J-WOTD: ヤメ検 (やめけん)

Kenjiやめけん (yameken)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

The phrase “yameken” is an abbreviation of the words 検事 (kenji, member of the public prosecutor’s office (検察庁, kensatsucho)) and やめた (yameta, to quit). Quite literally it refers to someone who has quit their role as a public prosecutor. More specifically, it almost always refers to someone who has passed the bar exam after quiting and become a lawyer. I guess it is a little like an elite version of “datsusara” (脱サラ) except it is a lot less common.

The concept is novel as the majority of people who go to work for the kensatsucho are bound to silence and often work there until they retire. It’s a well paid and well respected job so it is generally controversial for them to seek a career elsewhere – let alone when you consider that they have to study for the bar exam at the age of 40+. Those that don’t succeed at the bar exam have been known to seek a career on television by offering political commentary on large criminal cases.

Example of usage:
It was depressing watching that small-town yameken lawyer talk about Jail as though it was part of every day life.

Related vocab: 「ヤメ判」 and 「ヤメ警」

5 thoughts on “J-WOTD: ヤメ検 (やめけん)”

  1. I can’t say Ill be using it often, but nonetheless a very handy addition to the vocab opening a new window into the inner workings of the nipponese system. thank you.

  2. Hmm, yes, I also can not see an immediate need for this one, but as always, when I see a word here it always tends to stick in my mind, and every piece of Japan trivia comes in handy one day!

  3. Just a quick correction: As far as I know, prosecurtors don’t pass the bar exam after they quit, because they have already passed it. In Japan, after passing the bar exam, students then choose whether they want to be a lawyer, prosecutor or judge. Yameken just means the prosecutor who has changed horses mid-stream. Would like confirmation on this one, though.

  4. Well Mr. Taxman, as is too often the case with people who have anything to do with tax – you are unfortunately right. I’d originally found the whole concept of a 50 yo prosecutor studying for the bar exam to be kind of cool but after a few independent checks, it appears that you are right. These guys are just another version of Datsu-sara. 🙁

    When you pass the bar exam as a student you have the choice of either becoming a private lawyer, joining the public prosecutors office or becoming a judge. Apparently it only takes 2 weeks for a former prosecutor to register as a lawyer. They are often seen as “the lawyer” to have on your case for 刑事事件 (criminal cases). (It’s a shame that no-one told Blue’s friend in the taxi.) The whole theory goes that because they know the “inside” they can put pressure on their old kohais to gain the upper hand in cases. (Apparently there is quite a lot of tension between the police and the prosecutors and so the junior prosecutors are more than happy to do something if it screws the police officer staffed on the same case as them.)

    One of the more famous Yameken is Kazuo Kawakami. He was the head of the Tokyo Prosecutors office when Tanaka Kakuei was done for the Lockheed scandal. Pretty cool place to be. And so what is he doing these days, you might ask? He’s a タレント /TV star on NTV. Apparently he started giving them legal advice but one day ended up costaring with Kikukawa Rei on a TV show. Never missing an opportunity, NTV seem to be flogging his books on their (not very well made) website, too.

    Anyway, I’m getting off the track a little bit. Apologies to Gman and FG who found this a little obscure but let me reassure you, if you ever need to use it, you’ll be glad that you know it! (think: Blue’s mate in the taxi). Let’s be happy that you don’t know – and please don’t ask me how I came across the word at work…

  5. Follow up:
    I was just surfing on the web for some unrelated information and actually came across the official 検察 page. You’ve gotta take a look at this friendly page they use to explain what the kensatsu is to children. I like to call it:

    “The Kensatsu version of the birds and the bees”.

    In all seriousness, after I got past all of that ふり仮名 I actually found part four quite interesting (about the difference between the cops and the prosecutors office. See “keisatsu vs. kensatsu” if you didn’t know the difference either.

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