Background

Frequency of use

How common is commercial litigation as a method of resolving high-value, complex disputes?

In Japan, commercial litigation is the predominant method of resolving high-value complex disputes, as arbitration is not a common dispute resolution mechanism. In 2018, district courts in Japan received 138,443 new civil litigation cases, whereas the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association, which is the major arbitral institution commonly used in Japan, only received 13.

Litigation market

Please describe the culture and ‘market’ for litigation. Do international parties regularly participate in disputes in the court system in your jurisdiction, or do the disputes typically tend to be regional?

The number of new civil litigation cases in Japan has fluctuated greatly over the past decade due to an influx of cases demanding the return of overcharged interest payments from consumer lenders. However, even excluding these cases, courts in Japan have steadily maintained about 94,000 cases per year. Although there are no statistics available for confirmation, international parties are frequently involved in litigation before a Japanese court, presumably for commercial cases in which a court in Japan has been agreed as the forum.

Legal framework

What is the legal framework governing commercial litigation? Is your jurisdiction subject to civil code or common law? What practical implications does this have?

Commercial litigation in Japan is governed by the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) and other relevant laws, as well as the Rules of Civil Procedure issued by the Supreme Court. Japan is a civil law jurisdiction. The implications of this are that the following are not available: broad pretrial discovery permitting a party to request the other party to produce relevant documents or make disclosures; and attorney-client privilege or attorney work-product privilege, as known in common law jurisdictions.

While a Japanese attorney may refuse to disclose any facts learned in the course of performing his or her duties or produce any document containing such facts that are subject to the duty of confidentiality, this right belongs to the attorney and not the client.

Bringing a claim - initial considerations

Key issues to consider

What key issues should a party consider before bringing a claim?

A party should consider whether the merits of its claim can be proven based on evidence that it already has in its possession or can be obtained easily from a third party. Civil litigation in Japan does not provide for broad pretrial discovery; thus the means to obtain evidence from the opposing party are limited. It is standard practice for a potential plaintiff to send a demand letter using a content-certified letter (a type of letter that the post office certifies the content and the delivery thereof) stating the issue and the claim to the opposing party before commencing litigation to assess the opposing party’s likely response in the event that the case goes to court.

Establishing jurisdiction

How is jurisdiction established?

In cases concerning an individual, a court in Japan has general jurisdiction if the defendant is domiciled or has its residence in Japan. In cases concerning a corporation, the court has general jurisdiction if its principal office or business office is located in Japan, or if its representative is domiciled in Japan (in cases where such office does not exist or is unknown). Furthermore, the CCP provides for 12 categories where a court in Japan has specific jurisdiction depending on the nature of the claim. For instance, an action demanding performance of a contractual obligation or payment of damages for a breach thereof may be filed in Japan if the place for performance of the obligation is within Japan. Jurisdiction is also established by written agreement (including electronic or magnetic records) or by appearance.

Preclusion

Res judicata: is preclusion applicable, and if so how?

Res judicata applies with regard to the cause of action that a plaintiff requested the court to adjudicate. It precludes a claim based on the same cause of action from being litigated in other proceedings. Res judicata also applies to a court’s judgment regarding the validity of a claim asserted as a set-off defence; thus, such claim cannot be pursued in other proceedings.

Applicability of foreign laws

In what circumstances will the courts apply foreign laws to determine issues being litigated before them?

A Japanese court will typically apply foreign laws in a contract dispute where the parties have designated having a foreign law as the governing law. A court will also apply foreign laws if the Act on General Rules for Application of Laws, which is the source regarding conflicts of law in Japan, designates the application thereof. In such cases, parties often submit an expert opinion on the application of the foreign law to the issue before the court.

Initial steps

What initial steps should a claimant consider to ensure that any eventual judgment is satisfied? Can a defendant take steps to make themselves ‘judgment proof’?

A plaintiff should consider filing for a provisional remedy to ensure that an eventual judgment on the merits will be satisfied. Japan’s Civil Provisional Remedies Act provides two types of provisional remedies. First, a provisional seizure order may be issued to attach a defendant’s property to secure a plaintiff’s monetary claim. Second, a provisional disposition order may be issued to preserve the status quo of a disputed subject matter or establish an interim relationship between the parties.

Under Japanese law, contempt is not available as a procedure to enforce a court order. Thus, a defendant may practically become judgment-proof if it dissipates its assets before a plaintiff takes action to enforce a judgment.

Freezing assets

When is it appropriate for a claimant to consider obtaining an order freezing a defendant’s assets? What are the preconditions and other considerations?

A plaintiff should consider obtaining a provisional seizure order to attach a defendant’s property if there is a risk that the defendant will dissipate its assets. To obtain the order, a plaintiff must show a prima facie case for the claims to be preserved and the necessity of preserving them in an ex parte procedure. A plaintiff must also provide security as a condition for a court to issue an order. A court determines the amount of the required security taking into account, among other things, the monetary value of a claim and the subject property to be seized.

Pre-action conduct requirements

Are there requirements for pre-action conduct and what are the consequences of non-compliance?

The CCP does not require parties to take pre-action conduct. The CCP provides for an advance notice of filing, which allows a prospective plaintiff to ask a prospective defendant about certain matters and ask for a court’s assistance in collecting certain evidence. However, it is rarely used because there are no means to compel fulfilment of those requests.

Other interim relief

What other forms of interim relief can be sought?

See question 8.

Alternative dispute resolution

Does the court require or expect parties to engage in ADR at the pre-action stage or later in the case? What are the consequences of failing to engage in ADR at these stages?

Parties are not required to engage in ADR at the pre-action stage or later in a case, except in certain cases such as rent reviews. A court has discretion to order the parties to attempt conciliation, which is often the practice in cases involving construction.

Claims against natural persons versus corporations

Are there different considerations for claims against natural persons as opposed to corporations?

If a corporate defendant lacks a duly authorised representative to act on its behalf, the plaintiff needs to request the appointment of a special agent by making a prima facie showing of the risk that the plaintiff will incur damage if there is a delay.

Class actions

Are any of the considerations different for class actions, multi-party or group litigations?

In cases where an action is brought by or against multiple parties, a Japanese court has jurisdiction if rights or obligations that are the subject matter of litigation are common to such parties or are based on the same factual or statutory causes.

In 2016, the Act on Special Provisions of Civil Court Procedures for Collective Recovery of Property Damage of Consumers came into effect, enabling consumers to recover damages collectively concerning claims in connection with consumer contracts. However, this legislation differs considerably from the class action under US law because the ability to initiate important procedures thereunder is not given to individual consumers, but to a specific qualified consumer organisation certified and regulated by the Prime Minister.

Third-party funding

What restrictions are there on third parties funding the costs of the litigation or agreeing to pay adverse costs?

Third-party litigation funding is not common in Japan, especially for commercial litigation. The Basic Rules on the Duties of Practising Attorneys prohibit an attorney from sharing fees for his or her services with anyone other than practising attorneys or legal profession corporations, unless permitted by law or regulations or rules of the bar association to which the attorney belongs, or unless there is a justifiable cause.

Contingency fee arrangements

Can lawyers act on a contingency fee basis? What options are available? What issues should be considered before entering into an arrangement of this nature?

Contingency fees are permitted if they are appropriate and reasonable considering factors such as the economic benefit, the difficulty of the case, and the volume of time and labour required from an attorney. However, a typical fee arrangement for civil litigation will involve a combination of a retainer fee upon engagement and a contingency fee to paid upon successful representation.

The claim

Launching claims

How are claims launched? How are the written pleadings structured, and how long do they tend to be? What documents need to be appended to the pleading?

A claim is launched when a plaintiff files a complaint to the court of first instance, usually a district court with competent jurisdiction. A complaint consists of a description of the claim sought and the cause of action. A copy of the complaint and material documentary evidence must be attached to the complaint. The length of the complaint varies greatly depending on the complexity of a case and counsel’s style.

The court then serves the complaint on the defendant along with summons designating the first date of oral argument, which must be within 30 days of when the action was filed.

Serving claims on foreign parties

How are claims served on foreign parties?

Japan is a signatory to the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters and the Convention on Civil Procedure. Service of documents on foreign parties is governed by these conventions, bilateral treaties or reciprocal judicial aid arrangements, and subject to acceptance on a case-by-case basis, as the case may be. With respect to foreign jurisdictions lacking diplomatic relationships with Japan, documents are served by publication, which becomes effective six weeks after the notice has been posted at the court.

Key causes of action

What are the key causes of action that typically arise in commercial litigation?

A typical cause of action in commercial litigation is damages for breach of contract.

Claim amendments

Under what circumstances can amendments to claims be made?

A plaintiff may amend the claim if it does not fundamentally change the claim before the conclusion of an oral argument, provided that doing so would not substantially delay the litigation proceedings. If the court finds the amendment to be inappropriate, it shall rule against permitting such amendment, upon petition or on its own accord.

Remedies

What remedies are available to a claimant in your jurisdiction?

Compensatory damages are the most common remedy available under Japanese law. Punitive damages are not available. Injunction is available in some cases. Declaratory judgment is also available in some cases if it is an appropriate remedy to resolve the legal dispute currently pending between the parties.

Recoverable damages

What damages are recoverable? Are there any particular rules on damages that might make this jurisdiction more favourable than others?

Damages are compensated against losses that are proximately caused by the breach of an obligation or a tort. Under Japanese law, recoverable damages are compensatory in nature, and punitive damages are not available as the Supreme Court of Japan has ruled that they contravene Japan’s public policy.

Responding to the claim

Early steps available

What steps are open to a defendant in the early part of a case?

A defendant may request the court to dismiss a case based on reasons other than those on the merits, such as lack of jurisdiction. The defendant must assert such defences before or at the same time as filing its defence on the merits. Even if a defendant is subject to a Japanese court’s jurisdiction, it may challenge the jurisdiction by asserting that there are special circumstances that would render it inequitable to either party or prevent a fair and speedy trial if the litigation takes place in a Japanese court. Factors considered in such challenge are, among other things, the nature of the case, the defendant’s burden to make an appearance and the location of evidence.

A defendant may also generally file a counterclaim if it is related to the claim pursued by the plaintiff or has a bearing on the means of defence, provided that the counterclaim is not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of another court and would not substantially delay litigation proceedings. A defendant may also issue a notice of the litigation to a third party who has a legal interest in the outcome of the litigation, including those who may be liable in whole or in part for the claim.

Defence structure

How are defences structured, and must they be served within any time limits? What documents need to be appended to the defence?

A defendant may assert defences on the merits as well as defences due to reasons other than those on the merits referred to in question 23. A defendant may deny the facts alleged by the plaintiff by providing the reason thereof in its answer or any other briefs, and the plaintiff bears the burden of proof for such facts. Facts of which a defendant indicates a lack of knowledge are deemed denied. However, facts to which a defendant admits or remains silent about will be treated as undisputed facts and do not require proof. A defendant may also present its affirmative defence based on facts in which the burden of proof lies with the defendant.

Defences must be accompanied by a copy of important documentary evidence for grounds that require proof, and must be presented at an appropriate time in accordance with the status of progress in the litigation. If a defendant submits such defence belatedly, whether intentionally or through gross negligence, and if the conclusion of the litigation will be delayed because of this, a court may dismiss such defence as untimely. Absent special circumstances, defences presented after the conclusion of preparatory proceedings will be deemed as untimely.

Changing defence

Under what circumstances may a defendant change a defence at a later stage in the proceedings?

A defendant may introduce additional affirmative defence until the conclusion of the oral argument, unless the court dismisses it as untimely. See question 24.

Sharing liability

How can a defendant establish the passing on or sharing of liability?

A defendant can pass on or share its liability by conveying a notice of the litigation to a third party who has a legal interest in the outcome of the litigation. Such third party may participate in the litigation as a supporting intervener. Regardless of whether the third party decides to intervene or not after the notice, such third party cannot dispute certain findings in the judgment from the litigation at another proceeding.

Avoiding trial

How can a defendant avoid trial?

A defendant can avoid trial if it agrees to settle before the conclusion of preparatory proceedings. A defendant can also avoid trial if its defence is based on reasons other than those on the merits (such as lack of jurisdiction; see question 23) is sustained, or otherwise convinces the court that the claim can be rejected on the merits without examining witnesses.

Case of no defence

What happens in the case of a no-show or if no defence is offered?

If a defendant does not appear at the first oral argument without having submitted beforehand an answer or any other brief offering a defence or disputing the cause of action alleged in the complaint, the court may deem that the defendant has admitted the plaintiff’s factual allegations, and may conclude the proceedings and render judgment in the plaintiff’s favour.

Claiming security

Can a defendant claim security for costs? If so, what form of security can be provided?

If a plaintiff is not domiciled in Japan or does not have a business office or other office in Japan, a defendant may petition the court to order the plaintiff to provide security for court costs. A corporate defendant in certain actions concerning the organisation of a company may also claim the same. The defendant filing the petition may refuse to appear until the plaintiff provides security. If a plaintiff fails to provide security by the ordered deadline, the court may dismiss the action without prejudice unless the plaintiff provides security before the judgment is rendered. Note that security for court costs does not cover attorneys’ fees. A plaintiff may provide security by depositing money or certain securities with an official depository in the locality of the court that ordered the security to be provided, by entering into a contract for consignment of a payment guarantee with a financial institution, or in the manner specified in a special contract agreed by the parties. However, a plaintiff who is a national of one of the contracting states to the Convention on Civil Procedure and is domiciled in, or has a business office or other office in, that state is not required to provide security (unless that state declared its reservation pursuant to article 32, paragraph 1 of the Convention).

Progressing the case

Typical procedural steps

What is the typical sequence of procedural steps in commercial litigation in this country?

Once a plaintiff files a complaint to the district court, the presiding judge first examines it for any defects or statements that need correction or clarification. The complaint is then served on the defendant along with summons designating the first date of oral argument, which is generally within 30 days of the date on which the complaint was filed. The defendant is usually required to submit an answer one week before the first oral argument. If the defendant disputes the allegations in the complaint, the case is then referred to a preparatory proceeding to resolve issues through the exchange of briefs and documentary evidence. At the end of the preparatory proceedings, based on the parties’ motion, the court decides fact witnesses and expert witnesses to be called upon in the trial, the order of their questioning and the time each party is given for questioning. Witnesses are examined in a courtroom open to the public. The parties then typically file their final briefs before the case is closed. The court usually renders its judgment within two months of the conclusion of the oral argument, but may take longer depending on the complexity of the case.

Bringing in additional parties

Can additional parties be brought into a case after commencement?

An additional party may be brought into a case after commencement if such party succeeded to a right or an obligation that is the subject matter of the litigation while the case is pending. A party may also effectively bring an additional party into the existing litigation by filing a separate lawsuit against such party and then request the court to consolidate both proceedings, although the court has discretion over whether to do so or not.

Consolidating proceedings

Can proceedings be consolidated or split?

Yes. A court may order the separation or consolidation of oral arguments. If the court has ordered the consolidation of oral arguments for cases involving different parties and a party requests the examination of a witness who has already been examined before the consolidation but whom the party had no chance to examine, that examination shall be carried out.

Court decision making

How does a court decide if the claims or allegations are proven? What are the elements required to find in favour, and what is the burden of proof?

A court decides a claim is proven if its elements provide the level of conviction that an ordinary person could not interject doubts regarding the veracity thereof. The plaintiff has the burden of proof as to the causes of action, and the defendant bears the burden with regard to its affirmative defence. The required elements vary depending on the nature of the claim. As an example, if a plaintiff claims damages for a breach of contract, it must prove:

  • conclusion of a contract;
  • breach of an obligation created by the contract;
  • occurrence of damage and the monetary value thereof; and
  • proximate causation between the breach and the damage.

How does a court decide what judgments, remedies and orders it will issue?

A court issues judgments, remedies and orders specifically requested by a party, and it may not issue judgments on any matter not raised by the parties or order remedies beyond the relief sought by the parties. For example, if a plaintiff requested ¥1 billion in damages, a court may award ¥1 billion or less, but it cannot order an amount above ¥1 billion even if it finds that the plaintiff is entitled to more.

Evidence

How is witness, documentary and expert evidence dealt with?

In the early stages of preparatory proceedings, parties are expected to submit relevant documentary evidence that corroborates their respective allegations. The court will identify important facts as well as issues that need to be proven by testimonial evidence. Typically, parties will submit written statements of witnesses they wish to have examined. Written statements effectively function as the detailed account of a witness’s testimony, and the party conducting direct examination is expected to focus its questions on matters that are important. For expert evidence, parties either request the court to appoint an expert to provide an expert opinion, or submit an expert opinion obtained from an expert privately retained by that party.

How does the court deal with large volumes of commercial or technical evidence?

For large volumes of commercial evidence, a court may ask a party’s counsel to submit a summary of large volumes of commercial evidence. A court may also ask a party to consider submitting an expert opinion analysing technical evidence to assist its understanding.

Can a witness in your jurisdiction be compelled to give evidence in or to a foreign court? And can a court in your jurisdiction compel a foreign witness to give evidence?

A witness in Japan cannot be compelled to give evidence in or to a foreign court because of Japan’s judicial sovereignty. Likewise, a Japanese court cannot compel a witness in a foreign jurisdiction to provide evidence for litigation in Japan. Arrangements for such witnesses to provide testimony in a foreign or a Japanese court will be governed by the Convention on Civil Procedure Convention (to which Japan is a signatory), bilateral consular conventions, reciprocal judicial aid arrangements or case-by-case agreements. Note that Japan is not a signatory to the Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters.

How is witness and documentary evidence tested up to and during trial? Is cross-examination permitted?

Parties must submit an original, an authenticated copy or a certified transcript of a document before the document can be introduced into evidence. In practice, a court inspects the original document submitted by the party requesting its admission first, and then the other party will inspect it. The party denying the authenticity of a document is required to clarify his or her reasoning.

Before the examination, witnesses must swear to tell the truth according to the dictates of conscience, without hiding anything or adding anything. Witnesses are first examined by the party who has requested the examination (direct examination). The opposing party then has an opportunity to conduct cross-examination, which will be followed by the requesting party’s redirect examination. The opposing party is permitted to cross-examine a witness regarding matters mentioned in the direct examination and any matters related thereto, and matters concerning the credibility of the testimony.

Time frame

How long do the proceedings typically last, and in what circumstances can they be expedited?

Statistics show that in 2018, civil litigation in district courts took nine months on average to be completed; however, 6,822 cases had been pending for two to three years, and 292 cases for over five years. There are no special or fast-track proceedings under which a case can be processed more efficiently than normal proceedings.

Gaining an advantage

What other steps can a party take during proceedings to achieve tactical advantage in a case?

The CCP does not provide for a summary judgment or motion to strike a complaint, whether in whole or in part. Before the end of preparatory proceedings, courts often explore with the parties whether there is an opportunity for a settlement before commencing witness examination, and parties often get an insight into how the court is seeing the strengths and weaknesses of the case.

Impact of third-party funding

If third parties are able to fund the costs of the litigation and pay adverse costs, what impact can this have on the case?

As mentioned in question 15, third-party litigation funding is not common in Japan for commercial litigation. In some pro bono and consumer cases, crowd funding has been used as a mechanism to raise litigation costs from third parties, which may enhance the publicity of such cases.

Impact of technology

What impact is technology having on complex commercial litigation in your jurisdiction?

The CCP promulgated in 1996 provides several provisions incorporating the use of technology in litigation. A court may examine a witness residing in a remote location through audio and visual transmissions. A court may conduct preparatory proceedings by telephone if one of the parties is physically present. Apart from those, however, the current procedure relies heavily on paper. A complaint and other motions must be submitted on paper; other briefs must be submitted either in paper form or by facsimile. Case materials in court are not electronically accessible. Technology-assisted document reviews have not become an issue because broad pretrial discovery is not available in Japan.

In 2017, the government announced an initiative to promote the use of technology to digitalise the litigation procedure. In 2018, the government released a report describing the specifics of the initiative consisting of ‘3 e’s’: e-filing, e-court and e-case Management. The initiative will be executed in three phases, some requiring an amendment to the CCP. Currently, a paperless litigation procedure is expected to be implemented in 2023.

Parallel proceedings

How are parallel proceedings dealt with? What steps can a party take to gain a tactical advantage in these circumstances, and may a party bring private prosecutions?

Regulatory or criminal proceedings are in principle distinct from civil proceedings. A party may attempt to have an informal discussion with the competent authorities to coordinate its respective position in each of the proceedings. In Japan, public prosecutors have the exclusive authority to initiate a criminal prosecution, and a private party may file a criminal complaint to urge prosecutorial authorities to do so.

Trial

Trial conduct

How is the trial conducted for common types of commercial litigation? How long does the trial typically last?

Witnesses are examined according to the timetable and in the order determined by the court at the conclusion of preparatory proceedings. The CCP requires examinations to be conducted in a focused manner, and in practice, courts try to complete examination within one day. However, in complex cases, examination may run for several non-consecutive days depending on the court’s calendar.

A party may, with the permission of the presiding judge, question a witness while showing a document, provided that such document has been submitted reasonably in advance of the examination (except when the document is used as evidence to deny the credibility of the testimony) and the opposing party has an opportunity to inspect it.

Use of juries

Are jury trials the norm, and can they be denied?

A jury trial is not available for commercial litigation in Japan.

Confidentiality

How is confidentiality treated? Can all evidence be publicly accessed? How can sensitive commercial information be protected? Is public access granted to the courts?

Japan’s Constitution requires that trials be conducted and judgments declared in public. Any person may ask to inspect a case record unless the oral argument of the case is closed, in which case only parties to the case and third parties who have made a prima facie showing of their legal interest may inspect the record. Copying of the case record is also restricted to the parties and interested third parties.

At the request of a party, the court may prohibit those who are not party to a case from inspecting or copying parts of the case record that include either a material secret regarding the private life of a party, or a party’s trade secret as defined in the Unfair Competition Prevention Act.

In certain types of litigation (such as infringement of business interests due to unfair competition) a court may, at the request of a party, issue a confidentiality protective order to prohibit parties and their counsel from using trade secrets that they have learned through documents that the opposing party has submitted to the court for any purpose other than conducting litigation, or disclose it to anybody who is not subject to the order.

Media interest

How is media interest dealt with? Is the media ever ordered not to report on certain information?

A court may permit representatives of the media to photograph and video the courtroom for two minutes after the judges are seated. Typically, everybody behind the bar sits still and remains silent. Photography and video recording are not permitted while the court is in session. In cases attracting a lot of publicity, a court sometimes provides a summary of the judgment upon the media’s request to facilitate their reporting.

A court in Japan does not have authority to order the media not to report on certain information.

Proving claims

How are monetary claims valued and proved?

The plaintiff must prove that the damage has occurred with appropriate evidence and the monetary amount thereof. If damage is found to have occurred, but if it is difficult to prove the exact amount of damage due to its nature, the CCP provides that a court may determine the amount of damages considered reasonable, based on the oral arguments and the results of the examination of evidence. Statutes sometimes provide for a presumption of amount for damages, such as for harm suffered as a result of unfair competition.

Post-trial

Costs

How does the court deal with costs? What is the typical structure and length of judgments in complex commercial cases, and are they publicly accessible?

Under Japanese law, each party is responsible for its attorneys’ fees. For other court costs, such as filing fees, postage and travel expenses for witnesses coming to testify at trial, the general rule is that the losing party must bear the burden. However, a court may, at its discretion, apportion the burden to the other party if the party caused delay in the litigation or performed unnecessary actions to pursue or defend a claim, or if the judgment was a partial defeat for the losing party.

Further to the case heading, which describes the parties, case number and date when oral arguments concluded, a judgment typically starts with the main text describing the order, followed by a section on the facts and grounds of the case, which describes a summary of the relief sought, a summary of the dispute, the judgment of the court and a conclusion.

The summary of the dispute is typically structured into undisputed facts, issues and each party’s respective allegations, and sometimes a summary of the relevant statutes if they are complicated. The judgment of the court typically starts with the facts found by the court, followed by the court’s legal analysis, and finally the conclusion warranting the order in the main text.

Judgments are publicly accessible, as explained in question 46. Some judgments are accessible through the Supreme Court’s website.

Appeals

When can judgments be appealed? How many stages of appeal are there and how long do appeals tend to last?

There are two stages of appeal in Japan. The losing party may first file an appeal to a High Court within two weeks of receipt of the district court’s judgment. Here, the appellant may plead both factual and legal issues as grounds of appeal. Within two weeks of receipt of the appellate judgment, the losing party may file a final appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court only examines questions of law, and the grounds for final appeal are limited to violations of the Constitution or certain grave procedural errors. However, when there are no grounds for a final appeal, a party may still petition the Supreme Court to accept a case as a final appellate court to provide a discretionary review on material matters concerning the interpretation of laws and regulations. At the High Courts and the Supreme Court, most cases are adjudicated in six to 12 months, but may take longer when reversing the judgment below.

Enforceability

How enforceable internationally are judgments from the courts in your jurisdiction?

It is commonly perceived that a judgment from a Japanese court may not be enforceable in China because of a lack of a mutual guarantee between the two countries.

How do the courts in your jurisdiction support the process of enforcing foreign judgments?

Courts in Japan may render the execution of a judgment to enforce a final and binding foreign judgment without investigating the appropriateness of the foreign judgment itself if a party shows that the foreign judgment meets the following requirements:

  • the jurisdiction of the foreign court is recognised under law, regulations, conventions or treaties;
  • the defeated defendant has received service (excluding service by publication or any other similar service) of a summons or order necessary for the commencement of the suit, or has appeared without receiving such service;
  • the content of the judgment and the court proceedings are not contrary to public policy in Japan; and
  • a mutual guarantee exists.

Other considerations

Interesting features

Are there any particularly interesting features or tactical advantages of litigating in this country not addressed in any of the previous questions?

Judges in Japan enjoy very high levels of public trust, and judicial corruption is virtually unheard of. The vast majority of judges are career judges coming from the top tier of those who have passed a highly competitive bar exam and have completed an apprenticeship in the court-administered Legal Training and Research Institute with high marks.

Jurisdictional disadvantages

Are there any particular disadvantages of litigating in your jurisdiction, whether procedural or pragmatic?

Litigation in Japanese courts must be conducted in Japanese. If a document is not written in Japanese, a party introducing that document into evidence must submit its translation. For cross-border cases, this entails an extra cost.

In addition, because a plaintiff must pay a filing fee calculated based on the claimed amount, it could be a discouraging factor for a plaintiff seeking high damages.

Special considerations

Are there special considerations to be taken into account when defending a claim in your jurisdiction, that have not been addressed in the previous questions?

There are no evidentiary rules prohibiting hearsay from being admitted in Japanese civil litigation.

Updates and trends

Key developments of the past year

What were the key cases, decisions, judgements and policy and legislative developments of the past year?

Key developments of the past year56 What were the key cases, decisions, judgments and policy and legislative developments of the past year?

See question 42 regarding developments towards the digitalisation of the commercial litigation procedure.