About this project
-To meet the demand for information on Japanese laws to the international community.
The Transparency of Japanese Law Project aims to provide legal information on international transactions in Japan to the overseas community by organizing and translating information on Japanese legislation, case law, and doctrines into English. As foreign direct investment from overseas (flow base and stock base) has remained relatively low in Japan when compared to other advanced nations, it is hoped that providing relevant information will increase foreign investment in Japan and promote Japan's international commercial transactions with other countries.
The project also seeks to propose, formulate, and enrich draft legislation, treaties, and bills relating to international transactions and commercial law. To this end, we plan to set up a general portal to Japanese laws in English, which will be accessible online to visitors from around the globe.
2. Basic Problem and Awareness in this Specified Field Study
Since the collapse of Japan's so-called bubble economy, the 1990s come to be known as the "Lost Decade" of growth, when Japan was considered to be a "single loser" in the global economy. Even after the Lost Decade, Japan still struggles to overcome its deflationary economy and faces difficulties maintaining institutional systems that were built upon the assumption of everlasting economic growth.
Under these circumstances, increasing foreign capital inflow has become
one of Japan's most important economic policy initiatives. This policy will
be the basis for any future economic measure. In line with this policy,
on March 27, 2003, The Japan Investment Council(JIC), then headed by Prime
Minister Koizumi, promulgated a program for the "Promotion of Foreign
Direct Investment into Japan." The JIC identified five important subject
fields, one of which was "Outputting Information Inside and Outside
of Japan". The JIC subsequently appointed the Japan External Trade
Organization (JETRO) to manage its information window. However, the question
lies in the sufficiency of the information that the JIC should provide to
the overseas community.
A careful look at the past ten years in terms of legal systems, reveals that this decade could also be described as a rather "fruitful decade." This is because many important laws relevant to international transactions, including the Corporation Law, bankruptcy related laws, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Arbitration Law, and the Patent Law, have been amended substantially during the past ten years. Other important laws, including rules concerning the application of laws, are also on the waiting list for amendment.
To promote foreign investment in Japan, easy access to relevant information is essential in order to allow foreign investors to calculate business opportunities and legal risks in Japan. Thus, with foreign investors in mind, it is necessary that Japan provides more information on recently enacted laws and regulations relating to international transactions. In reality, however, Japan has failed to build up an institutional system that provides such legal information to global users.
Providing the necessary information, including not only the text of the
legislation, but also their commentaries, relevant case law and descriptions
are essential. Despite the fact that some laws contain problems of interpretation
and application due to ambiguity, only a limited number of laws and some
fragmented introductions of pertinent case law have been translated into
English, mainly by scholars and private firms that have been involved in
formulating the legislation. Furthermore, not all of the relevant commentaries
have been translated into English.
Thus, it must be noted that no detailed descriptions of Japanese laws have ever been translated into any foreign language. In other words, although Japan has worked hard to adjust and improve its legal infrastructure over the past decade, its achievements have been neither arranged into well-organized information for global users nor sufficiently provided to the overseas community. As a consequence, foreign investors and businesspersons still consider Japan to be a black box in terms of legal infrastructure.
In addition, because of the urgent need to enact certain legislation and amendments, Japanese lawmakers tend to focus on domestic cases without sufficient consideration for international cases which are of particular relevance to foreign investors (i.e. cases involving foreign investor legal relations) .
Furthermore, no effort has been made so far to identify issues or areas in the laws that require adjustments and supplemental provisions. As a result, Japan seems to have lagged behind on the preparation and formulation of bills which are necessary for encouraging greater foreign direct investment into Japan. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that Japan needs to solve the abovementioned situations, to provide more information directed to the overseas community, and to propose further measures to achieve this goal.
It is common knowledge that any information on the statutory law alone is not enough to understand the structure and functions of a legal system. In a case where provisions of a law are simply stipulated, just reading the provisions will not necessarily lead to a correct interpretation of their meaning and function unless further information is provided concerning the applicable judicial precedents which interpret them or supplement any deficiencies in the legislation. This is why we need to contribute to solving the abovementioned problems through an academic approach.
To meet such needs, working in a specific legal field, independent from
other legal fields, will not be sufficient. What we need is a cross-field
approach that covers diverse laws and regulations relating to international
transactions. In view of this problem, the project study teams have picked
eleven project studies, in which researchers of Civil Law, Commercial Law,
Intellectual Property Law, financial laws, and other practical laws as well
as researchers of private international law have formed teams for joint
studies. As any law relating to international transactions intrinsically
covers more than one legal field, coordinating researchers of domestic law
with those of international law will be vital to achieve greater research
These project study teams are coordinated and steered by the summation team. In addition to this, we have invited three project advisers, from inside and outside Japan to give suggestions and recommendations from a broader perspective. The names of study members, the summation team, and project advisers are to be found on their project websites. (Some members may be replaced during their sabbatical year.)
3. Present and Future Situation of this Specified Field Study
This six-year study project began in the autumn of 2004, with Grants-in-Aid
for Scientific Research by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science
Since 2005, have undertaken to enrich our website of this project by uploading English information in different legal fields.
By 2009, the final year of this project, our portal site will contain legislation, case law, outlines of relevant laws, mini-descriptions, and other legal information, all of which will be provided in English. Furthermore, all this information will be easily accessible through a search function within the website. Moreover, we will be seeking new blueprints in anticipation of the completion of this study project. For detailed information regarding the upload schedule of each project study team, pursuant to the total objective set in 2005, please click on the sections of the corresponding project study team pages at the top page of this website.
Toshiyuki Kono, Professor of Law, Kyushu University
(This is a revision of my former paper which appeared in the Japanese-language circulation of Jurist No. 1284 issued on February 15, 2005.)