“Crisis as an Opportunity for Development of Japanese Law”

Following on the inaugural ANJeL-in-Europe symposium organised by Prof Giorgio Colombo for UPavia in late 2019, Dr Wered Ben-Sade and other attendees or associates are participating online in this law-related session on the first day of the Sixth Bi-Annual International Conference of the Israeli Association for Japanese Studies (15-17 November 2022).

Chair: Wered Ben-Sade Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Chair: Wered Ben-Sade
Crises create new opportunities for development, particularly when traditional perceptions and customs (or habits) are questioned and reexamined. Similarly as “Necessity is the mother of invention” (Plato), crises push us out of our comfort zone while simultaneously lowering the risks of change, thus motivating us to operate differently in order to solve them or improve our response. This is true both at the micro, personal level, and at the macro level of society. Understanding this mechanism at the macro level can facilitate us when we encounter a personal crisis and inspire us to search for the opportunity that is encapsulated within.
Five presentations will examine how crises serve as an opportunity for the development of Japanese law, both in the past (from the second half of the 19th century) and now. Some of the most debated challenges that Japan and the world are currently facing, such as inclusiveness of women, legal education, Covid19 impact and sustainability (in the context of corporate governance), will be discussed.

Béatrice Jaluzot Lyon Institute for Political Sciences & Lyon Institute for East Asian Studies
Crisis as an opportunity for development from a historical perspective: The choice of a positivist legal system following the signature of the Unequal Treaties
In the second half of the 19th century, Japan experienced the collapse of a thousand-year-old culture based on the Chinese model and the emergence of a society inspired by Western models. The disappearance of the old regime, caused by the imperialist movements of the time, gave way to a country that was profoundly renewed in all its fundamental structures. Among them, the country’s legal system was one of the essential novelties and one of the main achievements of the new leaders. They were thus able to set up institutions that are still largely those of today. The aim is to present how this legal system is the result of this brutal overthrow of the regime, but also to understand how the accelerated transition from which it emerged took place. This rupture gave rise to the powerful and efficient structures we know today.

Makoto Messersmith University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA
Insights on the possibility of inclusiveness of women in law studies of Japan
When we look at the status quo and history of female law professors in the U.S. and Japan, it shows that unlike the U.S., Japan has not experienced great improvement regarding inclusiveness of women into law studies, yet. Although it seems that Japan has made some efforts to encourage more women to enter the field of law, women in law studies are still facing unique challenges. For instance, in many universities, female law professors are still less than 20%. In my talk, I will explore their challenges and discuss how we can encourage more women to be included in law studies.

Luke Nottage University of Sydney, Australia and Ken’ichi Yoneda, Kagoshima University, Japan
Introducing ICT into Japanese Legal Education:
The Postgraduate Law School Movement and Covid-19 as Cornerstones
This report explains the evolution of online legal education in Japan, particularly in its universities. Three phases can be discerned: before and after the introduction from 2004 of a new postgraduate Law School system to improve and expand core legal professionals, as part of a wider justice system reform program, and a more dramatic expansion prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. The Law School reforms had trickled down somewhat to undergraduate legal education, building on and linking to wider nationwide and university-sector initiatives in Information and Communications Technology. This fortunately positioned Japanese legal education quite well for pandemic-related challenges, although the transitions have not been easy.

Ying Hsin Tsai College of Law, National Taiwan University
The Development of Shareholder Activism following the COVID-19 Pandemic
The development of shareholder activism in Japan, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, creates new opportunities. The Japanese company law designs assorted ways by which shareholders can participate in shareholders’ meeting, even if they cannot attend in person (e.g. proxy, written voting and electronic voting). Due to the pandemic, the shareholders’ meeting could not be held in-person, and instead these other ways were gradually put to use. In this presentation I will discuss the practical merits and legal drawbacks surrounding these ways. The overall picture that emerges is that while providing a variety of ways for shareholders to participate in the shareholders’ meeting itself can certainly enhance the practice of shareholder activism, how to design these ways in a manner which overcomes the legal issues remains a challenge.

Kozuka Soichiro Faculty of Law, Gakushuin University, Japan
Introducing Sustainability into the Japanese Corporate Governance
Japan’s corporate governance practice is making rapid developments towards engaging with sustainability. Japan has already the largest number of companies in the world, which have announced support for the TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) framework. The development towards sustainability will probably continue, induced by the external global crisis of the need for sustainability, and by the internal pressure of the institutional investors. In this presentation I will evaluate the current and expected developments. The Japanese nuances in both regulation and practice of corporate governance will also be discussed.