Since the late nineteenth century Japan has had a modern, Western-style bureaucracy for both national and local administra­ tion. Entrance to this bureaucracy has been secured on the basis of merit and competitive examinations. The Japanese bureaucracy introduced in the Meiji period aspired, like its British counterpart, to be the impartial servant of the political rulers of the country. However, a distinctive pattern of bureaucratic operation has evolved in Japan; its relations with other elites and its political role have in some respects been quite unlike those of the British civil service. Factors which have contributed to this include the heritage of Chinese influence, the unity of administration and politics in the early Meiji period, the Japanese social background and the constitutional framework within which the bureaucracy operated up to 1945.