Japanese Studies (& Law): JSAA conference focused on “Sustainability, Longevity and Mobility”

ANJeL has coordinated and proposed two Panels related to Japanese law, as below, for the upcoming biannual conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia. Due to the ongoing pandemic the 2021 conference will be a virtual event delivered via Zoom. The conference theme is ‘Sustainability, Longevity and Mobility’ and details can be found at https://languages-cultures.uq.edu.au/event/session/5776. The dates for the conference remain September 28th to October 1st 2021. Due to the nature of virtual delivery the format for the conference will be quite different from past years and registration costs will be reduced. There will be a virtual postgraduate workshop held during the conference with details to be provided at a later date.

PANEL 1: “Japanese Law and Methodological Diversity”

The three presentations engage with diverse methodological perspectives that can be adopted to analyse Japanese law and society. Luke Nottage and Craig Freedman uncover three key tenets of the post-War Chicago School of economics, adapted by J Mark Ramseyer in analysing an increasingly broad swathe of fields, beyond the economic sphere to include recently and controversially the history of “comfort women”. They warn against letting this or any ideology skew logical arguments or factual determinations. Ayako Harada instead applies a methodology incorporating cultural and institutional perspectives to examine child custody dispute resolution in Japan. Leon Wolff ends by exploring the explanatory power of emotions and affect in explaining reconfiguration of legal relations in Japan.

“Revisiting Ramseyer: The Chicago School of Law and Economics Comes to Japan” (Prof Luke Nottage, co-authored with retired A/Prof Craig Freedman)

Mark Ramseyer has been a leading force in bringing to bear the methods of Law and Economics to an increasingly ambitious analysis of the Japanese legal and economic systems. He has deliberately assumed an iconoclastic position in debunking a number of widely-held beliefs about Japan. More recently he has engendered a bitter degree of controversy by idiosyncratically analysing Korean “comfort women” and residents in Tokyo before and during World War II. In this paper we examine Ramseyer’s long contribution to Japanese studies and conclude that he has too frequently let ideological objectives, paralleling three key tenets of the Chicago School of economics, interfere with what should be cool-headed analysis. While asking many of the right questions, prompting often helpful responses and further research, he unfortunately has let a priori assumptions determine his answers. Ramseyer has proven reluctant to review his assessments or implications, largely dismissing contrary evidence.

Luke Nottage, Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law, University of Sydney Law School, Co-Director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL). Luke specialises in arbitration, contract law, consumer product safety law and corporate governance, with a particular interest in Japan and the Asia-Pacific, and has produced 18 books and hundreds of articles and chapters. He is also Associate Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney, Managing Director of Japanese Law Links Pty Ltd and Special Counsel with Williams Trade Law.

“Child Custody Dispute Resolution in Japan: A Cultural and Institutional Perspective” (Prof Ayako Harada)

This paper describes the background and the current situation of parental child custody disputes in Japan. It discusses the possibility of joint-custody legislation and its potential difficulties in effectively managing such disputes in Japanese cultural and institutional context.

Ayako Harada, Professor at Nagoya University Graduate School of Law’s Department of the Combined Graduate Program in Law and Political Science. Prof Harada specialises in legal sociology, history and theory, having graduated from Kyoto University and worked at Waseda University before joining Nagoya University. A major field of research and writing is family law dispute resolution.

“Japanese Law: Once More with Feeling” (A/Prof Leon Wolff)

Emotions enrich our lives. They define our passions and interests; they give colour to our life events; and, as e-motions, they move us to make choices and decisions. The psychological and neurological sciences have long dismissed the false dichotomy between the unruly horse of the emotions and the calm rider of the intellect. And although sociologists and cultural critics have drawn inspiration from these scientific traditions to develop feeling rules and affect theory to explain transformations in social relations, legal sociologists have kept their feelings in check — at least in their scholarly accounts. This paper explores the explanatory power of emotions and affect in explaining reconfiguration of legal relations in Japan. It considers the different conceptualisations of feelings, their corporeal and psychic dimensions, how they manifest intra- and inter-subjectively, and the methodological challenges involved in accessing, operationalising and analysing emotions to make better ‘sense’ of Japanese law and society. This paper argues that emotions, as forces that drive movement, offer richer possibilities for explaining socio-legal change than current, more static material accounts based on national character, institutional design, politics or rational choice models.

Leon Wolff, Associate professor of law at the Queensland University of Technology and PhD candidate at the Griffith Asia Institute, is founding co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL). Specialising in Japanese law and society, Leon is currently working on a project on the role of emotions and affect on legal change and justice in Japan.

Chair/Discussant: Carol Lawson is the Minter Ellison Research Associate at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law and a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University. She works on regulation and global governance with a focus on criminal justice regulation and closed environments. Her approach is through a comparative sociolegal lens, using mixed methods to carry out empirical research. She is completing a study on the nature and impact of civil prison oversight in Japan and Australia, and planning a project on regulating closed environments in the aged care sector. An insight common to both studies is the importance of developing a granular understanding of regulatees’ compliance postures before attempting a regulatory intervention. She teaches courses in Japanese and Anglo-American law, and coaches in the Tokyo Intercollegiate Negotiation Competition. She also serves on the Japan Law Translation Council and as an expert adviser to the Japanese legal translation community, including on plain legal language.

PANEL 2: “The Shadow of Japanese Law – How Sports Elites and the Marginalised Poor Skirt the Law”

This panel has two presentations exploring the surprising ways corruption and crime function in Japan despite the criminal law. The presentations focus on the two extremes of Japanese society — the elite (professional sumo athletes) and the poor (elderly prisoners who now occupy a significant proportion of the incarcerated). Both presentations explore the surprising ways the elite and the marginalised ignore, invoke and side-step the law to achieve socio-economic goals.

“Subverting the Prison: Stigma, Strategy and Japan’s Aging Inmates” (Carol Lawson, UNSW)

Prison populations are aging across all industrialised jurisdictions. However, in Japan, the growth in older prison admissions has long been outstripping the rate of aging in society as a whole. Nearly 38% of admissions were aged 50 or more in 2018, and there is strong evidence that some older Japanese are leveraging the prison system as de facto aged care. This paper explores the confluence of social disintegration and poverty that have contributed to Japan’s grey crime wave. It then examines the role of legal consciousness in this sociolegal phenomenon. Specifically, the paper analyses data collected from 1500 prisoners in 2016 using Valerie Braithwaite’s ‘motivational postures’ heuristic to show how marginalised older Japanese with compliant attitudes to authority have repeatedly embraced the stigmatising criminal identity to receive law’s protection. Finally, it demonstrates how this deft subversion of prisons to meet individual care needs has driven previously inconceivable legal and social change, rewriting the rule book on criminal justice regulation in Japan – without reliance on rights discourse.

“Integrity and corruption in sport: Lessons from Japan and match-fixing in sumo” (Matt Nichol, CQU [presenter*] with Elisa Solomon and Keiji Kawai

Professional sumo in Japan provides a different perspective on corruption in sport due to the long-standing and until recently accepted tradition of match-fixing in makuuchi and jûryô, the two highest divisions of wrestling known as sekitori. As sports gambling is generally illegal under Japan’s Criminal Code, match-fixing in sumo is not related to gambling. Instead fixing is largely the result of the promotion rules, where rikishi (‘wrestlers’) with a losing record in one of the six annual tournaments face demotion in rank and division, and with it, the loss of status and income of competing in sekitori. Evidence surfaced in the 1990s and 2000s of match-fixing involving wrestlers with above expected winning records when facing a losing record in the last days of a tournament. A police investigation into illegal gambling in baseball in 2011 led to evidence of fixing involving a number of rikishi and resulted in an investigation by the Japan Sumo Association that confirmed the first official cases of match-fixing in sumo. This chapter will examine the cultural, institutional and sumo specific factors that encourage fixing and how trust was restored with the public, fans and sponsors after the 2011 fixing scandal

* Matt Nichol is a Lecturer in Law at the College of Business at Central Queensland University (Melbourne Campus, Spencer Street Melbourne VIC 3000). His research focuses on labour mobility, labour regulation and wages in professional baseball in the United States and Japan. Matt has also researched free agency and corporate governance in the Australian Football League. Matt’s research utilises regulatory theory, approaches to labour and the principle that labour is not a commodity to examine the regulation of labour in professional sport. In 2019, Matt’s book Globalization, Sports Law and Labour Mobility: The Case of Professional Baseball in the United States and Japan was published by Edward Elgar Publishing.

Elisa Solomon is an Asia-Paciic Employment Relations Specialist with Bristol Myers Squibb, and a Research Assistant with Monash University, Australia. Elisa is a lawyer with experience researching and advising on labour laws and regulations in the Asia-Pacific, and holds a Master of Laws. Having worked in both the public and the private sector in Japan, Elisa is experienced in conducting research on Japanese laws and policies. Elisa has conducted research on laws surrounding workers’ protections in Japan, participation of women in Parliament, and the assessment of directors’ liability in Australia and Japan. She has previously worked for the International Labour Organization in Thailand on a regional project analysing countries’ compliance with the Bali Declaration.

Keiji Kawai is a Professor of Sport Law in the Department of Policy Studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. His book, The Legal Status of Professional League Players (2003), was awarded the Okinaga Prize by the Labor Research Center. He served as Visiting Researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 2007 to 2009. Keiji was the General Secretary of the Japan Sports Law Association from 2017 to 2019 and is also on the arbitrator panel at the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency. He was an executive board member of the Nippon Basketball League from 2013 to 2015. He is currently conducting comparative studies funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science on sports accidents and compensation.

Chair/Discussant: Associate Professor Trevor Ryan teaches Legal Theory, Constitutional Law and other classes at Canberra Law School, where he is Program Director of the Juris Doctor. Trevor’s main research interests are elder law, disability, and legal education, with a comparative law interest in Japan. Trevor has published on a range of topics including dementia, guardianship and private law; the right to housing; and the role of stakeholders in shaping legal education. 

Author: Luke Nottage

Prof Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM 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.