Bureaucracy in Japan

Just got to get this out of the way but in Japan the thing that’s getting in the way of governmental progress is the government itself. People probably have heard of the ridiculous bureaucracy in Japan, and I assure you it’s true. The extent to which it is though is usually quite surprising, but I’m saying this as a way to try and make some change.

Last month I visited an area of Japan that has had some success with inbound tourism, and in the two cases I saw they both had one thing in common: no direct input from the government.

One was a town that had originally set up a company to help with the tourists, the other was a place providing temple stays. By design, each worked independent of the government.

For the town, this meant they could much more easily work with the people in their interests. Municipal governments are required by law to include all parties of interest in their initiatives, meaning for example if you wanted to provide advertising help to one company in particular, you either needed to help every single company in the municipality, or you couldn’t do it.

They are also limited by the physical borders of the municipality itself, if they want to do something that involves nearby municipalities, they can’t. By setting up a private company, you can forgo these bureaucratic nightmares, and that’s exactly what this town did, and they have surely been rewarded for doing so.

This means they have purposely gone against the grain, and should therefore be applauded. I’m just grateful that they are happy to share their insights with other people, such as ourselves.

For the temple stays place, they were also working independent of both the local government, and other temples (besides for temple-specific things because it is a religious institution). This meant they were able to implement ideas such as busting down unused rooms and building private bathrooms, which is unseen in Japan, or setting up night tours, which they do a very good job of, and have been extremely successful with.

In other words, to improve your chances of success in Japan, you’re going to have to go against the grain, and for the most part ignore the bureaucracy. There is just no other way.

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

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