Government information is crucial for the public's participation in decision making. It also provides basis of ample and (sometimes) credible information in the largely amateur Internet public space. Unfortunately Japanese government databases are largely behind firewalls.
1) Prime Minister's
Official Residence (Kantei)
This is supposed to be the gateway to Japanese government information. It has an extensive list of English Web pages of ministries and agencies. If you read Japanese, go to the Japanese language gateway.
2) Sogo Annai Clearing System
Though only in Japanese, this site provides keyword searches for government documents and a list of government homepages.
3) Government Publications
This site has search functions for more than 30,000 government publications and for publications by Ministry of Finance's Government Publication Office. It also has a search page for English language publications.
4) Statistics Bureau and Statistics
A comprehensive gateway to Japanese statistics in English.
The below is the public access status of key Japanese government databases, as compared with the U. S. counterparts. The Japanese sites here are only in Japanese language unless otherwise noted.
1) Minutes of the Diet
Since January 1998, Diet's (Congress) both Houses and National Diet Library have been providing an online version of Minutes of the Diet, the equivalent of the U. S.'s Congressional Record. The database includes all the record of full floor sessions and has a keyword search capacity. In the U. S., Library of Congress's Thomas system provides Congressional Record database, which includes records since the 101st Session (1989-1990).
2) Text of Bills
It is crucial for the public to obtain texts of bills in order to actively organize campaigns around and to voice concerns to the legislation. Only the abstracts of the bills are available on the Internet, by a commercial publisher, Daiichi Hoki. In the U. S., full texts of Congressional bills, since the 93 Session (1973-74), are freely available on the Internet.
3) The Current Codes and Regulations (Genko Hoki)
Genko Hoki is the texts of all Japanese laws and regulations. Though basic and truly public, the law information is behind the firewall. Gyosei Joho Shisutemu Kenkyujo (The Insitute of Administrative Information System), a quasi-governmental nonprofit created by Somu-cho (Management and Coordination Agency), sells a magnetic tape version of the database for 100,000 yen. Based on the data, commercial publishers produce CD-ROM and online based products. Gyosei, a commercial publisher specialized on government publications, sells a CD-ROM database for 156,000 yen. Ministry of Education's National Center for Science Information System's (NACSIS) database, which is geared to researchers, charges 50 yen/minute and 13 yen/record for Current Codes database access.
According to an Asahi Newspaper article on February 26, 1998, the original law text data is created by Somu-cho and is leased to the Administrative Information System Research Institute for free. The Institute sold "four or five" magnetic tapes since 1993, with none in the last 2 years. The president of the Institute is ex-high ranking official of Somucho (an Amakudari case).
With public resources wasted, universities and private citizens are volunteering to input law texts into the Internet. For example, Kanazawa University's "Nihon no Horitsu" site has inputed more than 300 laws and treaties with the help of community people. Another extensive law site is Aichi University's Aidai Roppo. One of the most comprehensive law text sites is created by an individual, Mr. Yasumitsu Yamaura. His site, Hoko has 888 laws, 44 treaties, 159 cabinet directives (seirei), 290 ministry directives (shorei), and 93 rules (kisoku) as of April 1999. It has a search capacity.
The United States Code with complete full texts is free on the Internet and $37 in CD-ROM format. Code of Federal Regulations is also free on the Internet.
5) Official Gazette (Kanpo)
Equivalent to the U. S.'s Federal Register, Japan's Official Gazette (Kanpo) reports daily government actions and announcements such as new legislations, regulations, department notices, procurements, and so on. Only the index information (table of contents) is available on the Internet. The index's floppy disk version costs 9,515 yen/year (http://www.gov-book.or.jp/print/denshi/kanpo-fd.html). The equivalent U. S. Federal Register (since 1995) is provided in full text on the Internet.
6) Supreme Court Decisions
The Supreme Court Homepage has about 100 full text recent decisions of last couple of years. The U. S. Supreme Court Opinions are provided at various sites on the Internet. Cornell University's site has all the opinions in full text since 1990. The FindLaw site has data since 1893.
7) Compiled Securities Reports (Yuka Shoken Hokokusho Soran)
Corporate financial information is important for investors as well as civic groups that monitor corporate activities. The government collects financial data from publicly traded companies as required by law. In the U. S., the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) does that. In Japan, the almighty Ministry of Finance's (MOF) does that. The SEC provides free access to their corporate disclosure database EDGAR. It is arguably the world's largest corporate information database, with data from more than 10,000 publicly-traded US companies (including Japanese multinationals). In Japan, MOF does not provide Internet free access to their Compiled Securities Reports (Yuka Shoken Hokokusho Soran). They sell the CD-ROM version of the report for 2,00,000 yen. The photo disk version is 5,150,000 yen. Both contain data from aproximately 4000 corporations (http://www.gov-book.or.jp/annai/souran.html). The online service called Yuka Kakumei (Securities Revolution) is, for individuals, 350,000 yen/month (including terminal usage and maintenance) plus a usage charge of 40 yen/report (http://www.gov-book.or.jp/annai/online.html). The securities revolution is yet to come.
8) Magazine Article Index
National Diet Library (NDL) creates the Magazine Article Index (MAI) database, with more than 800,000 citations from 5,500 Japanese magazines. By law, publishers have to contribute to NDL a copy of every book and periodical they publish. Currently NDL sells the CD-ROM version of MAI (1990-current) for 180,000 yen, the magnetic version for 800,000 yen. Three commercial publishers provide online access to MAI. Nichigai Associate's annual subscription to MAI on the Internet (http://www.nichigai.co.jp/newhp/database/database.html) is 9,120 yen. If you access to Nichigai's MAI database via PC-VAN (NEC's commercial online service), you pay 10 yen for each hit list and 30 yen for each citation display, beside PC-VAN charges.
In the U. S., usually private venders create periodical databases. One of the big exceptions, however, is National Library of Medicine's Medline, the world's largest medical database with more than 9 million citations from 3,900 biomedical magazines in 70 countries. Medline has been provided for free on the Internet since June 1997.
9) Directory of Officials (Shokuin-Roku)
Most irritating to the public is the CD-ROM product of Directory of Officials (Shokuin-Roku, http://www.gov-book.or.jp/print/denshi/96047324.html), which is priced 170,000 yen (60,000 yen without search software). Why do we have to pay that much for a list of high-ranking government officials? Published by MOF's Printing Office, the Directory includes names, addresses, telephone numbers of more than 50,000 national, prefectural, and local high-ranking officials (above sub-section chief, or kakari-cho, position). In the U. S., similar directories can be found on websites of each government department.