The Changing Role of Law in Japan
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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.
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Chapter 9: Regulatory enforcement of environmental law in Japan: an analysis of the implementation of the Water Pollution Control Act

Ayako Hirata


Social regulations, such as environmental regulations and safety regulations, are commonplace and still needed by society. For instance, to protect the environment, many environmental regulations require companies not to discharge excessive waste. To secure workers' safety in workplaces, such as factories, offices and nuclear power plants, the relevant regulations have extensive lists of requirements on workplace equipment and practices. Moreover, the demand for regulations has increased. Once people become aware of new environmental risks and safety risks through newly-revealed scientific research or tragic accidents, society demands new regulations to prevent those risks from happening again in the future. To understand the actual effects of a regulation, one needs to look at how regulations are implemented and enforced by the front line agencies after the enactment of the law. In order to achieve given policy goals, merely enacting laws is not enough. Rather, it is the enforcement process, where regulatory law is transformed into real action, that influences society and determines whether the policy goals are achieved or not. Despite its importance, socio-legal research in Japan has not devoted much effort to understanding the regulatory enforcement processes. Although a handful of studies examine regulatory enforcement in the Japanese context, their main focus is to report what enforcement practices are like; the analysis and explanation of the mechanism of enforcement activities is still needed.

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