Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The 1963 publication of Takeyoshi Kawashima’s “Dispute Resolution in Contemporary Japan” has indelibly influenced the study of law and conflict in postwar Japan. A mere nineteen text pages of Arthur Taylor von Mehren’s seven hundred–page volume, Law in Japan: The Legal Order in a Changing Society, Kawashima’s observations about the infrequency of litigation in Japan, and his emphasis on the sociocultural context of conflict, continue to resonate. As a noted scholar of Japanese law has succinctly written, “Virtually every scholarly work [about Japanese law] in the last thirty-five years has been framed in some way or another by the conceptual construct Professor Kawashima offered.” This chapter first identifies the central claims of Kawashima’s article and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. Next, it examines four types of scholarship on Japanese law that owe a significant debt to Kawashima: culturalist views of Japanese law, institutional analyses of the Japanese legal system, law and economics approaches to legal behavior in Japan, and case studies of Japanese law and society. In doing so, it further explores Kawashima’s most significant contributions as well as his oversights. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the recent movement to reform the legal system, which seems likely to bring about at least some of the changes to dispute resolution that Kawashima predicted. Both too much and too little have been read into Kawashima’s work. Its elegant simplicity hides a complex set of observations. At the same time, those observations can be clearly stated and evaluated.


dispute resolution, Japan, informal solutions to conflict, Takeyoshi Kawashima, Dispute Resolution in Contemporary Japan, legal system reform

Publication Title

Law in Japan: A Turning Point

Publication Citation

Chapter 3 in Foote, Law in Japan (forthcoming 2007)