Jokyu Kokumin: Japan’s Hidden Class System

The Japanese say that there is a class system abroad, but not in Japan. Strictly speaking, they used to say so. These days, the media has often reported on the unfair rights that the upper-class people secretly received. People call those privileged as “Jokyu Kokumin”.

What Is Jokyu Kokumin?

The term “Jokyu Kokumin” is a combination of the words “Jokyu (= upper-class)” and “Kokumin (= citizen)”. It was initially internet slang. The term was born during the selection of the Tokyo Olympic emblem in 2015. When allegations arose that the chosen Olympic emblem was a plagiarised design, the organizing committee announced the withdrawal. And the word was triggered by the statement of the spokesman.

“From the expert’s point of view, it is a completely different design, but from the ORDINARY CITIZEN’s point of view, it is difficult to understand.”

It became a hot topic for a while, with many people writing on the Internet such as, “Is he saying it is a lofty design that the general public cannot understand?”. or “It’s a design that only upper-class citizens will understand.”.

Current Status in Japan

The word itself was born in 2015, but four years later, in 2019, the more shocking incident occurred 2019. It was a tragic road accident in Tokyo, commonly known as “Higashi-Ikebukuro runaway car accident”. A car driven by an 87-year-old man went out of control, injuring nine people and killing two, a mother and her child.

Despite the fact that a bus driver was arrested in Kobe the day after that incident for a similar fatal accident, the man in the Higashi-Ikebukuro accident wasn’t. It turned out that he was a former bureaucrat who had also received a medal of honor. There were many protests from the public that the police and the state were protecting upper-class citizens.

Moreover, the public outrage reached its peak when he made the ridiculous statement that he was driving above the speed limit at the time of the accident because “I was going to be late for a reservation at a French restaurant”. He also confessed that the Toyota car’s brakes he was driving were broken. But the inspector found nothing wrong with it and even found out that there was no sign that the driver had stepped on the brake pedal.

Eventually, the word “Jokyu Kokumin Upper-class Citizen” was nominated for the 2019 Buzzword of the Year in Japan. In addition, a best-selling author even published a book called “Upper-class / Lower-class Citizens”.

Why People Are So Mad These Days?

Many people are fed up with the growing disparity of recent years. And their pent-up anger is unleashed by the revelation of the hidden privileged class that has been rumored to exist. Also, the development of social media has made it easier for individuals to disseminate information. It may be a factor that the authority is less likely to have the power to hide something unfairly. However, this movement is causing another problem that we should not overlook.

Family’s Are Under Threat of Over-aggressive Protest

The family of the man who caused the accident began receiving harassing phone calls and letters every day, saying “This family was just as guilty as him, and you should receive punishment too.”. In the wake of COVID-19, there has been a problem with the “Jisyuku Keisatsu (= Social Distancing Police)“, who expose personal information and make threats, as we live in a world where individuals can impose excessive sanctions.


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