Law and Compliance in Japan

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Business Contract

General Observation
You must state precisely in the contract the obligations of the vendor and the methods of quality control.
Law Applicable to the Contract
You must be particularly vigilant about the law applicable to the contract and the methods of conflict resolution. Indeed, Japan is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on International Contracts. Click here to see the list of signatory countries.
The Japanese legal system is not easy for a foreigner to understand so you are advised to choose international law or a system of settlement by arbitration.
The laws and courts of America, England and Switzerland provide fair justice and are understandable in English, which is likely to be accepted by your Japanese supplier.
Advisable Incoterms
Choose FOB or CIF, or more. Click here to get further information about incoterms.Avoid EXW if you do not want to be involved in organizing domestic transport in Japan, as this is quite a complex operation.
Language of Domestic Contract
Japanese, English
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
The laws and courts of America, England and Switzerland provide fair justice and are understandable in English, and are likely to be accepted by your Japanese supplier.

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Independence of Justice
Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
In the texts justice ensures non-discriminatory treatment of all cases. But in practice, not being able to speak Japanese can lead to a lack of equity.
The Language of Justice
Japanese only
Recourse to an Interpreter
No guidelines exist to ensure effective communication between judges, lawyers, and non Japanese-speaking defendants. No standard licensing or qualification system exists for court interpreters, and trials proceed even if no translation or interpretation is provided for the accused.
Legal Similarities
The system is modeled on European systems with Anglo-American influences.

The Different Legal Codes

The Constitution of Japan (Nippon-koku-kenpo, 1946) Foundation of the State, rights of individuals, right of possession
The Civil Code (Minpo, 1896) Contract law, right of possession
The Code of Civil Procedure (Minji-sosho-ho, 1996) Company law
The Criminal Code (Keiho, 1907, revised in 2004) Criminal law
The Code of Criminal Procedure (Keiji-sosho-ho, 1948) Criminal procedures
Corporation law (2006)
which replaces the former Commercial Code (Shoho, 1899)
Corporate status, rights of managers, commercial agents’ rights, etc.
Checking National Laws Online
Lexadin, the world law guide
Other Useful Resources
Japan Law Blog
Country Guides
Lexmundi, Guide to doing business in Japan: legal system.

Find Legal Experts in Japan on

The Jurisdictions

The Supreme Court Final appellate court (second appeal, named “Jokoku” in Japanese)
To access the website of the Supreme Court and get further information about the organization of the Japanese legal system, click here.
8 High courts Territorial jurisdiction of the eight major cities in JapanIntermediate appellate courts (first appeal, named “Koso” in Japanese)
2 Intellectual Property High courts Special branches of the Tokyo and Osaka High Courts.
Handles only cases relating to intellectual property in first instance and appeals (only in Tokyo) against decisions made by district courts or by the Japan Patent Office.
To access the website of the Intellectual Property High Court of Tokyo, click here.
50 District courts Territorial jurisdiction
First instance (exercising general jurisdiction over all actions, criminal, civil) and appellate jurisdiction over the decision of the Summary courts.
Between one and three judges depending on the cases
438 Summary courts First instance over civil cases involving claims for amounts not exceeding 1,400,000 yen and criminal cases for offences punishable by fines or lighter punishment and other offences, such as habitual gambling and embezzlement.
The summary court cannot impose imprisonment or graver punishment as a general rule. When the summary court deems it appropriate to impose a punishment exceeding the limit, it must transfer the case to the district court.
Single judge court
77 Family courts First instance, dealing comprehensively with domestic relations cases and juvenile delinquency cases

Court Officials

Practicing attorneys
They are registered with a regional bar association affiliated to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Attorneys at law (bengoshi) are distinguished from attorneys at foreign law (gaiben) who are lawyers from foreign countries licensed to practice law in Japan. For more information, consult the Bengoshi Law.
Gaiben can only give advice pertaining to the law of their home jurisdiction. They are generally involved in intermediating between foreign clients and Japanese lawyers, intermediating between foreign and Japanese clients, or assisting Japanese clients with foreign legal matters. For further information, visit the webpages of the Ministry of Justice devoted to Gaiben and consult the Foreign lawyers law.
Some attorneys, called Benrishi, are specialized in the field of intellectual property. Click here to find a list of specialized practices.
Lower court judges
Career public servants appointed for a renewable ten-year term
Public prosecutors
Public servants who serve until retirement
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