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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 mind. When people think about the financial world of the 1930s, the Banchòkai and the Teijin scandal come immediately to mind.1 And the Teijin case lives on in the postwar era.2 For example, the political critic Yayama Tarò, writing on a political bribery case of the late 1980s, begins his article with “The Lesson of the Teijin Affair.”3 In fact, it is unusual to read a book on Japanese interwar politics or economics that does not include at least a brief mention of the Teijin affair. Nevertheless, Japanese and foreign scholars have neglected this scandal, which not only destroyed the Saitò Makoto Cabinet but also produced a record-setting trial of sixteen defendants : Finance Ministry bureaucrats, cabinet ministers, and businessmen.4 During the long district court trial (June 1935–December 1937), popular Tokyo procurators found themselves attacked for gross illegal abuses as the media exposed sordid tales of forced confessions and harsh jail conditions . Indeed, some critics pinned the label of “fascists” to procurators’ court robes. A sensational trial verdict, by a three-judge bench, finding all defendants innocent, not only tarnished the procuratorial public image but reenforced a tradition of judicial independence just as the nation slipped into the quagmire of the China war (from July 1937). The December verdict , however, did not silence criticism of the Justice Ministry, as politicians in both major parties attacked prosecutors for violations of Teijin defendants ’ legal rights in this and other criminal cases. Finally, under political pressure, Justice Ministry officials began to discuss needed reforms in the criminal justice system. Introduction 1 Despite the importance of the Teijin scandal, basic facts about this legal case remain obscure, and too often scholars commenting on this incident repeat factual misinformation or produce farfetched conspiracy theories to explain the origins of the Teijin Incident. The need for a close study of this incident is illustrated by the fact that both a legal scholar such as Hasegawa Masayasu and the distinguished historian Itò Takashi, the outstanding authority on this period, view the Teijin Incident as a puzzling affair.5 While the primary purpose of this book is to clarify the Teijin Incident, it will also illustrate that the flaws in the Japanese criminal justice system of the 1930s, which were reflected in the Teijin case investigation and trial, remain embedded in the postwar system. Because distinguished and influential defendants were involved in the Teijin trial, justice authorities found it impossible to ignore demands for reform of criminal justice system abuses. Thus, the Teijin trial revitalized an ongoing legal reform movement. Unfortunately, this reform movement was stymied by an expanding war in China and the Pacific Ocean. The Allied Occupation in 1945, however, reinvigorated this reform movement, which produced significant legal changes in the constitution and other parts of the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, as the handling of criminal cases in the “new” Japan illustrates, postwar reforms have not changed the criminological attitude and the inquisitorial nature of the criminal justice system. Moreover, the structure of the current justice system encourages abuses of suspects’ procedural rights. Some scholars accept a cultural explanation for the criminal justice system’s sterling performance in controlling crime and producing confessions; criminal suspects are programmed internally to cooperate with authorities. From early childhood people are taught to work in groups and to obey authority, and this lifelong socialization process does influence the outcome when individuals face police, procurators , and judges. Nevertheless, the key determinant in the handling of criminal cases is not found in this “cultural explanation” but is located in the institutional structure of the criminal justice system, which the Occupation reformers sought to change. Although their reform efforts did modify the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, they failed to dislodge basic assumptions and practices rooted in the criminal justice system. In sum, institutional conditions of the criminal justice system and the behavior of police and procurators during the postreform era bear more than a little similarity to those of the imperial era. The book begins with a survey of the criminal justice system from its Tokugawa roots through the new...


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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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