“Contract Law in Japan” – Kluwer Book Preface

With Profs Hiroo Sono (Hokkaido U), Kenji Saigusa (Waseda) and Andrew Pardieck (Southern Illinois U), I was pleased to co-author a book manuscript on “Contract Law in Japan”, which is now in press. As mentioned in our Preface reproduced below, it aims to provide the first English-language volume incorporating an analysis of Japan’s first comprehensive reforms to the Civil Code since the late 19th century, enacted in 2017 and coming into force from 2020.


This volume provides an analysis of contract law in Japan as reformed in 2017. The law of obligations, including contract law, in the Japanese Civil Code of 1896 had remained largely intact for over 120 years until this reform took place. The amendments cover the law of obligations, but exclude the law of torts and the law of restitution from their scope. Thus, this was basically a contract law reform. It is a result of an extensive drafting process that stretches over 11 years (or 8 years, depending on what one counts as the drafting process). The reform attempts to modernize Japanese contract law, to incorporate case law developments into the Civil Code, and to promote the global convergence of contract law.
The reformed Civil Code will come into effect on 1 April 2020. This volume aspires to be the first English-language overview of contract law in Japan that provides up-to-date accounts of the reform of 2017.
Some notes on how to use this volume are in order.
• The provisions of the Japanese Civil Code cited in this volume are, unless otherwise indicated, those of the Civil Code as revised in 2017. Accounts of the provisions prior to the 2017 Reform are included only when the authors considered it significant to highlight the change.
• Article numbers cited in brackets, without indication of which law they refer to, are those of the Civil Code as revised in 2017. When citing provisions of other laws, the title of the law is indicated unless it is obvious from the context.
• There is no official English-language translation of provisions of the Japanese law. However, the “Japanese Law Translation” website maintained by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, available at http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp, offers semi-official translations of many laws. The translations of Japanese laws and terminology used in this book are mostly taken from that website, including its regularly updated Standard Legal Terms Dictionary downloadable through “Dictionary Search”. Where unavailable or otherwise appropriate, we have used our own translations. Unfortunately, an English-language translation of the Civil Code as revised in 2017 was not available when we were writing this book. After its completion, a German-language translation coordinated by Professor Keizo Yamamoto was published in Issue 45 of the Journal of Japanese Law (2018) pp. 183-305.
• Non-official English-language translations of some Supreme Court judgments are available at the Supreme Court of Japan’s website. In order to save space, we have not indicated URLs to every Supreme Court judgment cited in this volume. They are easily searchable by accessing http://www.courts.go.jp/app/hanrei_en/search?.
• The style used in this volume does not incorporate macrons or such like in romanised Japanese words to indicate long vowel sounds. Readers of Japanese should already know those sounds, while non-readers do not really need to be told about them.
As this volume belongs to the International Encyclopaedia of Laws/Contract Law series, it follows the structure of the other monographs in the series in order to make functional comparison across different jurisdictions possible. This means that the volume does not follow the sequence of the provisions as they appear in the Civil Code. This has the effect of bringing to light for the authors some interesting insights about how to view contract law. These will be more fully developed in our future writings.
This volume has had a long gestation period. We are grateful to Kluwer for their patience in allowing us to follow the reform process, and to Professor Jacques Herbots for giving us the opportunity to write this book.
We are also grateful to Ganesh Vaheisvaran, Beverly Pargungao, Matthew Power and especially Kirsten Gan for editorial and research assistance. We also acknowledge funding from Sydney Law School, as well as the hosting provided to Nottage for sabbatical research in 2011 at Hokkaido University, and Kyoto University (courtesy of Professor Keizo Yamamoto).
August 2018
Hiroo Sono
Luke Nottage
Andrew Pardieck
Kenji Saigusa

Author: Luke Nottage

Prof Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM LLD Kyoto) is founding co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), Associate Director (Japan) of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), and Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School. He specialises in international dispute resolution, foreign investment law, contract and consumer (product safety) law.