If the postwar era has witnessed a pluralizing trend in Japan, that is not to say that many diverse, fluctuating groups compete equally in the political marketplace. Instead, small sets of well-organized, narrowly-focused interest groups typically join specific bureaucratic agencies, groups of politicians, and individual experts to dominate policymaking in relatively self-contained issue areas. One useful window on interest-group politics is Japan's system of consultative councils. More than 200 of these councils, or shingikai, are attached to the ministries. Composed of business people, bureaucrats, scholars, journalists, union members, and others, they deliberate on virtually every aspect of public policy. This book reviews the functions and operations of Japan's council system, and presents three case studies of specific governmental decisions involving the use of shingikai in the late 1980s.
Preface; 1. Interest-group politics in Japan: competing interpretations; 2. The Shingikai system; 3. Shingikai in the spotlight; 4. Amending Japan's labor constitution: revision of the labor standards act; 5. Regulating the invisible giant: the introduction of financial futures markets; 6. The god that fell: reducing the price of rice; 7. Comparisons and conclusions.