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A Zenekon ( Jap. ゼネコン , from the English. Gene ral Con tractor , literally " general contractor ") is called in Japan a very large construction company .

A Zenekon typically carries out all activities associated with the construction of a building : It is often the building owner , architect , material supplier, actual construction company, and also broker and management company after completion and thus significantly more than a German general or even total contractor . Recently, at least in Tokyo Prefecture , it has also been able to issue its own building permit (it is therefore its own building authority ). The similar principle applies to zenecons in privatized civil engineering .

The five largest zenekons, called super zenekons ( ス ー パ ー ゼ ネ コ ン , Sūpā Zenekon ), are called Kajima , Taisei , Shimizu , Obayashi and Takenaka .

The zenecons have more power than comparable Western construction companies and are part of the “iron triangle”, a close informal interplay between ministerial bureaucracy, politics and business.

Many uneconomical buildings in Japan are attributed to the pressure of the zenecons on politics, such as bridges between lonely islands, the magnificent stadiums of the 2002 soccer World Cup in the middle of no man's land, which were built for three games and are now in ruins, or the many new airports such as the Saga airport or the Shizuoka airport , which are then hardly served by the airlines because they are too close to other, more established airports.

The zenecons reached their heyday in the Japanese economic bubble at the end of the 1980s . Its decadent image in Japan also dates from this period; It is a well-known rumor that after the conclusion of a new major order, Zenekons invite the entire workforce to brothels.

Because of their financial and political power and the often brutal methods with which they intimidate construction opponents, the zenecons are also often associated with the yakuza .


  • Brian Woodall: Japan under Construction. Corruption, Politics, and Public Works . University of California Press, Berkeley, California 1996 ( cdlib.org ).

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