Mailboxes installed on street corners in Tokyo and Yokohama during the early Meiji Era (1868-1912) were painted black. Back then, the word yubin (post or mail) had only recently been coined.
There's a story that a man who misread the kanji characters for yubin as tareben (relieving oneself) urinated on a mailbox because the characters are similar. Although I don't know if the story is accurate, it dates from 138 years ago when the modern postal service system took off.
Maejima Hisoka (1835-1919), who founded the system, is said to have been a selfless man. Shortly before he was due to leave government service after having seen his brainchild get off the ground, his acquaintances tried to stop him, saying, "If you stay a little longer, you will be entitled to receive a pension." But Maejima took his leave with a smile. His philosophical attitude is apparent from "Yubin Sogyo-dan" (Episodes about the establishment of the postal system), a posthumous collection of Maejima's writings.
The man known for his rectitude would turn over in his grave if he knew about the abuse of the postage discount system for groups supporting people with disabilities.
The scandal led to the arrest of a bureau chief at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare over the weekend. The high-ranking official is suspected of having issued a falsified "seal of approval" to an organization claiming to be a disability support group, even though it was not involved in such activities.
The phrase yoto-kuniku literally means offering the head of a sheep on a signboard to sell dog meat. It refers to false advertising. The irregularity is tantamount to giving a sheep's head to a shady organization to hide what it is actually doing.
The bureau chief is said to be denying the allegations. If she is telling the truth, whose will and acts led to the wrongdoing?
We are hearing the phrase seiji anken (political matter) once again. It is bureaucratic jargon for favors supported by politicians. It would be most worrisome if the certificate was forged with no criminal intent on the part of anyone involved in the case. If so, it means the irregularity is a product of government bureaucrats who maintain cozy relationships with politicians.
Referring to the bureau chief, Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Yoichi Masuzoe said, "She was a rising star for working women."
Regrettably, Masuzoe used the past tense. If the situation continues, the bureau chief, unlike Maejima, will end up failing in mid-career on a sour note.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 16(IHT/Asahi: June 17,2009)