June 16 New York Times reported the stepping-down of Tokyo Mayor, Yoichi Masuzoe who was forced to resign on the allegation of mixing of “public and personal” in his spending, which was defined as “Inappropriate though not illegal” by the third party investigators.

His spending included reimbursements of a few hundred dollars for restaurant meals, a few thousand dollars for his family’s hotel stays and purchase of artworks and books including comics and games, tools for writing Chinese calligraphy and Chinese suit he wears when he’s engaged in writing, and so on.

New York Times wrote:

The public’s antagonism appears to have deepened. The word that has perhaps been most frequently used to describe the episode is sekoi, meaning cheap or petty. “I’m angry. This is sekoi — too sekoi,” Shigeru Kamibayashi, a member of the assembly from the right-leaning Liberal Democratic Party said.


I think Japanese word, “Sekoi” is a conversion of the adjective “kose-kose,” meaning “fussy” according to Kenkyusha’s English Japanese Dictionary, and it connotes an aggregated attributes of meticulous but short-sighted, small-minded, pettily calculated, stingy, and selfish, as shown in the Mayor's behavior of reimbursing the purchases of anime books by public expense as well as his stays in a suite in de-lux hotels like the Waldorf Astoria, whenever he makes an overseas trip – He spent US$ 1.6 million of public money in the last six time gorgeous trips to five countries since February last year.

Is there a word or phrase close to “Sekoi” to describe the character as stated above other than “cheap” and “petty”?

  • pad (one's)/the expense account, if you'd like more than single words.
    – NVZ
    Jun 17, 2016 at 23:40
  • @NVZ. I understand "pad" describes "the deed" of making fraudulent expenditures by using public or others' money. But I'm looking for the word to descibe "the character" of person who makes such a petty and unmoral conduct. Can youcome up with any thought? Jun 18, 2016 at 0:00
  • 1
    calculating (person): "If you describe someone as calculating, you disapprove of the fact that they deliberately plan to get what they want, often by hurting or harming other people. " dictionary.reverso.net/english-cobuild/calculating%20person ; "2: marked by prudent analysis or by shrewd consideration of self-interest" merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calculating ; "Adj. 1. calculating - used of persons; "the most calculating and selfish men in the community" " thefreedictionary.com/calculating
    – Kris
    Jun 18, 2016 at 7:39
  • @Kris Also consider the variant: calculative. This paper The Ethical and Social Consequences of a Calculative Mindset seems to use the word in a similar way to Yoichi Oishi's explanation of the Japanese word sekoi.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 18, 2016 at 15:33
  • @Lawrence Yes. Both calculating type and calculative type are used interchangeably, though I'd think the latter is (more/ necessarily) negative.
    – Kris
    Jun 19, 2016 at 12:45

7 Answers 7




a person who is aggressively engaged in or preoccupied with making or saving money.

I think this has the right "small-minded" connotation.


I'll suggest shabby (mentioned in passing by Papa Poule). From CDO:

shabby adjective (NOT FAIR)

C2 ............... not honourable or fair; unacceptable:

She spoke out about the shabby way the case had been handled.

The company's treatment of women was shabby.



verb 3. North American Defraud by adding false items to (an expenses claim or bill)

"passed expenses for government work reaped billions of dollars for the Mafia."

Pad (one's)/the expense account — TFD

To make unnecessary or fraudulent charges to one's company expense accounts for one's personal use.

"Have you been padding your expense account, Johnson? You're going to have to explain some of these mysterious out-of-state charges."



dictionary.com definition:

2. unable or unwilling to act prudently; shortsighted.

3. lacking tolerance or understanding; narrow-minded.


1. wise or judicious in practical affairs; sagacious; discreet or circumspect; sober.

2. careful in providing for the future; provident:

Oxford dictionaries definition:

Lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight:

the government still has a myopic attitude to public spending


persnickety (or pernickety)

dictionary.com definition:

1. overparticular; fussy.

2. snobbish or having the aloof attitude of a snob.


1. a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.



I think myopic is the more fitting word here because it covers a lack of prudence + shortsightedness + small-minded, but it doesn't cover 'meticulous' so much.

Persnickety covers 'meticulous' and 'selfish' (sort-of), but doesn't cover 'small-minded' or 'short-sighted'.

I don't think a word exists that covers all the things you mentioned, but 'myopic' seems like your best bet.

edit: here's another option:


dictionary.com definition:

1. not provident; lacking foresight; incautious; unwary.

2. neglecting to provide for future needs.


4. economical; frugal; thrifty.

Oxford dictionary:

Not having or showing foresight; spendthrift or thoughtless


A person who spends money in an extravagant, irresponsible way.


'Improvident' may just be the most suitable word.


I don't think any one English word can describe what "sekoi" means as it seems to have multiple connotations in it.

The first word that comes to my mind is disgusting:

causing disgust; offensive to the physical, moral, or aesthetic taste.

or unethical:

  1. lacking moral principles; unwilling to adhere to proper rules of conduct.
  2. not in accord with the standards of a profession.


I know there are different Japanese words for "disgusting" and "unethical", but I think "disgusting and unethical" is close to what "sekoi" means in the context.


In U.S. English the term nickel-and-dime might suit the situation. Here is the entry for this term as a transitive verb in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003):

nickel-and-dime vt ... (1961) 1 : to impair, weaken, or defeat piecemeal (as through a series of small incursions or excessive attention to minor details) 2 : to treat (as a person or situation) by paying excessive attention to small amounts of money often with detrimental effect

If, indeed, sekoi means "meticulous but short-sighted, small-minded, pettily calculated, stingy, and selfish," I think that definition 1 above may be apt: the mayor systematically "nickel-and-dimed" the public treasury to defray his expenses. And so might definition 2: the mayor "nickel-and-dimed" his way to unseemly levels of reimbursement over the course of several overseas trips.

Another potentially relevant term is penny ante. Again the Eleventh Collegiate:

penny-ante adj (1865) SMALL-TIME [elsewhere in MW defined as "insignificant in performance, scope, or standing : PETTY"], TWO-BIT [elsewhere in MW defined as "cheap or trivial of its kind : PETTY, SMALL-TIME"]

penny ante n (1855) : poker played for very low stakes

So you might refer to the mayor's "small-time avarice" or "two-bit cupidity"—although keeping close accounts seems to have resulted in quite a windfall for him from municipal coffers overall.


The context in which “sekoi” is used and discussed on this Narkive thread is

“… a manga, in which one criminal gang has annoyed another criminal gang by stealing a consignment of goods, and the character who is speaking is apparently about to deliver a hand grenade…” ...

... and I feel that “greedy” (offered by Tad Perry) was a good suggested translation for that “greedy criminal” context and that it might also go well when the context involves a greedy politician who has not quite become a dirty one yet (i.e., “Inappropriate though not illegal”)
(example use of “greedy politician” [albeit, surrounded by mistakes in English] from Iran: A Civilization Under Siege by Mehdi Behpou, via ‘Google Books’)

greedy adjective (from Cambridge Dictionaries Online)
wanting a lot more food, money, etc. than you need:
greedy, selfish people

If "greedy" (or any of the literal translations of the many meanings of "sekoi") is too specific to capture alone the full notion of "sekoi" in this context, there's an interesting looser translation in parenthesis at the very end of this relevant German-language blog (Tabibito) entry (with its machine-generated English translation here).
The blog's author offers “tacky” as a possible English translation of “sekoi” in this particular context and I think it could be used either alone:
“I’m angry. This is tacky — too tacky” ...
... to capture the basic character of the Mayor’s behavior in one word or, perhaps preferably, as an adjective to modify most of the noun forms of the words generally associated with “sekoi”:
“I’m angry. This is tacky greed/greediness/selfishness/pettiness/stinginess — too much tacky greed/greediness/selfishness/pettiness/stinginess.”

You could perhaps also consider the noun-form of “tacky” alone = ”tackiness”:
“I’m angry. This is just plain tackiness — too much tackiness, plain and simple”

tacky (from *Dictionary[dot]com – second meaning)
[tak-ee] adjective, tackier, tackiest.
1. not tasteful or fashionable; dowdy.
2. shabby in appearance; shoddy: …
3. crass; cheaply vulgar; tasteless; crude.
4. gaudy; flashy; showy.

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