The condominium design scandal that broke in the news here a couple of months ago has not ceased to grow and spread, but has become even worse. The matter centers on a Japanese architect, Mr. Aneha, who admitted to purposefully faking the earthquake resistance data on his building designs in order to cut construction costs. He said it was under pressure from construction firms that threatened to cancel contracts if he did not present designs within a certain budget. Then his fraudulent numbers passed government construction examiners, which begs a lot of more damaging questions. At first the scandal was reported to affect only 13 buildings in the Tokyo area. Then the reported number of affected buildings was increased to 30. Then 43. Next, the reported number of at risk buildings was over 70, including hotels as well as condominiums, but only days later it was announced that 115 buildings nationwide were under scrutiny. And, it has been discovered that Mr. Aneha was not the only one faking his numbers for the sake of economy.
Japan is not a naturally litigious society. They like to settle their affairs out of court. But lawsuits galore are being prepared, and the scandal is already spilling over into the camps of the major political parties which have a long, cozy association with rich developers.
The failure of government construction inspectors to properly police the industry and enforce the law in this at-risk, earthquake prone archipelago highlights a point I have periodically mentioned for many years. In the aftermath of a major earthquake in Japan, with the anticipated collapse of many buildings, bridges and highways, and the necessity of re-building, the construction firms would be placed for a fantastic windfall of business. So it is to their advantage to build things below par now in anticipation of receiving contracts to re-build in the future. I know it sounds cynical, but that is the way of Japanese business people. When they are found out they apologize “sincerely,”which is often enough to satisfy Japanese ideas of punishment.
Construction sites here are always concealed from public view by fences and curtains, so passers by cannot see what is going on. It is said that these barriers are to contain dust and reduce noise in the neighborhoods. But I have always jokingly said to my friends that they are to prevent people from witnessing all the illegal stuff going on in the building process. It always sounded far fetched, which made it a joking comment. But it isn’t so far fetched anymore. Naturally, when I mention to people that I have periodically said so for many years they profess ignorance that I ever did say such a thing. That’s the way people are - brains like sieves, just like a woman I know back in Canada.
Remember that in Japan(and other Asian cultures) appearance is the single most important thing in society. It is more important in Japan that society appears to be peaceful, law-abiding, homogenous, harmonious and smoothly-functioning than it is to actually be so. In fact, none of these things is true at all, which is a frustrating thorn for any conscientious person. Such a culture, that regards conformity to form above reality in particulars, creates windows for the kinds of corruption and abuse that endemic, but concealed. At least, concealed more than in Western cultures, which are also prone to such faults (but for different reasons).