The July 10 editorial titled “Poor handling of government documents” interested me because of my own government experience. The law indeed has flaws, but why is the Diet unable to fix it?

I experienced real culture shock when I joined a government agency in 2001. Employees did not affix a date, number or the drafter’s name on documents. Dates are affixed later. However, when I read GHQ (General Headquarters of the Allied Occupation) documents from 1945 to 1952, I found them dated, numbered and often with the typist’s initials attached: indispensable for accountability.

By the time I retired in 2015, I found little noticeable effort to ensure the traceability of documents, even though a non-LDP Cabinet had enacted the law on management and storage of official documents in 2011.

I learned valuable lessons from working as a translator over the years: the government products they churned out were the results of deliberate intention. Every Japanese noun, adjective, verb and phrase was metamorphosed into English structure, often not associated with individuals, events or even a hint of when. They spend hours splitting hairs, leading pundits to refer to their work as “Kasumigaseki Literature” — they are writers.

But no matter how prolific they are, what they produce is hardly any better than user manuals that Japanese makers print for products. The Japanese electronics industry’s demise has something to do with their dreary manuals. The remedy for inefficient paperwork across Japan is simple: dating, numbering and affixing a writer’s initials to documents.

I also wish opinion leaders would propose a calendar system jettisoning the use of eras, a Chinese artifact. Otherwise this nation of 125 million people will continue to suffer scandals and loss of productivity because it takes them time to reference a four- or five-era table, weakening scrutiny of the government and corporations.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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