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    If lack of earthquake safety in your house doesn’t bother you, perhaps I could interest you in this bridge?

    A construction company is being blamed for covering up shoddy construction work on an expressway bridge in Toyama Prefecture to pass a government inspection, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Thursday.

    Matsumoto Construction Co., headquartered in Tonami in the prefecture, constructed smaller-than-normal piles built to support two piers of the expressway bridge while preparing foundations for the four-pier elevated structure at Awara in Himi, also in the prefecture, in 2004.

    In August of the same year, the company found the diameter of some piles was up to 10 percent short of the 120-centimeter standard set by the Construction and Transport Ministry.

    To clear a ministry inspection confirming the construction work conformed to standards, Matsumoto Construction secretly cast concrete into each faulty pile’s head–which remained above the ground and was examined in the official check–to make them appear up to the diameter standard.

    As construction of the four piers has already been completed, the extent to which the piles fall short of minimum standards is impossible to confirm. The ministry’s Hokuriku Regional Development Bureau, which has already excavated holes at the site to conduct sample checks on the piles, said the two piers were not in danger of collapse.

    The bureau, however, has not yet carried out a similar check on a third pier to verify its strength. It plans to look into the matter as soon as possible, officials said.

    Once again, I know this stuff happens everywhere–but it’s exactly the sort of profit-driven hanky-panky on the part of private businesses that we were told for decades didn’t happen in Japan because of the omnipresence of careful civil servants and everyone’s prioritization of group benefits.

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