" or "bureaucracy
," and is sometimes used by political science
scholars to describe a state
, such as Japan
, that emphasizes its civil service
The kanryo system goes back to the Meiji Restoration, when thousands of samurai suddenly found themselves swordless, and ended up trading in their weapons for jobs in the government. After World War II, the system shifted to emphasize educational prestige, with graduates of the top rokudai schools and public universities getting the best jobs in the civil service.
While government jobs in Japan are not high-paying or comfortable in and of themselves, they almost inevitably lead to 天下り amakudari, "coming down from heaven," a euphemism for executive positions in the private sector. Japanese mega-corporations reliant on subsidy from governmental organs such as the Ministry of International Trade and Industry willingly gave these high-paying, low-labor jobs to aging bureaucrats as compensation for the bureaucracy's help.
This relationship was largely responsible for the rise and fall of the bubble economy, and has kept subsequent privatization efforts from proceeding full-swing.
Several recent prime ministers of Japan, including Hosokawa Morihiro, Hashimoto Ryutaro, and Koizumi Junichiro, have attempted to curb the kanryo's grip on political power. The first two were unable to do so, and Koizumi has shown signs of weakening in the struggle. Therefore, the kanryo's power base is expected to remain intact for a long time to come.