Who Rules Japan?

Who Rules Japan?

Popular Participation in the Japanese Legal Process

Edited by Leon Wolff, Luke Nottage and Kent Anderson

The dramatic growth of the Japanese economy in the postwar period, and its meltdown in the 1990s, has attracted sustained interest in the power dynamics underlying the management of Japan’s administrative state. Scholars and commentators have long debated over who wields power in Japan, asking the fundamental question: who really governs Japan? This important volume revisits this question by turning its attention to the regulation and design of the Japanese legal system. With essays covering the new lay-judge system in Japanese criminal trials, labour dispute resolution panels, prison policy, gendered justice, government lawyers, welfare administration and administrative transparency, this comprehensive book explores the players and processes in Japan’s administration of justice.

Chapter 4: In defence of Japan: government lawyers and judicial system reforms

Stephen Green and Luke Nottage

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


The June 2001 final Recommendations to the Japanese Prime Minister from the Justice System Reform Council (JSRC, shihokaikaku iinkai) included various reforms to the legal system geared to moving Japan from direct ex ante regulation by public authorities to ex post relief through the judicial system. The aim of this brave new deregulated world was to substitute more indirect socio-economic ordering with incentives for corporations and other actors to seek judicial relief. To realise the reforms, including building a justice system to warrant citizens’ trust and hence to facilitate their greater use of the legal system, the JSRC highlighted a concomitant need for increased financial and human resources. The JSRC acknowledged the need to coordinate the institutional base of the legal system while expanding human resources and establishing popular participation. In respect of human resources, the JSRC recommended raising both the ‘quality and quantity’ of legal professionals. In 1999, when the JSRC was established, the total number of legal professionals was 20,730; approximately one legal professional per 6,110 citizens. Given this situation another JSRC recommendation was to ‘aim, deliberately and as soon as possible, to secure 3000 new entrants to the legal profession annually’. Although not explicitly stated in the JSRC Recommendations the broad reforms implied an expectation that citizens would increasingly use the legal system to regulate their private relationships and their relationships with the state and its organs.

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