Who Rules Japan?
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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.
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Chapter 5: Administering welfare in an ageing society

Trevor Ryan


Japan is the most rapidly ageing nation in the world. This brings with it unprecedented challenges for government in attempts to secure the welfare of all members of society at all stages of their lives. This chapter traces some of the trends in law and regulation that have occurred in Japan in response to meeting the challenges of demographic change. It argues that demographic change has catalysed new interfaces among the state, individuals and communities despite a liberal ‘renewal’ seeking to clarify and circumscribe these interfaces. These interfaces have in turn produced hybrids of public and private law. In response, some Japanese legal theorists have attempted to fill a vacuum of doctrine to conceptualise these hybrids. Moreover, these theorists attempt to map the way for courts to adjust to a new balance between liberalism and market forces on the one hand, and state paternalism and regulatory proliferation on the other. After briefly describing Japan’s demographic situation, I discuss the challenges to liberalism posed by regulatory proliferation (driven in part by demographic imperatives). I argue that liberal renewal and the growth of regulation are movements that can accommodate one another. I then trace examples of such accommodation in Japan’s legal tradition, which has been characterised by a balance of legal formalism and sensitivity to context. I attempt to demonstrate that recent liberal reforms to administrative law sit comfortably within this tradition. As case studies, I then present legal developments in the childcare and retirement pension industries.

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