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 13: What keeps plaintiffs away from the court? An analysis of antitrust litigation in Japan, Europe and the US

Simon Vande Walle


Litigation is said to be less frequent in Japan than in other developed countries. In popular discourse and in some scholarship, this is often attributed to Japanese culture and, more specifically, Japanese society's negative attitude towards litigation. This idea is part of the 'classical view' on the role of law and litigation in Japan described in the introduction to the book. For decades scholars have debated whether this idea is a myth or reality (e.g., Haley 1978, Cole 2007) but no consensus has emerged. Perhaps this should come as no surprise, since litigation occurs in response to very diverse types of conflict. The factors that determine whether people go to court are different depending on whether they are facing a divorce, a traffic accident, a patent dispute or environmental pollution (cf. Murayama 2009, pp. 277, 284-5). Hence, identifying the impact of culture - however defined - on the volume of litigation as a whole is probably an impossible task. Instead, focusing on specific types of litigation is more likely to allow us to identify the factors that determine litigation rates. In line with this idea, this chapter examines a specific type of litigation, namely private lawsuits in response to violations of antitrust law (competition law) or, in short, private antitrust litigation. Through this lens, the chapter challenges the classical view on Japanese litigiousness and the role of culture.

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