National Report

Summary of Contents


1.1. Form of government

Japan is a unitary state and its government is a constitutional monarchy. The government was established under the sovereignty of the people and the independence of the three branches of government – legislative, administrative and judicial powers – was emphasized. Additionally, the Cabinet was established to be the main body to exercise administrative power within the basic framework of the Parliamentary Cabinet system.

1.2. Demographics, ethnic groups, languages and religion

1.2.1. Demographics

The total population of Japan was 126.23 million people as of June 1, 2019.[1]

Japan’s population has begun to decline notably since 2010. The number of the population aged 65 and over is 35.15 million. [2] Japan now has an aging rate of 27.7%, and is categorized as a super-aged society.[3] Japan is currently the most aged society in the world.

1.2.2. Ethnic groups

The number of mid to long-term foreign residents in Japan was 2,511,567, and the number of foreign special permanent residents was 317,849 as of June 2019. Adding these two numbers together, the total number of foreign residents was 2,829,416, an increase of 522,028 (22.6%) compared to June 2016.

Regarding, the number of foreign residents by nationality/region as of June 2019, China marked the largest number at 786,241, accounting for 27.8% of the total. China was followed by Republic of Korea at 451,543 (16.0%), Vietnam at 371,755 (13.1%), the Philippines at 277,409 (9.8%), and Brazil at 206,886 (7.3%).[4]

The Ainu people are an indigenous people who have lived around the northern part of the Japanese Archipelago, especially in Hokkaido, with a unique language as well as religious and cultural distinctiveness[5]. The population of Ainu people living in Hokkaido is estimated at about 17,000, or 0.4% of the region’s total, according to the 2013 survey by the Hokkaido prefectural government[6].

In 2019 Japan enacted legislation aimed at protecting and promoting the culture of the Ainu ethnic minority through financial assistance, while at the same time stipulating for the first time that they are an indigenous people.[7]

1.2.3. Language

The official language is Japanese.

1.2.4. Religion

Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. The two religions have co-existed relatively harmoniously and have even complemented each other to a certain degree.

1.3. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the last ten years.

GDP[8] (Billion Yen, Figure in parentheses is billion USD, 1 USD = 110 Yen):

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012










2013 2014 2015 2016 2017










1.4. Gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita GNI (PPP)

GNI (PPP) per capita in 2018 is 44,420.[9]

1.5. Inequality index and poverty line (percentage of population deemed to be living in poverty)

Inequality Index 2018; Japan’s ranking per pillar, and overall[10]:

  Spending on health, education and social protection Progressivity of tax policy Labour rights and minimum wages Overall CRI rank
Ranking 10 30 20 11
Score 0.690 0.679 0.848 0.739

The poverty rate was 15.7% as of 2015.[11]

1.6. Life expectancy at birth

The average life expectancy of both men and women in the country hit a new record in 2018. The average life expectancy of women in Japan increased to 87.32 years, up 0.05 from 2017. For men, the number rose to 81.25, 0.16 higher than in 2017[12]. Japan has been at or near the top of the list for decades.

1.7. Expected years of schooling, mean years of schooling, and Human Development Index (HDI)

Human Development Index and its components of Japan[13]:

HDI Rank Human Development

Index (HDI)

Life expectancy

at birth

Expected years

of schooling

Mean years

of schooling

Gross national income

(GNI) per capita

HDI rank
2017 Value (years) (years) (years) (2011 PPP $) 2016
19 0.909 83.9 15.2 12.8 38,986 19


3.1. Criminal Procedure

3.1.1. Main steps of criminal investigation process and paths to be adopted at the end[1]

Authority responsible for criminal investigation: The main investigative authorities consist of police officers and public prosecutors. Police officers are the primary investigative authority and thus represent the main power.

Arrest: Three types of arrest are defined as follows under the code of criminal procedure:

(i) an ordinary arrest based on a warrant issued by a judge in advance;

(ii) an emergency arrest to physically restrain a suspect for a serious crime when a warrant from a judge cannot be obtained in advance due to the urgency of the situation, with the request for a warrant submitted to a judge immediately after the arrest; and

(iii) an on-the-spot arrest, without an arrest warrant, to physically restrain a suspect when the person is apprehended in the act of committing or having just committed an offense, and there is no doubt about his/her identity.

Detention: Detention of a suspect is a measure applied following an arrest and is restricted to arrested suspects only.  Only a public prosecutor can request a detention. Detention of a suspect is permitted when there is probable cause to suspect he/she committed a crime, and if any of the following apply (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 207, paragraph (1) and Article 60, paragraph (1)):

(i) the suspect has no fixed residence;

(ii) there is probable cause to suspect that the suspect may conceal or destroy evidence; or

(iii) the suspect fled or there is probable cause to suspect that he/she may flee.

The judge receives the request and reviews the documents and other supporting evidence, and if he/she determines that the requirements for detention have been fulfilled after notifying the suspect of his/her right to remain silent and right to appoint defense counsel and after directly listening to any explanation from the suspect, the judge may then issue a detention warrant.

The detention period prior to the institution of prosecution is limited to 10 days from the day on which the detention is requested (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 208, paragraph (1)). However, a judge is permitted to extend this period by up to a further 10 days upon request from the public prosecutor if unavoidable circumstances exist, such as when further investigation is necessary (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 208, paragraph (2)).

Legal deadline for completing police investigation phase: There is no legal deadline regarding a suspect who is neither arrested nor detained.

Regarding a suspect who is arrested or detained, the period of physical restraint is strictly stipulated under the law. When a suspect is arrested by a police officer, the police officer must refer the suspect to a public prosecutor together with the documents and articles of evidence within 48 hours of his/her arrest (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 203, paragraph (1)). The public prosecutor who receives such a referral must determine whether to release the suspect or request a judge to detain the suspect for further physical restraint within 24 hours of receiving the suspect, with the period of physical restraint not exceeding 72 hours (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 205, paragraph (1), (2) and (4)).

Chart 2. Organizational chart: main steps of criminal investigation process

3.1.2. Main steps in criminal prosecution proceedings[2]

Authority responsible for criminal prosecution: In Japan, there is no allowance for criminal prosecutions to be instituted by victims or any person other than the public prosecutor.  Public prosecutors have wide-ranging prosecutorial discretion in Japan, and there are two justice systems in place to remedy any abuse or illegal exercising of that discretion by public prosecutors.

The first, adopted in 2009, is an examination by the Committee for Inquest of Prosecution (検察審査会) comprised of 11 members selected by lottery from among Japanese nationals. The committee investigates whether or not a public prosecutor’s decision not to institute prosecution was appropriate, based on claims by the victim or a party concerned in criminal cases, or under its own authority. The purpose of this system is to reflect public opinion, and suspects could be prosecuted under certain conditions.

Another system is a quasi-prosecution procedure(準起訴手続) (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 262 et seq.). Plaintiffs and accusers may demand that a trial be held in court if they are dissatisfied with a public prosecutor’s decision not to institute prosecution where the crime involves a government employee. If it is judged that the demand has sufficient grounds, a public attorney appointed by the court exercises the same function as a public prosecutor.

Arrest/detention of suspect during criminal prosecution: During criminal prosecution, the suspect can be detained for two months and the period can be renewed continuously every one month until the end of prosecution proceedings if there is probable cause to suspect that the suspect may conceal or destroy evidence and/or there is probable cause to suspect that he/she may flee.

However, during the criminal prosecution phase, the suspect can apply for bail on the condition of payment of bail money.  Under current legislation, bail is not available to suspects before they are prosecuted.  Article 89 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that when bail is requested, it must be granted except in certain cases, such as when the accused committed a serious crime and there is probable cause to suspect that the accused may conceal or destroy evidence.

Criminal judgments in absentia: There are no criminal judgments in absentia unless the suspects waive their respective rights to be present.

Legal deadline for completing criminal prosecution proceedings: A legal deadline for completing criminal prosecution proceedings is not stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, and there is a possibility that the period of physical restraint can be too long and restrict freedoms of a suspect, while the criminal proceeding is continuing.

Chart 3. Organizational chart: main steps in criminal prosecution proceedings

3.1.3. Extent to which criminal legal system is a rule of law compliant system that respects due process[3]

Interrogation without presence of an attorney: An interrogation is carried out in a closed room called an “interrogation room” in the police station or in the public prosecutor’s office. The suspect may be subjected to many interrogations for a long time without the presence of an attorney. By an amendment of the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2016, a system of audio/video recordings of the process of interrogations was introduced commencing no later than June 2019. However, the cases subject to this system are limited to cases to be tried by the “SAIBAN-IN (lay judge system)” and those in which public prosecutors conduct their own investigations. As a result, this system is not applicable to most cases.

So-called “Hostage Justice”: When compared to the other countries, the period of detention before indictment in Japan is relatively long, which can extend for up to 23 days after arrest. In theory, any un-sentenced person must be detained at a penal institution (detention center) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, but in reality many are detained in detention facilities (detention rooms in police stations, daiyo-kangoku) operated by the investigating authority. Such persons are kept in the custody of the police night and day for interrogation. Bail is not easily granted unless one admits to the charges. As the detention period becomes longer, the  detainee, who has not been sentenced, is increasingly isolated from his or her daily work and home and suffers incalculable disadvantage. It is not uncommon that suspects admit charges for which they are not responsible, only in order to escape from the long detention. As a result, such suspects, after being convicted, must go through great difficulties for a long period of time to clear false charges against them.

Recent resolution of Japan Federation of Bar Associations: The Japan Federation of Bar Associations made a resolution in October 2019 that (i) interrogations without the presence of an attorney, when such presence is requested by the suspect or attorney, should be banned, and (ii) legislation effecting such ban should be made and implemented.

3.2. Civil Procedure

3.2.1. Description of main civil procedure and family, labor procedure

Chart 4. Jurisdiction and Procedure of Civil Cases[4]

The judge generally has a wide discretion and an active position in order to ensure proper and prompt progress of the litigation.

The judge is generally unable to pursue evidence himself/herself with some exceptions.  The judge may commission a government agency or public office, a foreign government agency or public office, or school, chamber of commerce, exchange or any other organization to conduct a necessary examination. The judge may commission a government agency or public office, a foreign government agency or public office, or a juridical person that has adequate equipment to give expert testimony when he or she deems necessary.

With regard to allegations or evidence that a party has advanced outside the appropriate time intentionally or by gross negligence, the court, when it finds that such allegations or evidence will delay the conclusion of the suit, may order dismissal of the suit upon petition or by its own authority.

In order to clarify the matters related to the suit, the judge may ask questions of a party or encourage him or her to show proof with regard to factual or legal matters. There are different views regarding whether a judge may assist an unrepresented party to be reversal of victory or defeat.

The court may prohibit a party in court, who is unable to make statements necessary to clarify the matters related to the suit, from making statements, and specify another date for continuance of oral argument.

Civil provisional remedies (minji hozen) are proceedings to temporarily prohibit the disposal of assets, and determine the tentative position of the parties with regard to the rights under dispute in a civil suit in order to preserve the fulfillment of a right.

Chart 5. Civil Case Proceedings[5]

Chart 6. Flow of Domestic Relations Adjudication Cases[6]

The Labor Tribunal Act(労働審判法) was enacted as part of judicial reform, and took effect on April 1, 2006. With labor-related disputes increasing along with changes in socioeconomic conditions, the purpose of labor tribunal proceedings is to resolve a dispute about whether or not a labor contract exists quickly, appropriately, and effectively between an individual employee and their employer. The proceedings are handled by a labor tribunal comprising a judge and two labor tribunal members.A family court hears cases that differ in nature from ordinary civil and criminal cases, through inquisitorial procedures that suit the particularities of those cases. Since cases of domestic disputes often involve emotional conflicts between the parties, in order to thoroughly resolve such cases, the court must not only render a legal determination, but must also sufficiently deal with such emotional conflicts. Therefore, domestic dispute cases are dealt with non-publicly, except for litigation relating to personal status. The court must attempt to resolve domestic disputes through conciliation first, before going forward with legal proceedings such as litigations or adjudication.

3.2.2. The procedures or techniques which are employed to encourage the parties to reach a conciliation or settlement of a dispute during formal civil legal proceedings

The judge, irrespective of the extent to which a suit has progressed, may attempt to arrange a settlement or have an authorized judge or commissioned judge attempt to arrange a settlement. However, there is no compulsory “settlement”.

3.2.3. A rule of law compliant system that respects due process

Appeal and Retrial is a rule of law complaint system.

The weakness of enforcement of judgments is often criticized for not providing effective remedies. The weakness of enforcement of judgments is frequently pointed out in the field of court-ordered support to be paid by one spouse to the other who has custody of the children after the parents are separated, causing the lone-parent to live a harsh life.

3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution

3.3.1. The compulsory diversion of disputes

The jurisdiction is based on the option of an applicant. Such forums are divided into government-sponsored and not government-sponsored.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is generally not commonly used except for traffic accidents, financial instruments and exchange monetary disputes, and nuclear power station accidents. One of the reasons that ADR is not commonly used is that attorneys are familiar with the court proceedings and not necessarily willing to use the ADR.

3.3.2. The voluntary or consensual diversion of disputes

Traffic accidents, financial instruments and exchange monetary disputes, and nuclear power station accidents are commonly referred to ADR. The jurisdiction is based on the agreement of the applicants.

3.3.3. Examine the policy drivers behind the development of ADR processes

The Act on Promotion of Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution was enacted in 2007 to promote the use of ADR. It introduced a certification by the Ministry of Justice to guarantee the quality of the institutions.

In order to save costs and judicial time in the administration of civil justice, the hearing procedure is not open to the public, thereby providing less stressful and more harmonious forms of dispute resolution for the parties and setting up forums that provide remedies that better meet parties’ underlying needs compared with litigation

It is sometimes criticized that despite parties have no obligation to consent, the party who cannot afford a lawyer is sometimes forced to compromise and consent.

3.4. Simplification of law and by-passing legal processes

3.4.1. Reduce the cost and time required of judges, parties and/or others

A. “No-fault” liability rules for defective products

The Product Liability Act enforced in 1995 was enacted as a special provision of the principle of negligence liability stipulated by the tort law.

The Product Liability Act is based on “no-fault” liability to prevent and remedy consumer damage due to the accidents caused by products.

Prior to the enactment of the Product Liability Act, general tort law was used to help victims in the event of an accident caused by defective products. However, it was extremely difficult for victims to claim and prove the manufacturer’s negligence. The Product Liability Act revised the principle of negligence in tort law from the viewpoint of consumer protection and introduced product liability based on the concept of defect liability.

B. “No-fault” divorce

Traditionally, divorce in family law was based on “fault” in which a request for divorce from a spouse, who is liable for the cause of divorce, was not accepted. However, if it is recognized that the marital relationship has been substantially broken for a considerable period of time, the divorce requested from liable spouse will be accepted under certain conditions (1987 supreme court decision). Since this supreme court decision, there has been a transition from “fault” divorce to “less fault” or “no-fault” divorce.

3.4.2. Decision upon an appraisal of the equities of the individual disputes with regard to small, modest or otherwise socially significant claims

Modified rules or equity with regard to small, modest or otherwise socially significant claims does not exist in Japan. One of the reasons why modified rules or equity does not exist is that Japan is in the tradition of civil law and does not have the tradition of “equity” observed in common law countries.

3.4.3. Alter the basis of remedying the alleged injury (“no-fault” automobile accident compensation law)

The automobile damage compensation law and the compulsory insurance system was established in Japan in 1955. The law stipulates that the victims are not required to prove the driver’s negligence, but the drivers are liable for damages unless the following three matters can be proved.

First, drivers did not neglect the driving duty.

Second, a third party other than the victim or driver had negligence.

Third, there were no structural defects or functional failures in the automobile.

As a result of “no-fault” liability, the conventional negligence principle has become the same as that of western countries and the law has become advantageous to the victims.

In addition to “no-fault” liability, a classification of negligence rate and standardization of the amount of compensation for damages are in place in traffic accident disputes in order to resolve them efficiently and fairly.


4.1. Equal access to court and fair trial by virtue of national law

The Constitution of Japan stipulates as follows:

Right to access trial: No person shall be denied the right of access to the courts (The Constitution of Japan, Article 32).

Criminal defendant’s rights: At all times the criminal defendant (the accused) shall have the assistance of competent counsel who shall, if the accused is unable to secure the same by his/her own efforts, be assigned to his/her use by the State (The Constitution of Japan, Article 37, paragraph (3)). However, the Constitution of Japan does not guarantee a constitutional right of civil legal aid and criminal legal aid of suspects. Therefore, indigent plaintiffs/defendants of civil cases and criminal suspects did not have the right to the assistance of a lawyer until the judicial reform described below was realized.

4.2. Political commitment to access to justice

As described in 4.4 below, the government established a Justice System Reform Council in 1999 to study basic policies and programs to achieve a judicial system that is more accessible to the general public including access to justice and legal aid, encourage greater participation of the general public in the judicial system and improve the skills and abilities of the legal profession.

It seems these judicial reform movement continued until mid-2010s but after that the momentum of the movement gradually decreased.

4.3. Government body which has responsibility for access to justice policy

The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for access to justice policy but the Supreme Court also participates in the policy because access to justice is related to fundamental rights and the basis of the judicial system such as services relating to court-appointed defense counsel and civil legal aid against the government.

4.4. Access to Justice Policy

4.4.1. Background on the Recent Judicial Movement

Most countries in East Asia experienced governance by authoritarian regimes either through colonialism before World War II or under the Cold War paradigm and conflict with communism after the war.

Although Japan was democratised under the new Constitution shortly after the end of World War II, there has been criticism that rights that should fundamentally be ensured through the legal system were often disregarded by the powerful administrative predominance and bureaucratic judicial system of the post-war period.

However, along with the persistent support of civil movements after the end of World War II, from the 1990s (1980s and on worldwide), powerful administrative regulation started to be eliminated to enable the privatisation of state and society, and the demand from Neo Liberalism intensified for establishing the rule of law to manage the de-regulated society to replace the powerful administrative pre-regulated society.

Thus Japanese judiciary reform was promoted under such circumstances along with political reform, administrative reform, and economic structural reform, including deregulation.

For over the past decade, the Japanese judicial system has been in the midst of major reforms. In 1999, the government established a Justice System Reform Council(司法制度改革審議会) to study basic policies and programs to achieve a judicial system that is more accessible to the general public, encourage greater participation of the general public in the judicial system and improve the skills and abilities of the legal profession. Since its inception, it had met 63 times and in 2001 issued an opinion paper calling for fundamental reforms. These reforms represent the transition from “small-scale justice” to “large-scale justice.” They seek to extend the rule of law to all facets of society and, within the context of deregulation, to orient Japan away from “prior regulation” to “after-the-fact relief,” as well as expanding the number of people involved in the judiciary as it takes on a greater role as the institution for providing “after-the-fact relief.” The recommendations in the Council’s opinion paper, together with subsequent discussions in the Office for Promotion of Justice System Reform resulted in the passage of 24 laws related to justice system reform by the end of 2004.

One specific issue for judicial reform is achieving a substantial increase in the number of people involved in the legal profession. In 2005, Japan had approximately 25,000 legal professionals, which nearly doubled by 2018. This represents a significant acceleration; in the past it took approximately 33 years for the number of legal professionals to double.

In 2004, Japan opened its first graduate-level law schools to provide training for these new lawyers. Since 2004, legal training and education at law schools has been implemented. This reform aims to shift the focus of legal training from selection through the single event of the bar examination to training through the broader process of professional legal education at law schools.

To provide for greater public involvement, the “SAIBAN-IN (lay judge system)”[1] started in 2009 and will allow ordinary citizens to participate in certain serious criminal trials alongside professional judges.

In the fall of 2006, government-funded legal aid organization “Japan Legal Support Center”(日本司法支援センター) started to operate based on the Comprehensive Legal Support Act[2] enacted in 2004. The Center is organized as a “quasi-independent administrative institution,” and has opened offices in each of the areas where the district courts are located throughout Japan, as well as in areas suffering from a shortage of attorneys. It provides an access point for the resolution of legal issues and legal services on both the civil and criminal sides.

Many other reforms are also moving ahead. These reforms include various systemic reforms regarding the criminal justice system such as provision of court-appointed attorneys to detained suspects; reforms of the administrative litigation system such as expansion of the range of parties qualified to file suits; reforms of the intellectual property system such as establishment of the Intellectual Property High Court; reforms of the system concerning judges such as appointment and evaluation of judges; establishment of a system where judges and prosecutors experience other professions; liberalization of profit-earning activities of attorneys; deregulation of legal fees; improvement of the disciplinary system; and establishment of the labor adjudication system.[3]

4.4.2. Legal Aid Policy

Japan has a population of approximately 126,140,000 (as of October 2019) and 41,118 attorneys (as of March 2019), which is about 1/32 of the number of attorneys in United States, for example. Despite the adoption of judicial supremacy after World War II through transplanting the constitutional review system in the style of United States (Article 81 of the Constitution), the actual post-war history proves that it was more of an administrative supremacy society with the administration supporting the political, social and economic aspects of post-war Japan hand-in-hand with legislature and industries, through the “convoy style” regulation. On the other hand, the role of the judiciary was small, and as there was basically no public funding except for limited criminal legal aid.  Legal aid was operated in a small scale with funds allocated from membership fees paid by the bar associations.

However, economic globalization gradually intensified market competition, adding pressure towards deregulation and increasing the criticism against the “convoy style” system explained above. Abolishment of various administrative rules which protected employers and regions, and reduction of fiscal expenditures on public projects were also promoted.

One of the purposes for the establishment of the Japan Legal Support Centre is to provide a safety net in response to such deregulations; however, its budget remains small in comparison with Western countries, and it does not provide a “sufficient” safety net. Poverty and disparity is certainly expanding in Japan, and there is an urgent need to take measures.

4.5. Problems in ensuring equal access to justice for minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples or other groups

Civil legal aid also is provided for immigrants lawfully residing in Japan. Regarding immigrants who do not lawfully reside in Japan, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations provide services including legal support related to refugee adjudication in the interest of protection of human rights.

But the number of refugee status immigrants admitted by the Japanese government is very small compared with Western countries and has been criticized internationally.

Regarding the refugee’s right for the access to courts in recent court case, the district court in Nagoya city did not guarantee the right for a refugee who was disqualified from refugee status by the government and was deported without being given the opportunity to file a lawsuit for reviewing the disqualification (July 2019). The plaintiff appealed to the High Court immediately.


6.1. Overview of Judicial Costs for Litigants

Litigants have to pay various judicial costs at the time of initiating court proceedings (including litigations) and during the court proceedings. In principle, the defeated party will have to bear such judicial costs incurred in the proceedings at the end.

The details of judicial costs are set forth in the Act on Costs of Civil Procedure (the “Act”).

Judicial costs include initial filing fee, process service cost, travel expense and daily allowance, translation fee, and various other costs provided in the Act.

It is important to note that attorney’s fees are not included in the judicial costs. Attorney’s fees have to be borne by the litigant who hires the attorney. The prevailing party cannot recover his/her out-of-pocket attorney’s fee from the defeated party. The attorney’s fees problem is discussed at Section 2.

Among the abovementioned judicial costs, the major cost that may affect access to the court is the initial filing fee payable to the court by the initiating party at the time of case filing.

The initial filing fee for the litigation is calculated based on the value of the subject matter of the case, as follows:

(i) the portion up to 1 million yen (approx. USD 9,091) of the value of the subject matter of the case: 1,000 yen (approx. USD 9) per 100,000 yen (approx. USD 909);

(ii) the portion of the subject matter value in excess of 1 million yen (approx. USD 9,091), up to five million yen (approx. USD 45,455): 1,000 yen (approx. USD 9) per 200,000 yen (approx. USD 1,818);

(iii) the portion of the subject matter value in excess of 5 million yen (approx. USD 45,455) to 10 million yen (approx. USD 90,909): 2,000 yen (approx. USD 18) per 500,000 yen (approx. USD 4,545);

(iv) the portion of the subject matter value in excess of 10 million yen (approx. USD 90,909) to 1 billion yen (approx. USD 9,091,000): 3,000 yen (approx. USD 27) per 1 million yen (approx. USD 9,091);

(v) the portion of the subject matter value in excess of 1 billion yen (approx. USD 9,091,000) to 5 billion yen (approx. USD 45,455,000): 10,000 yen (approx. USD 91) per 5 million yen (approx. USD 45,455);

(vi) the portion of the subject matter value in excess of 5 billion yen (approx. USD 45,455): 10,000 yen (approx. USD 91) per 10 million yen (approx. USD 90,909).

Therefore, for example, in the case where the value of the subject matter of the case is 10 million yen (approx. 90,909 USD), the initial filing fee that the filing party has to pay is 50,000 yen (approx. USD 455). If the subject matter value of the case is 1 billion yen (approx. USD 9,091,000), the filing fee will be 3.02 million yen (approx. USD 27,455).

In the case of appeal, the filing fee is 150% of the initial filing fee as calculated per the above formula. In the case of final appeal, the filing fee is 200% of the initial filing fee as calculated per the above formula.

6.2. Exemption from Judicial Costs

6.2.1. The name of and legal basis for exemption from judicial costs.

The Code of Civil Procedure provides for “judicial aid”. This judicial aid is not an exemption” from the judicial costs, but rather a grace period to defer the payment. Thus, the litigant who is awarded “judicial aid” (i.e., grace period for the deferment of payment) is required to pay later all or part of the deferred costs as decided by the court according to the prevailing proportion.

6.2.2. What are the eligibility criteria for exemption from judicial costs?

Article 82 of the Code provide as follows:

For a person who lacks the financial resources to pay the expenses necessary for preparing for and conducting a suit or person who will suffer substantial detriment in his/her standard of living by paying such expenses, the court, upon petition, may make an order to grant judicial aid; provided, however, that this shall apply only where it cannot be said that such person is unlikely to win the case.

6.2.3. What is the process for applying for exemption from judicial costs?

Upon petition by a party, the court reviews and decides the petition. The decision on the award is subject to appeal.

In the case of a litigation where legal aid is given by JLSC, if the petition for the judicial aid is rejected by court, the judicial costs may be fully or partly [paid by JLSC] upon application by the person seeking aid.

6.2.4. May a person who has been exempted from judicial costs nonetheless have to repay any amount of the judicial costs to the government, judiciary, legal aid agency or other at the end of the judicial process or at some other time? In Japan, are legally aided litigants who lose their case liable to pay the other side’s legal expense/costs?

As stated above, judicial aid is provided in the form of a deferment of payment.  The awarded litigant who loses the case is subject to being ordered to make payment to the court or the opponents who incurred the judicial costs.

6.2.5. Overall: do costs and fees discourage access to justice in Japan?

As stated above, attorney’s fees are not included in judicial costs.

As the initial amount of judicial costs is relatively low compared to the amount of attorney’s fees, the amount of attorney’s fees is a much more important factor for access to the courts.  However, since it is still true that judicial costs tend to discourage access to the court by ordinary people, the bar associations have been proposing reductions of the costs.

6.3. Mechanisms to Reduce Costs by Variations to Courts and Procedures

There are summary courts, which have jurisdiction over disputes the value of which is Yen 1.4 million (12,727 USD) or less. However, for the summary courts, no special lower court-cost schedule exists and the ordinary court-cost is applicable.

For the summary courts, simplified procedures apply. The litigant can file a case verbally and need not prepare written documents for his/her allegation. The summary courts prepare samples of complaints for the convenience of pro se litigants.

For monetary disputes of Yen 600,000 (5,455 USD) or less, small claim procedures may apply with the application of the plaintiff and consent of the defendant. Under this procedure, principally only one session is held and the court may give a judgement with installment payments, payment deferment, or exemption of delinquency charges.

There is no requirement regarding the representation by attorneys-at-law in the summary courts. Licensed judicial scriveners may represent litigants in the summary courts.

In the summary courts, there are judicial commissioners who assist an attempt to arrange a settlement or attend the trial and give their opinions. Most of them are non-lawyers and they are expected to reflect healthy social common sense in solving the disputes. It is said that the judicial commissioners tend to function to alleviate the inequality of the parties in the representation at the court, in particular, in case where landlords, loan companies or the other economically strong entities are counterparties of low-income parties.


7.1. The circumstances under which merger and simultaneous resolution are possible

The Act on Special Measures Concerning Civil Court Proceedings for the Collective Redress for Property Damage Incurred by Consumers was enacted in 2013.

The process under this act consists of two stages.

The first stage is an Action for Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations.  This action may be commenced where property damage is incurred by a considerable number of consumers in connection with consumer contracts.  The action seeks a declaratory judgment by the court finding that the defendant company has an obligation to pay money to these consumers based on factual and legal causes common to such consumers, except for cases where a claim for payment of money is filed by a consumer who has no grounds due to circumstances specific to that consumer.

The second stage is the holding of Simple Determination Proceedings.  This stage entails court proceedings whereby, on the premise of the results of litigation pertaining to an Action for Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations (hereinafter referred to as “Litigation Seeking Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations”) after hearing of both parties.

On the basis of the proofs of claims filed with the court under the provisions of this Act, the other party states its approval or disapproval of claims. The examination of evidence is limited to documentary evidence in order to solve dispute promptly.

Thereafter, the presence or absence and the contents of a valid claim are determined based on either: (i) such approval or disapproval, if no notice to dispute the approval or disapproval is made; or (ii) an order by the court, if a notice to dispute the approval or disapproval is made.

7.2. Who is authorized to initiate these procedures for the protection of diffuse and collective rights?

A “Qualified Consumer Organization” may provide services related to redress for damage only if it has received certification from the Prime Minister.

7.3. Policies that encourage counsel to litigate group claims

Unfortunately, there is no related policy to encourage counsel to initiate procedures.

7.4. Other present policies and trends for or against encouraging such procedures

There are no policies and trends for encouraging such procedures.

7.5. Problems of notice and, more generally, the right of the parties to be heard

In order to contribute to redress for property damage incurred by target consumers, a specified “Qualified Consumer Organization” must strive to provide the target consumers with information on the filing of an Action for Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations, the contents of the final and binding judgment of Litigation Seeking Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations, and other necessary information.

When an Order of Commencement of Simple Determination Proceedings is made, the Petitioner Organization of the Simple Determination Proceedings, unless there are justifiable grounds, must notify the known Target Consumers of a written order stating the main text of the order and its outline of the reasons in writing or by Electronic or Magnetic Means (meaning the means of using an electronic data processing system or any other means of using information and communications technology).

7.6. The effects of decisions for named and unnamed, present and absent parties

A final and binding judgment of Litigation Seeking Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations is also effective against Specified Qualified Consumer Organizations which are not parties to the Litigation Seeking Declaratory Judgment on Common Obligations or Consumers Holding the Filed Claim.

7.7. An appraisal of the efficacy and equity of the procedure, and the benefits accruing to litigants

Diffuse rights are those of an indivisible nature which belong to an indeterminate group of people and the amount of property damage is small but it is difficult to prove the facts and legal aspects. Therefore special procedures are necessary.


Japan is one of the leaders in the world of information technologies. However, in regard with use of such technologies for legal practices enhancing access to justice, Japan is still in the process of seeking the best way to adopt the latest technologies in order to meet various requirements in provision of legal services and people’s needs of today.

The latest development as of December 2019 is the announcement of a governmental plan of judicial reform in civil procedure.  The plan includes the proposal of concrete steps for overall transformation of civil procedure corresponding to information technology of today.  This consists of three dimensions, that is, submission of documentation (e-Filing), on-line management of procedures and documents (e-Case Management), and realization of on-line court hearings (e-Court).  Such transformation will be introduced in practice in accordance with a 3 step realization plan. The first step (use of web-conferences and tele-conferences for preparatory procedures of court hearings) will start in February 2020 at 8 District Courts and at the Intellectual Property High Court.  As to the following 2 steps, which require certain amendments of legislation, the official schedule for implementation is to be announced by the end of March 2020.

The plan is expected to be a tool for better access to justice, especially for people with disabilities. At the same time, one of the major concerns is how to provide sufficient assistance for people who have problems with utilization of information technologies.

9.1. The general situation regarding access to technology

9.1.1. General

In Japan, internet users increased in the 2000’s upon diffusion of broad band and mobile tools. Thereafter, the rapid spread of smartphones in the 2010’s triggered personalization and mobilization of the terminal units used to access the internet, which resulted in diversified usage of such units[1].

9.1.2. Internet access of people with problems of A2J

No particular research or statistics on internet usage focusing on people with problems of access to justice have been made to date. The White Paper of Information and Communication (2018) reported that there is a gap in accordance with age groups. In the year of 2017, more than 90 percent of individuals who were at an age between 13 years old and 59 years old had used the internet within the past one year, while 46.7 percent of persons aged in their 70’s and only 20.1 percent of persons aged in their 80’s had internet access during the same period of time.[2]

9.1.3. Broadband coverage

Broadband coverage extends throughout the country. By the end of 2006, broadband connection was already available for 95 percent of the households in Japan (48.59 million out of 51 million households).[3]

9.1.4. Spread of smartphones

In 2018, 79.2 percent of households in Japan had smartphones, while 64.7 percent of individuals had smartphones[4].

9.1.5. Use of unsmart mobile phones

In 2018, 95.7 percent of households in Japan have mobile phones (either smart or unsmart), while 84.0 percent of individuals have such mobile phones.[5] Therefore, it is possible to estimate that 16.5 percent of households and 19.3 percent of individuals have unsmart mobile phones.

9.1.6. Usage of text messages/SMS

Text messages/SMS is widely available as a function of mobile phones. However, in contrast to other jurisdictions, it does not play a significant role in Japan as a channel of communication.

9.2. The usage of technology for non-legal public services

Technology is used for provision of public services in certain cases. In Japan, the most advanced practice in usage of new technology would be found in public information services and emergency assistance during times of natural disasters, such as typhoons, heavy rainstorms or snowstorms, earthquakes, or tsunami.

9.3. The usage of technology for legal practitioners, particularly those concerned with low income clients

Basic productivity tools such as Microsoft Office packages are commonly used among legal practitioners.

Specific legal client management packages are often used, particularly in bankruptcy cases.

Communication by emails is common between lawyers or between lawyers and clients, but it has not yet been introduced for communication with courts or the Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC), the public legal aid service provider.

Communication by SMS is not common in general (see 9.1.6 above).

9.4. The usage of technology for charities or non-commercial entities providing legal services to low income clients

9.4.1. Usage of technology in general

Whether any non-commercial organizations use technology in their work may depend on the degree of internet access of the targeted low income clients of each organization. In this regard, for example, Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), a non-profit organization which provides various support (including legal support) for refugees and asylum seekers in Japan, would be one of the most active users of the internet[6].

9.4.2. Cost consideration

The cost of using technology in provision of services is significant. In the case of JAR (see above), a part of its website construction is financially supported by the Welfare and Medical Service Agency (WAM), one of the sources of public funds for social welfare[7].

9.4.3. Usage of technology

The use of technology may also depend on the types of activities undertaken by the organization. In the case of JAR (see above), their website firstly provides various information for refugees or asylum seekers, including legal information. It is open for their clients to send any inquiries, including those on legal matters, through the website. Useful documents, including various forms for application for refugee status, etc., can be downloaded with written instructions.[8] For supporters of the organization, donations can be made through the website[9].

9.4.4. Usage of SMS or Email to communicate with users

The use of such communication may depend on the accessibility and availability to SMS or email of the targeted users. In the case of JAR (see above), their website invites their potential users to contact JAR by e-mail in the event that the inquiry format on the website does not work well.

9.4.5. Initial contact on website

In the case of JAR, initial contact by users is available on the website (see above).

9.4.6. Phone or video connections to remote locations

Such connections may depend on accessibility and availability of phone or video connections of the targeted users. JAR (see above) has a toll-free phone number for refugees and asylum seekers, shown on the top page of their website[10]. Despite geographical distance, the phone is used as one of the most effective tools of communication.

9.5. Is technology used for the following:

9.5.1. assisting in the referral of people to appropriate provisions or to identify their eligibility for services?

Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC), a publicly funded corporation providing legal aid, provides legal information services[11]. JLSC’s website is designed as an information desk for people in need of legal services. All the details of the means test and merit test required to be eligible either for free legal consultations or provision of legal aid for representation at court are available on the JLSC website.  However, applicability of such conditions to each individual case needs to be checked at local JLSC district offices. Information on the basics of laws and available remedies can be found through research of around 5,000 Q&As on the website. Information on local sites for free legal consultation can also be found though web research of JLSC’s database, which has information on more than 20,000 consultation sites.

9.5.2. empowering and helping self-represented litigants to take their own cases (whether through government-led online initiatives or services set up by legal aid providers)?

As of December 2019, except for those discussed in the recent plan of judicial reform featuring information technology (see below), there are no initiatives or services particularly designed for self-represented litigants. However, the following services are available:

web research of 5,000 Q&As, provided by JLSC, which covers most of the questions on procedural matters at court (see above);

the website of the Supreme Court provides basic information covering details of court procedures, together with a download service providing a form of application of claim to the summary courts (applicable to cases involving less than 1.4 million yen (approximately 140 USD)) or family courts; and

the website of the Japan Federation of Bar Association (JFBA) provides a set of downloadable forms of basic documents (in Word or PDF format) required [for bringing a civil proceeding].

In the course of discussion of judicial reform to introduce information technology, one of the largest issues is how to empower and help self-represented litigants. According to the discussion records, “support for self-represented litigants” should be designed and provided by courts and JLSC in collaboration with bar associations and each lawyer.

9.5.3. assisting in the delivery of pro bono services by legal practitioners?

In Japan, in contrast to other jurisdictions, there is no clear definition of “pro bono” services, although local bar associations often have a regulation prescribing the obligation of attorneys to engage in public interest activities.

To date, we cannot find particular initiatives by bar associations to coordinate pro bono service providers and clients in need of free legal services either by using technology or not. After the 2000s, however, there are a few non-profit organizations established by attorneys and other neighboring professionals, which provide free legal consultation by means of pro bono services. These organizations usually have a specific targeted client base, such as artists, musicians, or non-profit organizations. In their practices, free consultations are often available either by face-to-face meetings, by emails, or by skype.

9.5.4. support for paralegals or other workers in remote locations away from their offices?

The video phone consultation service at Futaba would be an example of such support. This service provides free legal consultation by contracted attorneys using video phone, and is available for 2 days a week at the Futaba branch of the Fukushima district office of JLSC, located within 20 km from the site of the nuclear power plant that suffered an accident in Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. Without this service, the only legal information service available would be the service provided by non-lawyer staff at the site for those 2 days.

9.5.5. campaigning and advocacy, e.g. through social media?

The Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC) actively uses social media, especially twitter, for promotion of its call center and provision of the latest information on concrete services for victims of natural disasters.

The JFBA uses Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Local bar associations often use Facebook and/or Twitter to promote various campaigns in regard to access to justice.

9.6. Usage of technology regarding publicly funded legal services

In Japan, publicly funded legal services are delivered by private practitioners who have a contract with the Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC). As of 2019, such communication channels between contract lawyers and JLSC has been limited to telephone and facsimile, although JLSC is seeking appropriate use of information technology for communication.

JLSC does not encourage the contract lawyers to use technology to extend their services.

9.7. Use or development of online dispute resolution system

In Japan, an official discussion for introduction/implementation of an online dispute resolution system was recently started in September 2019. The committee, organized at the Prime Minister’s Office, states that the discussion is aimed to elaborate a basic policy, by March 2020, concerning promotion of utilization and enhancement of capacity of civil procedures, including alternative dispute resolution procedures by using information technology and artificial intelligence (online dispute resolution (ODR)), as a part of improvement of the business environment, corresponding to the variety of disputes of today.

9.7.1. Which types of cases can online dispute resolution be used for?

This question is one of the themes under discussion at the committee. More concretely, the areas of law and types of disputes for which ODR would be adaptable in an early stage, or for which ODR could be prepared to adapt in the future, will be listed up. The discussion records indicate that cases involving a volume of typical claims having a low value would be expected to be targeted disputes. It also refers to disputes in electronic commerce, family issues such as divorce or succession, disputes regarding contracts between small to mid-sized enterprises, disputes regarding traffic accidents, and disputes involving financial transactions, as examples.

9.7.2. Whether mandatory or voluntary (if voluntary, who needs to agree in advance)

This question may be under discussion at the committee.

9.7.3. Provisions to ensure that litigants who lack the necessary education, language or technical skills are not at a disadvantage

This point is discussed as part of an environment to be ensured to realize an active usage of ODR. According to the discussion records, it is necessary to prepare an appropriate environment by paying attention to the level of usage of telephones or information technologies, and the internet environment of a variety of users, including the elderly.

As to language, ODR is expected to provide easier access to the dispute resolution process for foreigners, who often have language problems.

9.7.4. Challenges perceived as a result of proposed system.

This point is still under discussion. It seems that (1) challenges of the current system of alternative dispute resolution and (2) challenges of utilization of information technology and artificial intelligence in legal services, are both applicable in the case of ODR.

9.8. The successful use of technology in jurisdiction to provide legal services in innovative ways

9.8.1. Legal Information Service of JLSC

JLSC provides legal information services using 3 channels, that is, its website, its call center, and walk-in information desks. The call center receives around 1,000 calls a day, or around 300,000 calls a year. From its establishment in 2006 through the end of January 2019, it has served more than 4,000,000 clients with legal information through telephone or e-mail[12] communications. The information provided by operators at the call center is based on JLSC’s database of 5,000 Q&As and a nation-wide list of consultation sites. Database research is also available on the JLSC website (as to the services available through its website, please see (e) above). The call center publishes statistics of calls and e-mail inquiries from clients, and such statistics have been used as evidence to show certain needs of society for amendment of laws or new legislative initiatives. Recently, a technical legal assistance initiative was established to set up a call center in Africa modelled on the call center and legal information services of JLSC (please see 12 below).

9.8.2. On-line advice forum for legal practitioners

The “Keiji Bengo Forum” (Forum of Criminal Defenders) is the largest on-line advice forum of legal practitioners. It was started in 2005 among several lawyers for exchange of legal and technical information and experience as practitioners for criminal matters, including those related to the saiban-in (lay-judges) system introduced in 2009. Currently, the forum consists of more than 4,000 practicing lawyers and is thought to be an indispensable source of information among criminal defenders. Its website provides a useful research database for practitioners.

The “Lawyers’ network for foreigners (LNF)”, established in 2009 would be another successful forum.  This consists of more than 1,500 lawyers who are engaged in cases involving foreigners, who often have problems related to language and culture gaps, foreign laws and practices, foreign jurisdictions, etc. The website offers research of past inquiries and website viewing of training sessions for practitioners.

9.8.3. E-learning system of JFBA

The E-learning system is a part of the continuing education system of the JFBA, a mandatory bar for licensed lawyers in Japan. It offers more than 400 courses which cover nearly everything a practicing lawyer should know, from the very basics to highly technical matters, including details of the latest updates. The original sessions are prepared and given by real experts in each area. The system can be accessed either by PC, tablets or smartphones and is appreciated very much among young generations.

9.9. Activities of internationally-focused organizations

In Japan, internationally-focused organizations such as HiiL or the Open Society do not engage in significant activities in relation to usage of technology in the judicial domain, although members of such organizations sometimes appear in conferences or forums organized and held in Japan.


An outline of global and regional efforts that promote access to justice in Japan is as follows:

A. Efforts and collaboration on access to justice in the Asian region:

Regional Communication among Legal Aid Organizations: The Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC) has friendship relationships with public legal aid organizations in Asian countries, especially Korea and Taiwan. With Korean legal aid, a staff exchange training program has been implemented.

Regional Forum: The Law Association for Asia and Pacific (LAWASIA): Japanese members are rather active in the regional forum. With regard to LAWASIA, Japan hosted its general conference in 2003 and again in 2017. At the 30th conference in 2017, a session was held regarding “Development and Challenges in Legal Aid in Asia”, followed by a round-table, “Legal Aid in Asia”, co-hosted by JLSC, the Japan Federation of Bar Association (JFBA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Asian Access to Justice Conference: Since 2008, the JFBA has hosted the Asian Access to Justice Conference to discuss the latest issues and to share experiences of good practices for promoting access to justice in the region. The participants include bar associations from Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam.

Legal Assistance for Asian Countries: Since the late 1990’s, Japan has engaged in legal assistance for Asian countries including Cambodia, China, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The projects are supported by governmental funds through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), together with technical assistance provided by Japanese legal professionals and scholars. The objects of the assistance are varied, but all the projects have some elements to contribute promotion of rule of law and access to justice in the country.

Legal Assistance for Asian Countries by JFBA: In addition to the above, the International Legal Cooperation Center (ILCC) of the JFBA has engaged in assistance for bar associations in Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, and Vietnam. The project mainly focuses on training and capacity building of lawyers and promotion of access to justice by bar associations. Starting from 2019, the JFBA implemented a project to improve access to justice in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, with financial support from the Toyota Foundation.

In recent years, some Japanese practitioners have participated in the Asia Pro Bono Conference.  This conference was launched in 2012, and is organized by BABSEACLE, a NGO founded in Thailand.

B. Global efforts and collaboration on access to justice:

As to efforts for realization of Goal 16.3 of SDGs, please see (d) below.

Global forum: International Bar Association (IBA): Japanese members are also active in a global forum. In regard to the International Bar Association (IBA), Japan hosted its general conference in 2014. In recent years, the JFBA regularly hosts a session for “Access to Justice and Role of Bar Association” to discuss the latest issues regarding the subject and to share good practices on the issue.

Legal assistance for access to justice at a global level: In 2016, through technical assistance by an expert of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a call center to provide legal information was opened in the ministry of justice in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa. It was modeled after the legal information service and the call center of JLSC. Within 2 years of its operation, approximately 3,000 clients were served by this minimum-sized call center with 2 operators.

In 2018, JICA started a training program focusing on access to justice for participants worldwide. Japan’s experiences in regard to access to justice were shared with participants from Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, East Timor, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malawi, Mali, Mongolia, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

International academic research and conferences: Japanese members have participated in international research projects including an access to justice project in Italy in the 1970’s, and have served as regular participants for international conferences on the subject such as the Conference of International Legal Aid Group.

C. Efforts and collaboration by non-governmental organizations on access to justice

As to the efforts made by the JFBA, please see (a) and (b) above.

Support of legal assistance projects: Regarding legal assistance for Asian countries, non-profit private organizations often play a significant role in follow-up work of projects or in logistical matters associated with on-going projects.

D. Steps being taken to articulate and elaborate Sustainable Development Goal 16.3

In order to realize the Sustainable Development Goals in Japan, the government has set up a promotion headquarters in the cabinet and has published a set of concrete plans for realization of each of the goals. According to the plan, the following initiatives are listed for Goal 16, including Goal 16.3.

promotion of protection of rights of handicapped persons;

implementation of the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Kyoto Congress 2020) and follow-up on its political declaration;

further enrichment of comprehensive legal support by implementing services at Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC);

promotion of translation of Japanese laws and regulations into foreign languages;

promotion of international assistance in the field of criminal justice through activities of United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI); and

promotion of assistance towards developing countries in the field of law and justice.

As an initiative of the private sector, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) is preparing a declaration on its role in realization of SDGs, including Goal 16.3.


Japan, like other East Asian countries, has witnessed an expansion trend in legal aid and access to justice policies in recent decades despite the economic crisis.  Associated with this trend, Japan has expanded and improved access to justice. However, at the same time, Japan seems to be reluctant to advocate a European-style “welfare state policy”.  With the existence of a strong repressive force that tries to limit welfare policies to a certain scope, legal aid is already pushed into an environment of stringent cost efficiency even though in a phase where legal aid needs to be greatly expanded. In short, the promotion of the legal aid system and its crisis situation are proceeding simultaneously.

On the other hand, the rise of judicial reform since the 1990s, along with globalisation and the expansion of wealth disparity and poverty, may contribute to the strengthening of legal aid and access to justice in the future, notwithstanding that the heat of the judicial reform movement gradually waned after the 2010s.

At any rate, Japan will intensify the legal aid and access to justice network in the future while paying constant attention to the trend of legal aid and access to justice in other countries.


[1] The authors of this report are particularly grateful to White & Case LLP (Tokyo Office) for their special contribution to the edition of the final English text.

[2] Population Estimates by Age and Sex – June 1, 2019. Available at:

[3] Annual Report on the Ageing Society: 2018, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. Available at:

[4] According to the WHO, the proportion of a society’s population that is comprised of persons age 65 or older is called the “aging rate”. If a society’s aging rate exceeds 7%, it is an “aging society”. If the rate surpasses 14%, it is an “aged society”; if over 21%, it is a “super-aged society”.

[5] Number of foreign residents by nationality/region and sex as of June 2019 (in Japanese). Available at:

[6] Final Report of the former Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy submitted to Chief Cabinet Secretary in July 2009. Available at:

[7] Overview of Ainu Policy in Japan. Available at:

[8] The act for the promotion of measures for creating a society where people who identify as Ainu can be proud of their roots (in Japanese). Available at:

[9] National Accounts for 2017, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office of Japan. Available at:

[10] World Bank, International Comparison Program database. Available at:

[11] The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2018. Available at:

[12] OECD (2019), Poverty rate (indicator). doi: 10.1787/0fe1315d-en (Accessed on 17 December 2019).

[13] Abridged Life Tables for Japan 2018 (in Japanese), Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Available at:

[14] Human Development Index and its components. Available at:

[15] Supreme Court of Japan, Court System of Japan, p. 12-13. Available at:

[16] Supreme Court of Japan, Outline of Criminal Justice in JAPAN 2019, p. 12-15. Available at:

[17] Ibid, p. 16.

[18] The Japan Federation of Bar Associations Brochure p. 20-22, p. 42. Available at:

[19] Supreme Court of Japan, Outline of Civil Procedure of Japan p. 6. Available at:

[20] Supreme Court of Japan, supra note 19 p. 7.

[21] Supreme Court of Japan, Guide to the Family Court of Japan p. 20. Available at:

[22] Six lay judges will be chosen to serve alongside three professional judges in examining cases involving certain serious crimes. Lay judges will be involved in criminal proceedings, determine facts and decide sentences with an authority basically equivalent to that of professional judges. The system is similar to a jury system in that lay judges are chosen at random from voter lists and assigned to serve on specific cases. It also resembles a lay judge (Schöffe or échevin) system in that citizens participate in trials alongside professional judges.

[23] The English translation of the Comprehensive Legal Support Act. Available at:

[24] Japan Federation of Bar Associations, The Japanese Juduical System and Judicial Reform. Available at:

[25] An English translation of the Comprehensive Legal Support Act is available at

[26] The Japan Federation of Bar Associations Brochure, p. 5-7. Available at:

[27] Ibid., p. 7.

[28] Ibid., p. 24-25.

[29] Ibid., p. 23-24.

[30] The White Paper on Information and Communications (2018), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, p. 156.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Status of Broadband Infrastructure (as of the end of March 2018), Website of Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Available at:

[33] The White Paper on Information and Communications (2019), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, p. 252-253.

[34] Ibid.

[35] See://

[36] See:

[37] See:

[38] See:

[39] See:

[40] Article 30, Paragraph1 of the Comprehensive Legal Support Act.

[41] The White Paper of Japan Legal Support Center (2018), p. 37.

[42] H. Genn (1999) Paths to Justice, Pascoe Pleasence, Causes of Action : Civil Law and Social Justice, The final report of the first LSRC survey of justiciable problems 2004 etc.