Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada got a rapturous round of applause and a gift of a T-shirt when he made a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo a few days ago. The reason had nothing to do with his diplomatic skills.
Access to news conferences and briefings at Japanese government ministries has long been at least partly restricted to members of the press clubs, which in general means the country’s mainstream media — not freelancers or foreigners.
Member reporters from the top newspapers and television networks have their own desks within the ministries they cover, including at the Imperial Household Agency, and pay a nominal fee for the privilege.
It wasn’t just the arrest of a high-ranking bureaucrat suspected of falsifying paperwork in a multi-billion yen fraud that astounded the Japanese media this week. It was the fact that she was a woman.
Atsuko Muraki, a senior official at the Health and Welfare Ministry, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of issuing a fake certificate to allow a group involved in direct mail marketing to claim a disability discount on postal costs. “Female ace arrested,” ran the headline in the Sankei newspaper, next to a picture of the long-haired Muraki, and other media offered a similar angle.
Japan’s bureaucrats may have little to laugh about these days, given opposition charges of misspent tax money, but that has not stopped one ministry offering its officials a unique form of training — as stand-up comics.
More than 100 transport ministry officials in their 20s got tips this week from professional comedians as part of training in communication skills.