Japan’s huge aid programme, one of its most accessible windows to the world, is the product of day-to-day decisions across the whole of the Japanese government system. Responsibility for aspects of aid policy is extremely diverse, involving eighteen central ministries and agencies plus several implementing agencies. Traditionally, competition between those bodies has confused the purposes of Japan’s aid and obstructed effective overall direction of the programme. Organisation has been diffuse and procedural routines have dominated. While there have been minor changes and reforms in recent years, bureaucratic politics and the influence of complex organisational rivalries have not been diluted. There has never been an aid ministry in Japan, although suggestions along those lines have been made since the 1950s. Nor is there any single line of political responsibility for aid, and major change to the system is therefore difficult. For one of Japan’s most important aspects of foreign policy, however, a better administrative system is necessary, one that is able to cope with increased demands on Japan’s aid now and into the future.