Arrgh, me corruption’ll cost ye a shiny gold doubloon!

Kyoto is considered one of Japan’s richest areas of history and traditional culture. Loaded with centuries-old places and customs, even the Starbucks is historical in this city. It’s a reputation that the city takes so seriously, it appears that even when their officials become corrupt, they make sure it’s done in a classy, traditional way.

▼ Ninenzaka, Kyoto

On 1 March, Kyoto Prefectural Police charged Atsushi Kubo with bribery for accepting gifts in exchange for his influence as the director of Kyoto City Children and Youth Support. This department handles child welfare cases in the city and in March of 2019 was conducting an audit of a nursery school.

It was regarding that matter that Kubo stands accused of accepting a gold watch valued at 450,000 yen (US$3,900) from the chairman of the Seva Welfare Association which oversees pre-school facilities. The chairman was also charged with bribery, but in an ensuing investigation, police found a koban that they believe was also gifted to Kubo by the chairman for dubious reasons.

Although it’s not as well known by name, most people have probably seen a koban in movies, manga, anime, or video games. It’s the old fashioned oval-shaped gold coin that was replaced by a more western-style currency system in the latter half of the 19th century.

Maneki Neko are often holding a koban

It is said that in Japanese historical dramas you might hear these coins referred to as the “yamabukiiro no kashi” or “bright yellow sweets,” which is a clichéd euphemism for koban when used as a bribe. In such scenes the coins are discreetly placed in a box normally used for snacks given to people as souvenirs.

▼ The phrase is used during a bribe in this cut scene from the Yakuza spin-off Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan

Even though koban are no longer currency, they’re still made of gold and carry quite a bit of value. In this case, Kubo’s koban is estimated to be worth several hundreds of thousands of yen (thousands of U.S. dollars).

So it’s serious business, but the fact that such an old-fashioned bribe was going on in Kyoto of all places made it hard for netizens to not poke fun at it.

“What year is it?! Tell me he put it in a box of yatsuhashi.”
“Hopefully he buried it under real snacks so it was harder to find.”
“Forsooth, m’lord is corrupt!”
“Was the luxury watch not enough? lol”
“In Kyoto this is the only acceptable way to bribe.”
“It’s just like on TV!”
“Why a koban? It’s got to be a lot harder to get ahold of than cash.”
“This has been known to happen in Japan from time to time…during the Edo period.”
“Bright yellow sweets!”

The legal proceedings in this matter are still in the early stages so it’s unclear what the fate of these two men will be. However, Edo Period law would likely dictate that they get face tattoos for their transgression, and they do always say that the punishment should fit the crime.

As for the rest of us, I guess the lesson to be learned today is that whenever someone offers you “bright yellow sweets” in Japan, you might have a life-altering decision to make.

Source: The Sankei News, Hachima Kiko
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Insert image; Pakutaso
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