As well as semester-length exchange opportunities, such as those described by Ganesh Vaheisvaran (presently at Yonsei University in Korea), Sydney Law School has already started to meet the challenge of ‘Australia in the Asian Century‘ by developing short-term offshore courses in various Asian countries.
Jenny Han, a final-year LLB student with a BA (Hons) in Japanese Studies, first reports below on two experiences in Japan. The Kyoto/Tokyo Seminars in Japanese Law are offered for credit to LLB/JD and Masters students over 10 days every February, to Japanese, Australian and other international students. Participation in the INC negotiation and arbitration competition in Tokyo usually attracts course credit (within the ‘International Moot’ LLB/JD unit), although Sydney Law School is moving towards fielding a team every two years (recommencing in the December 2015 moot). We are very grateful for financial supporters of these opportunities for closer engagement with Japan, especially Mr Akira Kawamura (LLM 1979, former President of the International Bar Association) and Mitsui Matsushima Australia Pty Ltd.
Glenn Kembrey then adds some remarks on his student exchange at Kobe University. He enjoyed it so much that he extended his stay beyond one semester (needed to complete his USydney LLB degree), studying in Kobe for another semester to hone his skills in comparative law.
Written by: Jenny Han
What image pops up in your mind when you think of Japan? It could be kimono-clad geisha shuffling down the street with umbrellas overhead, oversized sumo wrestlers battling it out the ring, sophisticated cuisine and kooky street fashion. Or, for those of you who still remember the horrific landscape ripped apart by the March 11 earthquake in 2011, it could be the white smoke fuming out of the Fukushima nuclear power plant or piles of debris engulfing smashed homes, cars and perhaps more grim reminders of the lives lost in the tsunami. Whatever fantasies and images you might have about Japan, it is one of the places you should consider for a challenging yet very rewarding study experience.
Throughout my university life, I have always been interested in Japan and law, but wasn’t quite sure how to create a substantial linkage between the two. Thankfully I encountered two valuable opportunities in my law degree, namely the Intercollegiate Negotiation and Arbitration Competition (‘INC Moot’) and the Kyoto/Tokyo Seminars in Japanese Law.
INC Moot in Tokyo
Over the first weekend in December, the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) has fielded ‘Team Australia’, consisting of up of 8 law students from USyd and ANU to participate in the INC Moot held in Tokyo. This is one of the most prestigious negotiation and arbitration competitions held in the Asia-Pacific region, sponsored by major national and international corporations and law firms. Team Australia is a consistently high-performing team, particularly famous for its robust negotiation and creative problem solving skills. As a team member, you are constantly exposed to various issues and principles of international commercial and business law. In particular, the INC Moot’s unique problem question (apart from being an interesting piece of drama, unlike most law exams – it is full of broken promises, betrayed friendships, avaricious conglomerate, human follies and more!) is intricately designed by the best legal practitioners and professors in the region, to maximise each participant’s oral and written advocacy skills in either English or Japanese.
I was a part of Team Australia several times, competing in English in the first year and then taking the plunge in Japanese. Perhaps the best legacy from this experience is how to effectively address challenges posed by dealing with people with different cultural, social and legal backgrounds. Most of the Japanese competitors I met are loyal to the omote/ura (public/private facades) distinction inherent in their culture. During negotiations, for example, they can be very enigmatic. Even less so than Australians, they rarely put on the table any cards that would reveal their ura. However you learn to distinguish omote from ura through sometimes fierce and sometimes friendly interactions with the other contenders throughout the competition.
While you become culturally and socially literate this way, you also get some invaluable opportunities to experience the Japanese legal system. We enjoyed customised tours to top-tier national and international law firms in Japan and guided excursions to legal institutions like the Supreme Court of Japan, which are hardly ever open to the public. Further, the connections and friendships you build through the INC Moot are priceless. In fact, one of the judge-registrars at the Supreme Court of Japan who guided a tour for Team Australia kindly furnished me with a wealth of rare resources in Japanese law when I was writing an honours thesis for my other degree. Also, I still keep in contact with a few of Japanese competitors I met – some of them have already passed the infamously difficult shiho shiken (bar exam). Let me tell you, building professional rapport across borders definitely widens your horizons.
Kyoto and Tokyo Seminars in Japanese Law
Another opportunity for engagement in Japan during your law degree is the Kyoto/Tokyo Seminar offshore unit in Japanese Law. This intensive course aims to provide comprehensive gist of Japanese laws and its contemporary legal system. The subjects include civil law, criminal law, constitutional law, international law and many more, which are taught in English by the best professors and some practitioners in the field. More so than the INC Moot, students are given invaluable opportunities to visit courts and other legal institutions. In 2011 when I took this unit of study, I sat in one of the criminal hearings at the Tokyo District Court. It was an amazing experience. Did you know the statue of Themis or her daughter Dike, the Greek goddess of justice, is usually depicted without a blindfold in Japanese courts? Arguably it reflects the more inquisitorial nature of the judiciary in a mostly ‘civil law’ tradition, as well as the open-textured notion of fairness in Japanese culture.
In my year, there was a bunch of Japanese students mostly from Ritsumeikan University who joined classes with us. Students were divided into small groups with at least one local student. As a group, we discussed and shared our thoughts on various issues, ranging from the ‘no-war’ clause in the Japanese Constitution, through to which restaurant to go for the after-class nomikai and karaoke. I have to admit, my experience with the Japanese students during this course was quite different from the INC Moot. Reserved and orderly students in suits suddenly strip off their shirts, knot their ties around their foreheads as if they are revolutionaries, and hit the stage with the Harlem Shake. Ganesh is right to emphasise the importance of ‘mashigo tohago’ for Koreans. Japanese students are no less hardcore.
All in all, I recommend that you try out Japan at some point in your degree. I bet you, it would be one of those things you will never regret studying law for.
Written by: Glenn Kembrey
I studied for one year at Kobe University Law School with the support of the Prime Minister’s Australia-Asia Undergraduate Award. My time at Kobe Law School was without doubt one of the most enjoyable and awarding aspects of my law degree at Sydney University. I took subjects in Criminal Law, Civil Law, Public International Law and Constitutional Law. As all subjects were taken in Japanese I was also able to improve upon my Japanese skills. During the spring vacation, I also undertook an internship at Kobe City Hall and participated in Kobe University club activities with my peers.
One of the most awarding parts of my experiences at Kobe Law School was participation in two seminars (zemi). Seminars, distinct from lectures, allowed for individual research and weekly discussion about legal topics with Japanese students and professors. I participated in seminars in Legal Sociology and Public International Law. I am extremely grateful to Takahashi Sensei and Sakamoto Sensei for allowing me to participate in their seminars and for their ongoing support during my time at Kobe University.
I would thoroughly recommend to any University of Sydney student who speaks Japanese to consider studying on exchange at Kobe University. It allowed me to gain an insight into a foreign legal system, the core principles and methods of legal reasoning of which often fundamentally differ to those characteristic of the Australian common law system. In addition to study, I was able to travel throughout Japan and form close and long-lasting friendships with my fellow students. It was an unforgettable experience.