system by showing that the institutional flaws in the old criminal justice system, which were magnified by the Teijin investigation and trial, remain embedded despite reform attempts during the Occupation. While illuminating the basic institutional features that generated it, the author uses the incident to spotlight the considerable amount of political criticism and public conflict that existed in Japan in the 1930s.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

I wish to express my gratitude to those who aided in the publication this book. I am indebted to Suzuki Yoshio and Imai Nakaba for providing valuable material and to Ohno Masao for correcting an error. I would like to thank Amanda Crowell for typing the manuscript. A special debt of...

Teijin Trial Defendants

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pp. xi

A Note on the Transliteration of Japanese Words

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pp. xiii

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pp. 1-5

The sensational Teijin scandal of the 1930s was Japan’s most notable interwar political bribery case. Compared to numerous Japanese corruption cases of the past century, the Teijin affair not only stands out as the most sensational of the pre-1945 era, but is also a leading candidate for the most important corruption case, because it left an indelible mark on the public...

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Chapter 1: Criminal Justice System

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pp. 6-20

The Tokugawa regime (1603–1867) was a transcendental administrative state in which superiors issued orders or delegated power to inferiors; the outstanding trait of this political system was a lack of legal redress against authority.1 A long peace and commercial development, however, stimulated the emergence of two essentials of positive law: decrees...

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Chapter 2: Background of the Scandal

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pp. 21-43

Since the Teijin scandal and subsequent prosecution arose from a stock sale, a brief look at customary business practices, economic conditions, joint-stock companies, and “artificial silk” is called for. Furthermore, the state of business ethics, as judged by scholars and businessmen, is presented below in order to explain the press and public willingness to believe...

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Chapter 3: Saitō Cabinet

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pp. 44-83

A proper understanding of the Teijin Company stock sale scandal, which destroyed the Saitō Cabinet, demands a close look at the cabinet’s origins. Only by embedding the Teijin scandal in a “thick” history of politics can an observer gain proper insights into this complicated affair. The politics of the Saitō Cabinet era, like the politics of earlier years, was a battle to control the cabinet. Immediately after the formation of the...

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Chapter 4: Preparation for the Trial

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pp. 84-109

Neither Kuroda’s death nor a cabinet change stopped Tokyo procurators’ preparations for preliminary court hearings. Former minister Nakajima was interrogated by procurators after the Saitō Cabinet fell and was indicted; former minister Mitsuchi was questioned in August but not indicted until September. As suspects were arrested, between April 28 and September 13, 1934, procurators indicted them for various crimes. In...

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Chapter 5: Trial

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pp. 110-163

The trial began on June 22, 1935, and ended on October 5, 1937. Judges issued a verdict on December 16. Thus, the Teijin scandal resulted in the longest district criminal court trial in pre-1945 Japan; it continued for a record-setting 265 sessions, excluding the day the verdict was issued. There were criminal cases that lasted longer, but they involved appeals to higher courts. Fujii Goichirō, who presided over the sensational Blood...

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Chapter 6: Aftermath

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pp. 164-186

Even as the public chuckled over the monkey-moon analogy, Imamura Rikisaburō’s courtroom defense summary was being set in metal type. Teijin Incident Summation (Teijin jiken benron) was privately issued on January 1, 1938. This book, which presented the public with details about...

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Chapter 7: Postwar

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pp. 187-205

Criticism of the criminal justice system was reinforced after August 1945 by the views of foreign reformers. During the American-dominated occupation, the problems of abuses by police and procurators as well as flaws in the court system were revisited. Thus, criminal justice system reforms put in place during the early postwar era are a synergetic...

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Chapter 8: Conclusion

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pp. 206-212

Tokyo District Court procurators had the authority to suspend prosecution or to indict Teijin stock sale suspects. Without indictments, this business scandal would probably have faded from public view with the conclusion of the Jiji shinpō series. But Procurators Kuroda Etsurō and Biwada Gensuke zealously pursued this investigation, indicting important...


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pp. 213-242


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pp. 243-255


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pp. 257-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863203
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824825232

Publication Year: 2002

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Subject Headings

  • Teijin case, 1934.
  • Trials (Bribery) -- Japan -- Tokyo -- History -- 20th century.
  • Political corruption -- Japan -- History -- 20th century.
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