Japan and Civil Jury Trials
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Japan and Civil Jury Trials

The Convergence of Forces

Matthew J Wilson, Hiroshi Fukurai and Takashi Maruta

As societies around the world increasingly face complex challenges, effective solutions are at a premium. In response, reformers have advanced varied forms of jury systems as means of fostering positive political, economic, and social change. Many countries have recently integrated lay participation into their justice systems to effect fundamental societal change, advance public policymaking, and manifest popular sovereignty. This book showcases Japan’s successes and challenges in recently adopting a quasi-jury system for serious criminal trials, and advocates that the convergence of various forces makes this an ideal time for Japan to expand lay participation into the civil realm.
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Chapter 9: Civil jury trials in Okinawa – local illustration

Matthew J Wilson, Hiroshi Fukurai and Takashi Maruta


Except for a short period in Hong Kong when it operated under British colonial control, Asia is largely a stranger to civil jury trials. Outside the British sphere of influence, there is one remarkable exception in Japan however. On the Island of Okinawa, a small number of civil jury trials took place during the US military occupation. Our research unearthed four civil jury trials conducted in Okinawa between 1964 and 1972. These civil jury trials starkly contrasted with traditional bench trials in Japan. The fact that individuals without significant monetary resources or support against powerful domestic and foreign interests initiated lawsuits was surprising to say the least. Immediately after the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and the subsequent defeat of Japan, the US military established its civil administrative government on the island of Okinawa. American control of the island lasted until 1972 when Okinawa was finally returned to Japan’s control. During the period of US administrative control, a number of American-style jury trials occurred in both civil and criminal cases. Grand jury proceedings were held in Okinawa from 1963 to 1972 as well. This was significant given that the American drafters of the post-war Constitution of Japan neither guaranteed nor specifically referenced trial by jury in this foundational document. No author has sufficiently examined the topic of civil jury trials in Okinawa in socio-legal legal literature. This chapter aims to fill that scholarly gap.

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