East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

April 21 Workshop


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society Presents


“From Bureaucrats To Politicians: Seikai-Tensin (政界転身)’s Political Success in Postwar Japan”


Nara Park

PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science

University of Chicago


4:30-6pm, Tuesday

April 21, 2015

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.



In postwar Japan, Amakudari (天下り) has been institutionalized as a practice where a considerable number of retired top-level bureaucrats get to acquire high-profile positions in other sectors including private enterprises, public corporations, and the parliament. As such, the postwar Diet has consistently displayed the predominance of former bureaucrats within: namely, Seikai- Tensin (政界転身: one’s transformation into the political world) politicians. Among those who were elected in the 2012 general election, 81 representatives previously worked in the national government, which consists of 16.9% of the entire House. According to my preliminary studies, about 14.5 percent of Lower House Members – and presumably about the same proportion of the Upper House Members – have been classified as Seikai-Tensin politicians after World War II. In this study, I argue that, in Japan, being a former senior bureaucrat in the central government – likely also possessing superior educational background and personal connections – has been a crucial asset for those who desire to be a successful politician. Through an OLS regression analysis, I will show Seikai-Tensin politicians are likely to be elected to the Diet with higher levels of electoral support than those with no bureaucratic background, other things being equal.

All in all, this research will ultimately shed light on how a mature democracy like the Japanese one has been developed with the elite endorsed by people through elections, namely Seikai-Tensin politicians. This is an example of the modern elite leading the national policy making with a hard-earned status acquired by their own abilities and endeavors. Simply put, the transformation from one form of the elite into another (i.e., from the bureaucratic to political elite) goes through legitimate and democratic measures, rather than personalistic and hereditary practices. Eventually, this study will help us better understand the relationship between “the elite and democracy” and “elections and democracy.”


Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/

Student coordinator: Wen Xie (wxie@uchicago.edu)

Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang, Dingxin Zhao and Zheng Michael Song


This presentation is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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