Amakudari is a Japanese term literally translated as "descent from heaven
." It is used to describe a government official who leaves his or her post to work in the private sector
, usually in an industry that s/he
was responsible for regulating. The roots of the term lie in the ancient belief that the Japanese imperial family
is descended from divinity.
Amakudari is very common in Japan, especially among Ministry of Finance and Bank of Japan officials, despite the fact that Japanese law attempts to curtail the revolving door. (For 2 years after leaving government service, bureaucrats are forbidden from taking positions in private industry sectors where they had close working connections in the 5 years prior to retiring.) A common complaint among normal private sector employees (those who work for one company most of their lives) is that these employees, after retiring from the private sector, receive far more generous retirement packages. The amakudarites, and the companies that hire them, counter that these packages are deserved because in the 3-4 years that they usually work in the private sector they provide more value than their mortal counterparts, due to their heavenly connections.
During the heady days of the economic boom in Japan, amakudari was discussed in ethical terms, if it was discussed at all. It was even a common suggestion that amakudari was a good way to quietly get rid of inefficient officials, kind of like "kicking the boss upstairs" when he becomes too unpopular. However, now that the economy is in a prolonged slump, the practice has come under increasing scrutiny. Since ordinary Japanese percieve it as at least indirectly harming their economic interests, they are less likely to tolerate amakudari these days.