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The Changing Role of Law in Japan

The Changing Role of Law in Japan

Empirical Studies in Culture, Society and Policy Making

Edited by Dimitri Vanoverbeke, Jeroen Maesschalck, David Nelken and Stephan Parmentier

The Changing Role of Law in Japan offers a comparative perspective on the changing role of law in East Asia, discussing issues such as society, cultural values, access to the legal system and judicial reform. This innovative book places Japan in the wider context, juxtaposed with Europe, rather than the US, for the first time.

Chapter 11: Institutional change and judicial review in contemporary Japan

Tsukasa Mihira

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, asian politics and policy, law - academic, asian law, politics and public policy, asian politics, public policy


The Supreme Court of Japan (SCJ) is known for its extreme self-restraint in judicial review and has long been criticized by constitutional and socio-legal scholars for not fulfilling its role as a protector of human rights (Okudaira 1995, pp. 2, 97-8; Hatajiri 1997, p. 498; Abe 1997, p. 7). Since the turn of the century, however, the SCJ has begun reviewing legislative and administrative acts more strictly than before, to a point that major constitutional law scholars have come to describe the recent Court as 'dynamic' (Aoyagi 2009, p. 1; _sawa 2010, p. 287). Court observers increasingly find 'activist tendency' (Tomatsu 2008, p. 388) in its decisions and point out the potential of the Court's 'arousal' (Shishido 2007, p. 24). Admittedly the Court's overall exercise of judicial review might still be far from vigorous from a comparative perspective, but more active engagement in judicial review by the Court can be observed. So far most research relating to this development tends to be legal or normative: doctrinal analysis and evaluations of the innovations in and implications of the recent Court's decisions. A political or empirical analysis of the background factors of this trend, however, would also be indispensable to a deeper understanding of the nature and breadth of the changes in progress.

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