Patients, Rights, and Protest in Contemporary Japan

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



“NEW RIGHTS” MOVEMENTS AND TRADITIONAL SOCIAL PROTEST Student activism in the 1960s, and citizens' movements organized around controversial social issues in the 1970s, presented a challenge to the paradigmatic view of Japanese legal behavior that emerged in the postwar period. That paradigm portrayed Japan as a unique, tradition-bound nation where the power of culture overwhelmed the importance of law or rights. Far from confirming Japan as a nation devoid of rights assertion, events of the 1960s and 1970s provided a patina of possibility to the image of Japan as a litigious, rights-oriented society. The transformation from an absence to an abundance of rights assertion, while more sudden than predicted, accorded with the expectations of legal scholar Kawashima Takeyoshi and others who had claimed that the forces of modernization would cause a shift in various aspects of Japanese legal behavior. As industrialization and urbanization proceeded, according to Kawashima, Japan increasingly would come to resemble a Western nation, and the assertion of rights (as well as their enforcement) would occupy an ever more prominent place in its social interactions. The emergence of citizens' movements in pursuit of rights temporarily focused the attention of Japanese legal sociologists on the possible transformation of traditional Japanese legal culture. By the late 1970s, however, the social movements that appeared to signal a profound shift in Japanese legal behavior had largely disappeared, and the transformation from a rights-denying to a rights-affirming society had seemingly stalled.

Publication Title

The Ritual of Rights in Japan