Japan is in the throes of two scandals that highlight a stunning flaw in the social order. For all its much-trumpeted national cohesion and the lip service paid in Japan to the people's sense of nasake (compassion, sympathy, mercy), these scandals are stark reminders that public welfare and the common good are actually low priorities for Japanese people.

In November last year, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport exposed the Aneha Design Office for concocting false data on the construction of condominiums and a hotel in the Kanto region. In most cases, an earthquake of magnitude 5 on the Japanese scale of 7 would bring down these buildings. In the interests of profit-making, serious corners had been cut in constructing them, and the whole shoddy affair had apparently gone unnoticed by inspectors.

Since the end of last year, news has come out that thousands of buildings in Japan have probably been built to substandard levels, and that many lives lost in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 might have been saved if proper legal procedures had been followed.