Japanese (legal) history, culture and “hidden” Christianity

[This is a research note for a documentary series being developed from Sydney analysing the world-wide spread of Christianity, which now attracts more believers in Asia and Africa than in the West. Christianity has not recovered from severe persecution in Japan during the 16th century, including martyrdoms in Nagasaki and Kyoto, but it has left surprising legacies – as noted even by the Gekkeikan sake company from southern Kyoto. The story reveals interesting points of intersection with Japan’s history, culture and law.]
Japan is a fascinating case study of a country in Asia that had an early and positive encounter with Christianity from the mid-16th century, but then severe persecution by Shoguns (generalissimos) seeking to maintain political control (Part 1 below). Western powers forced the country to reopen to the world from the mid-19th century and to allow Christianity to be promoted again. But the new government leaders pursued a strong secularist agenda to modernize the nation and rid itself of “unequal” trade treaties. This paradoxically fed into support of nationalist and militarist State Shinto, resulting in pressure on the Church as well as the Pacific War (Part 2). Christianity never took off in a big way in Japan, even after WW2 (Part 3), partly because it was too associated with America as a potential (& eventually actual) occupier, in contrast with Korea where Christianity and the West were seen by nationalists as potential allies against the Japanese as colonisers. Yet Christianity arguably has had a “hidden” influence through many centuries in Japan (Part 4). It can be seen as an example of how a small but dedicated following can have a disproportionate influence across many spheres – big and small (Part 5).

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Review – Rieko Kage “Who Judges? Designing Jury Systems in Japan, East Asia and Europe”

[Draft presentation / review for an authors-meet-readers session at the Asian Law & Society Association conference, 29 Nov – 1 Dec, Bond University. Remarks / asides in [[square brackets] and/or hyperlinked references, plus some edits, were adjusted afterwards for a final version being published in (2019) Asian Journal of Law and Society]
(Cambridge University Press 2017) xiii + 264 pages, ISDN 978-1-107-19469-4 Hardback
Reviewed by: Luke Nottage
University of Sydney Law School & Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL)
This is a fascinating, compellingly argued, carefully researched and beautifully written empirical analysis of how the relative strength of “new left” against traditional right and old left political parties impacts differently on the introduction and design of “jury” or “lay judge” systems since the 1990s in East Asia and beyond. Kage’s mixed-method study convincingly shows how such political dynamics result in different degrees to which power is transferred away from professional judges and towards lay people being involved in adjudicating criminal matters. This transfer of power, which reduces judicial independence vis-à-vis the public (by involving them in adjudication) during an era where independence has often been growing vis-à-vis politicians, is most extensive in Spain (with a lay judge system was introduced in 1995), quite extensive in Japan (with the saiban’in system introduced in 2004, although not implemented until 2009), less extensive in South Korea (2007), and least extensive in Taiwan (comparing a “lay observer” Bill submitted in 2012). Key benchmarks for such a comparative assessment (summarized in Table 1.2 at p17) are whether professional judges retain powers to determine which cases end up being heard by lay judges, and voting rules allow lay judges to dominate binding decisions (p15).

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