Japan is a nation of descent workers. Kasumigaseki is not the only hotbed of such corruption.
The National Diet is currently in the midst of a controversy over the intervention of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) alumni in the personnel affairs of private firms. Masaru Honda, 69, former vice minister of MLIT and current chairman of Tokyo Metro, and others interfered in the appointment of a vice president of a private company with close ties to the ministry, Airport Facility, and demanded that the company appoint a MLIT alumnus as its president.
According to the airport facility, Mr. Honda described himself as the “nominal representative of an alumnus” and said that the MLIT would support him if he was appointed president. This is nothing short of blatant personnel intervention on the back of the prestige of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
In 2007, the National Public Service Law was amended to restrict ministries and agencies from systematically soliciting descent from heaven. Of course, this is only an ostensible response, but the fact remains that government officials are still searching for new destinations for their descent from heaven.
However, there are some public officials who have been tacitly allowed to take a descent from the government. They are “Tokyo Metropolitan Government employees. Tokyo Metropolitan Government employees are outside the scope of the National Public Service Law. Although the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is supposed to manage the retirement of its employees under the ‘Ordinance Concerning Retirement Management of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Employees,’ which came into effect in 2003, in reality, these employees are descending to outside organizations and closely related companies without incident,” said a reporter in charge of metropolitan government affairs.
One personnel change that can be said to be symbolic of this trend took place. Reiko Takeichi, 60, former director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Transportation Bureau, became president and representative director of Hato Bus on April 1 of this year. Takeichi graduated from Hitotsubashi University’s Faculty of Commerce and joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in April 1986. In July 2003, he was promoted to Director of the General Affairs Department of the Bureau of Citizenship and Culture, and in April 2010 to Director General of the Transportation Bureau. He has also served as director of third-sector companies funded by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, including the Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit and the Yurikamome Line.
Hato Bus was established in 1948 with business rights from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The metropolitan government invested 170.7 million yen in the company and is the largest shareholder with a 37.9% stake. Hato Bus has a close relationship with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as it operates and manages 38 bus routes.
The post of president of Hato Bus is reserved for a Tokyo Met ropolitan Government employee,” said a Tokyo Metropolitan Government official in a hushed voice. Indeed, Takeichi’s predecessor was Kiyohito Shiomi (63, appointed in October 2008), then head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Taxation Bureau. Mr. Shiomi’s predecessor was Yasushi Nakamura (69, appointed in September ’19), who also served as Director General of the Transportation Bureau and Director General of the Governor’s Office.
The previous president was Shoichiro Kaneko (71, appointed in September 2011), who served as director of the Transportation Bureau. Seiji Miyahata, a former director of the Transportation Bureau who became president in 1998, has even written a book entitled “Hato Bus: The Habits of the President Who Achieved a V-shaped Recovery” (Shodensha).
No matter how deep its relationship with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government may be, Hato Bus is still a private company. Unlike the bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki, who are national civil servants, Tokyo Metropolitan Government employees are “local civil servants,” but with five generations of Bureau Chief-level presidents in office, it would seem that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is a breeding ground for descent from the heavens.
When we sent a question to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Press Division, we received the following response.
Hato Bus is a cooperating organization of the TMG and is designated as an organization that is required to recommend appropriate personnel after consultation with the Retirement Management Committee consisting of outside experts in accordance with the “Ordinance Concerning Retirement Management of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Employees. The TMG recommends appropriate personnel based on their knowledge, experience, and abilities cultivated in the TMG. The TMG then makes decisions on personnel matters at the company where the retirees will be reemployed, including whether to hire them, based on the company’s own business judgment.
Hato Bus responded, “We are legally appointing appropriate persons, including those with appropriate personalities and backgrounds.
A former Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the actual situation.
The salary is somewhat lower than that of the career bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki. The annual salary of a bureau chief is about 16 million yen, but it is reduced by 30% to about 10 million yen when he or she becomes president of Hato Bus. In addition, no retirement allowance is provided at the descent. Not to follow up, but the director-general level of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is hard work. No one wants to do it. Knowing this, an atmosphere of tacit approval was fostered within the TMG, saying, ‘Since he worked so hard, he should be given the next post (a place of descent from heaven).
Incidentally, Takeichi’s husband, former Vice Governor Takashi Takeichi (63), will also assume the post of President of the Tokyo Metropolitan Human Resources Support Organization in May of this year.
Former Vice Governor Takeichi served as director of the Finance Bureau and also served as acting governor when Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (70) was hospitalized due to overwork in 2009. The deputy governor’s annual salary is about 22 million yen, and he receives about 70% of that in his next post. Even if not as much as career bureaucrats at ministries and agencies, the Takeichi couple will spend two or three years in descent from heaven with a total annual income approaching 30 million yen,” he said.
The two are just the tip of the iceberg. The Tokyo metropolitan government is often referred to as a “fiefdom,” but will Governor Koike, whose term of office expires next year, continue to turn a blind eye and get away with it?
Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki： Daisuke Iwasaki