Japan Elite Civil Service
National government civil servants in Japan 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, on the pattern of Pakistan’s DMG.
Elite bureaucrats: In trying to discover "who's in charge here," many Japan analysts have pointed to the elite bureaucracy as the people who really govern Japan, although they composed only a tiny fraction of the country's more than 1 million national government employees. Several hundred of the elite are employed at each national ministry or agency. Although entry into the elite through open examinations does not require a college degree, the majority of its members are alumni of Japan's most prestigious universities. The University of Tokyo law faculty is the single most important source of elite bureaucrats. After graduation from college and, increasingly, some graduate-level study, applicants take a series of difficult higher civil service examinations: in 2009, for example, 22,186 took the tests of higher (the 1st grade) civil service, but only 1,494, or 6.7 percent, were successful. Of those who were successful, only 660 were actually hired.
The typical young bureaucrat, is an intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated individual. Japan's elite bureaucrats are insulated from direct political pressure because there are very few political appointments in the civil service. Cabinet ministers are usually career politicians, but they are moved in and out of their posts quite frequently (with an average tenure of under a year), and usually have little opportunity to develop a power base within a ministry, or force their civil service subordinates to adopt reforms. Below the cabinet minister is the administrative vice minister. Administrative vice ministers and their subordinates are career civil servants whose appointments are determined in accordance with an internally established principle of seniority.
Although the United States occupation dismantled both the military and zaibatsu establishments, it did little, outside of abolishing the prewar Home Ministry, to challenge the power of the bureaucracy. There was considerable continuity —in institutions, operating style, and personnel — between the civil service before and after the occupation, partly because General Douglas MacArthur's staff ruled indirectly and depended largely on the cooperation of civil servants. A process of mutual co-optation occurred. Also, United States policy planners never regarded the civil service with the same opprobrium as the military or economic elites.