The Cabinet and Ministries

Japan Table of Contents

In the postwar political system, executive power has been vested in the cabinet. The cabinet head is the prime minister, responsible for appointing and dismissing other cabinet members. Cabinet ministers include those appointed to head the twelve ministries, and the ministers of state placed in charge of the agencies and commissions of the Office of the Prime Minister, which itself has the status of a ministry. They include the director general of the Defense Agency, equivalent to a minister of defense but lacking ministerial status (a reflection of the Article 9 renunciation of war). Also among the ministers of state are the chief cabinet secretary, who coordinates the activities of the ministries and agencies, conducts policy research, and prepares materials to be discussed at cabinet meetings, and the director of the Cabinet Legislative Bureau, who advises cabinet members on drafting the legislation to be proposed to the Diet. Although the chief cabinet secretary does not have ministerial rank, the position is influential within the cabinet because of its coordination role.

The Board of Audit reviews government expenditures and submits an annual report to the Diet. The 1947 Board of Audit Law gives this body substantial independence from both cabinet and Diet control. The Security Council advises the prime minister on salaries and other matters pertaining to national government civil servants. Semiautonomous public corporations--including public housing corporations, financial institutions, and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK, the sole, noncommercial public radio and television broadcasting system)--had been reduced in number by the privatization of Japan Airlines, the Japanese National Railways, the Japan Tobacco and Salt Public Corporation, and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation during the 1980s. In May 1992, there were ninety-two semiautonomous corporations and seven privatized corporations.

National government civil servants are divided into "special" and "regular" categories. Appointments in the special category are governed by political or other factors and do not involve competitive examinations. This category includes cabinet ministers, heads of independent agencies, members of the Self-Defense Forces, Diet officials, and ambassadors. The core of the civil service is composed of members of the regular category, who are recruited through competitive examinations. This group is further divided into junior service and upper professional levels, the latter forming a well-defined civil service elite.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress