Photo/IllutrationAn incinerator where a few hundred ballots cast in the Shiga No. 4 district in the October Lower House election were apparently burned (The Asahi Shimbun)

An account written by a tax examiner opened my eyes to the sheer variety of tricks people use to conceal damning evidence on tax evasion.

A Chinese restaurant owner, who received a visit from a taxman, hastily buried his "inkan" seal in flour. The seal was for a bank account under a bogus name, which he was using to hide some of his earnings.

"Datsuzei Hiroku" (Tax evasion confidential report), by Manabu Otsu, also cites examples of a bank passbook being sealed in a plastic bag and hidden in a toilet tank, and a bond certificate tucked away inside a cushion cover.

But burning evidence is probably the ultimate recourse. A pub proprietor’s daily morning routine was to go out in the yard of his home and burn all the sales slips from the previous day, according to the book.

Obviously, all these deeds are to be frowned upon.

But just as insidious was the destruction of evidence that came to light in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, where a member of the local election administration commission was found to have taken cast ballots to his home and burned them.

Last autumn, election administrators realized that a few hundred ballots were missing when Lower House election votes cast in the Shiga No. 4 district were being counted. Not wanting to delay vote-counting, they decided to treat the missing ballots as blank votes.

After all the work was finished, however, an unopened ballot box was discovered. Rather than be caught in their fraud, they apparently decided to eliminate the evidence.

Democracy is said to be based on the idea that it is better to count heads than to bash them. It means that a majority decision is preferable to violence.

For the Koka voters whose ballots were treated as blank votes and then incinerated, what happened was tantamount to getting their heads bashed.

First, why were election administrators unable to apologize that there would be a delay in vote-counting? When the unopened ballot box was discovered, why couldn't they say, "We found the missing ballots. We apologize”?

The ballots were not the only important things reduced to ashes.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 8

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.