Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



In this chapter I offer a preliminary assessment of a quickly moving target—legal reform and its impact on rights in Japan. Although a broad consensus has emerged among interested parties that at least some degree of reform is desirable, there is significant disagreement about the goals of reform, and also about the likelihood that it will achieve certain objectives. Some commentators believe that the Japanese legal system is on the cusp of a “revolution” that will shore up long-neglected rights and create new entitlements. Others predict that the consequences of reform will be modest; and they despair that aggrieved individuals will remain unable to obtain legal representation, while Japanese companies will be at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace. This essay charts a middle course. It notes that the source of many of Japan’s new legal institutions is the United States and Europe, but demurs from the view that the world’s legal systems are converging. Change is afoot in Japan, it argues, but its consequences are likely to be more muted, and have a different complexion, than many have suggested. Rather than producing a revolution in the law, current reforms will lead to an incremental shift, with the Japanese legal system remaining a distinctive blend of indigenous process and practices influenced by Western doctrines and dispositions.


Japan, Japanese, legal system reform, goals, indigenous process and practices

Publication Title

Emerging Concepts of Rights in Japanese Law

Publication Citation

in Harry Scheiber and Laurent Mayali, eds, Emerging Rights in Japanese Law (Berkeley: UC Press, forthcoming 2007).