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The Okura-sho’s old school ties

Japan's Ministry of Finance building has the feel of a British public school, and its occupants consider themselves the real rulers of Japan.

Isao Kubota

It certainly does not feel as if you are walking down the hallowed corridors of power. It's more like a Spartan British public school that has fallen on hard times, with a gloomy grey stone and brick exterior and Stygian echoing corridors build around quadrangles. The floors are made of wooden blocks, some of which have worked loose over the years, so you have to watch your step. Off the corridors there are large rooms cluttered with desks littered with paper and people, their heads hunched as they scribble furiously.

But there are clues that this is not a school, such as the cigarette machines and the calendars adorning the walls. Indeed, this is the Kasumigaseki HQ of Japan's ministry of finance.

The occupants of this building are those who regarded themselves, and were so regarded until recently, as the real rulers of Japan.

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