Comparative law and justice/Japan

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Collaborators[edit]

Yvargas 9018 19:31, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

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Japanese Flag
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Japan

Basic Information[edit]

Japan is a chain of mountainous islands in eastern Asia located between the Northern Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. In comparison, the country is slightly smaller than the state of California in the United States of America. Much like California, the climate in Japan varies from warm and tropical in the south and cool and wintry in the north. Because Japan is surrounded by water most of its resources are found in the sea, resources such as fish which makes up most of the diet in the country. Aside from fish Japan's agricultural byproducts include rice, sugar beets, vegetable, fruit along with other products. [1]

127,078,679 people make up the population in Japan; of that about 64.3% of the population is between the ages of 15-64 years old. The national language spoken in this country is Japanese. The life expectancy at birth for those living in Japan is 82 years old making it the 3rd highest life expectancy in the world, trailing only Macau and Andorra. This may be partially due to its relatively low amount of people living with HIV/AIDS, about 9,700 making it number 107 out of 165 countries. Buddhism and Shintoism make up the majority of the religion practiced in Japan being 71.4% and 83.9% respectively. This number exceeds 100% because many practice both religions. [2]

Brief History[edit]

According to Shinto beliefs two gods, Izanagi and Izanami, came down from the heavens in order to create what is now known as Japan. Along with these islands, other gods were created to rule over natural forces such as the sea, rivers and woods. The Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, sent her grandson, Ninigi, to rule over the islands. Jimmu the great grandson of Ninigi later became the first human emperor of Japan and is said to have founded the "The Land of the Rising Sun" in 660 B.C. [3]

Japan since then has gone through many economic and structural changes. The first Europeans arrived in Japan around 1543 bring with them a goods that were trade for Japanese gold and by which great wealth began to accumulate in Japan. This however introduced the Japanese to guns which cased wars to become much bloodier.[4]

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit]

Japan is considered a developed, technologically advanced country. Its Gross Domestic Product, or overall economic output is $4.137 trillion ranked fourth in the world trailing only the European Union, The United States and China. Its industries are among the worlds largest and consist of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, ships and chemicals among other things. Japan also has the world's second largest economy, behind the United States. Its currency is the yen.[5]

Health in Japan is among the best in the world which can be seen by its extremely low infant mortality rate which is at 2.79 deaths per 1,000 live births and also by its high life expectancy. The total life expectancy at birth in Japan is 82 years, 78 years for men and 85 years for women ranking it the third highest in the world. [6]

Governance[edit]

Japan is considered a Constitutional Monarchy with a parliamentary government. The country has an Emperor who has limited powers none of which are truly related to government. The Emperor is more of a symbol of the state in Japan, much like the Queen in England. [7] Some of the Emperor's powers consist of declaration of amendments to the constitution; awarding honors; signing people into and out of office like Ministers of the State among other things, however he must be advised and have the approval of the Cabinet in order to do so. [8]

The Parliament, or The National Diet as they are referred to in Japan, holds most, if not all, of the power in the government and is the countries only law making body. It consists of two houses, The House of Representatives and The House of Councilors. The House of Representatives is made up of 480 members and each can serve up to four years if the house is not dissolved before then. The House of Councilors is made up of 242 members who serve six year terms. Seven major political parties make up the members of parliament which include, Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party, the People’s New Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Clean Government Party, the Japan Communist Party, and Your Party. [9] Both houses hold the same power. [10]

Executive power in Japan falls in the hands of The Cabinet which is headed by The Prime Minister and consists of up to 17 other ministers. As the head of The Cabinet, the Prime Minister is in charge of nation affairs and relations with foreign countries which he report back to The Diet. He also submits bills to The Diet for deliberation. [11]

Elections[edit]

Elections held in Japan vary from office to office. There are three different types of elections, one held for the House of Representatives, one for the House of Councilors, and one for local offices in the different districts of Japan. These elections are all overseen by the Central Election Administration Committee, each also being under the supervision of smaller committees relative to their level. Citizens, over the age of 20 in Japan, are allowed to cast a single vote for the House of Representatives. Each district will return 2-5 representatives depending on the size of those districts; elections are held every four years. Elections held for the House of Councilors happen every three years, at which point half of the seats in the house are up for replacement. Citizens cast a single vote for a member and a single vote for a political party, 2-8 members are then returned depending on the size of the district.[12] The Prime Minister of Japan is elected by his peers in the Parliament and is appointed by the Emperor. The Prime Minister appoints the remaining ministers, up to 17 members, which make up the Cabinet.[13]

Judicial Review[edit]

Judicial Review in Japan is available but not widely practiced. The Supreme Court, which consists of one chief justice whom is appointed by the Emperor with approval from The Cabinet, and 14 other justices, have been influenced by the American Supreme Court in the sense that they have control over all other courts in the country and also have the right to dispute the constitutionality of laws in Japan. However this right is not routinely executed due to the fact that Japan has a parliament and in these parliamentary systems this rights are not typically found. Instead of exercising their right to judicial review, the Supreme Court in Japan usually goes along with the decision of parliament. [14]

Courts and Criminal Law[edit]

Japan has a hierarchical Court system with different levels of courts being available depending on the severity of the crime and whether or not a defendant chooses to appeal a sentencing. At the head of the court system is the Supreme Court which primarily deals with cases involving constitutional issues among other appealed cases. Next is the High Court followed by the District Courts, Family Courts and Summary Courts. High Courts in Japan take most appealed cases from the district and family courts and typically deal with cases dealing with uprisings. District courts are the busiest of all the courts because it is where the majority of cases start. Those cases that deal with family law go to family court, while does cases punishable by fines go to summary court, all others start at district court. [15]

Japan does not use a jury system like those found in the American court system. Instead it is the judge(s) in these court cases that deliberate and determine the verdict. Different court cases use different numbers of judges. The Supreme Court typically uses a panel of 5 judges unless the case deals with constitutional rights in which case all 15 justices are used. High courts use a panel of 3 judges while district courts only use one in cases that do not involve sentencing the death penalty, life imprisonment or imprisonment of more than a year.[16]

Punishment[edit]

In order to understand Japan's stand on punishment you must first understand the values and people of Japan. In Japanese culture a person is not identified by who he is but rather which group he belongs to. Groups can be families, communities or even the company a person work for and nothing is more important than the reputation of that group. When one person misbehaves or commits a crime, shame is brought upon the entire group. [17] That is why in Japan many crimes are punished by a formal apology. This formal apology is not something that is taken lightly by the Japanese people. In fact, both the civilians and police believe it to be so serious that in some cases police just sanction a warning rather than an actual formal apology.[18] Despite this Japan does offer the death sentence, in fact, in 2008 Japan put 15 people to death by hanging. [19] Incarceration rates in Japan are relatively low considering it is an industrialized nation, only 62 per 100,000 people, which supports the notion of the group in Japanese culture. [20]

Legal Personnel[edit]

Japan recently underwent a transformation of its legal educational system as of 2004. Japan offers an undergraduate program for those aspiring to become lawyers and judges. Once this has been completed law students must enter into a graduates program of at least three years. An entry level exam called the shihô kenkyûjo nyûgaku shiken or entrance exam to the LRTI must be passed in order to enter into a professional training program which lasts about a year.[21] Once this is completed graduates can then choose between working as prosecutors, defense attorneys or judges. Each can then choose at which level of the legal system they which to work at, supreme, high, district, and local.[22]

Law Enforcement[edit]

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Japanese Koban (Local Police Station)

In Japan, Law enforcement works in a Decentralized Single System with three main organizations in charge of law enforcement. First is the National Public Safety Commission, which is headed by the prime minister. This first organization is responsible for all police activities in Japan. The second organization, The National Police Agency, functions as supervisor for the police system in Japan. While none of its officers actually does any law enforcing, the agency is responsible for compiling crime statistics, to provide criminal identification services, acquiring police equipment, overlooking police education along with training and is authorized, when under national emergencies situations, to command all local police forces. Within the Agency is five bureaus, which are under the authority of a commissioner. The five bureaus are: Police Administration, Criminal Investigation, Traffic, Communications, and Security. The only organizations who actually do any law enforcing in Japan are the local police forces which are in charge of what seems like the Japanese equivalent to U.S. states. Each region however does have a regional police bureau which works together with the local police, in total there are seven regional bureaus in Japan.[23]

To become a police officer in Japan a person must at least be a high school graduate and must pass a nation exam. Once these requirement are met the person must undergo a year of training which consists of classroom, field and physical training in order to prepare them for work as an officer. Military enrollment is voluntary in Japan to those who are over the age of eighteen. [24]

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit]

Rates Per 1,000 Persons/Households
of Key Crimes in the Japan[25]
Homicide[26] Theft[27] Rape[28] Assault[29]
0.00499933 0.040599 0.017737 0.339272

Crime Rates in Japan are extremely low considering it is considered an advanced industrialized nation in the world. This is partly due to the fact that the people of Japan hold honor and reputation to the highest degrees. Bringing shame upon the group with which one identifies themselves with is highly looked down upon in Japanese culture. "It is still not uncommon to find a boss resigning for the employees misconduct"[30] this also extends to criminals. When one person commits a crime, the shame and embarrassment is shared throughout the group, whether it is family, coworkers, or even community. This along with the fact that 99% of the population are all Japanese and strongly believe in and hold similar morals and values help explain why crime rates are so low in Japan. [31]

Rights[edit]

Family Law[edit]

Family Court in Japan was established in January of 1949 and encompass a wide jurisdiction over many civil disputes like divorce and adoption, always keeping in mind the civil code of Japan. [32] The Japanese civil code covers all aspects of the family from relatives to marriage among other things. In terms of marriage little is prohibited in Japan. In fact,the Constitution protects peoples right to choose who they will marry. However, there are some restrictions. Marriage between blood relatives up to the third degree are prohibited. Men must be at least 18 to marry while women must be 16 but may do so before hand with the permission of the parents. Also polygamy is against the law. [33]

In Japan there are two ways to get a divorce, either by mutual agreement or a fault divorce. The latter however can only be obtained under certain circumstances outlined in Japans civil code. These include: if the husband or wife is unchaste; if the husband or wife is deserted by the other; if it is unknown for more than three years whether or not the spouse is dead or alive; if the husband or wife has a sever mental disease from which they cannot recover; or any other sever problem from which the marriage must end. However, even if one or all of these conditions are met the court may still not grant the divorce if they deem it better to continue the marriage. If the divorce is granted it is against the law for a woman to remarry for a period of six months after a divorce; expect in the case of pregnancy in which case a woman can remarry after the birth of the child. When getting divorced by mutual agreement child custody must be agreed upon by both mother and father. If an agreement cannot be met it then becomes the decision of the Family Court in which case they will decide with the child's best interest in mind. At any given point the court may also decide to change custody of the child to another parent if it is to benefit the child. Change in custody does not, however, diminish the parents rights or duties to the child. Property division is also up to both the husband and wife and must be agreed upon by both; unless an contract is formed prior to marriage in regards to property much like a prenuptial agreement.If an agreement cannot be met it then can be brought to Family Court where the court will decide. However, property disputes cannot be brought to the court after two years since the divorce. [34]

Social Inequality[edit]

Japan's population consist of 99% Japanese and the remaining 1% being composed of Koreans, Chinese, Brazilians, and Filipinos. Also among the population is a sub group which are called the Burakumin, who are also Japanese but descendants of an outcast group which was formed during the feudal times in Japanese history. During the feudal era those who took upon dirty jobs such as burying the dead were considered Burakumin. Because of their outcast status, these people are the target of animosity in Japanese culture, much like the African Americans in the United States. Unlike the African Americans, however, these people in both appearance and culture are identical to all other Japanese people. In 1871 the Japanese government passed an emancipation edict relinquishing the outcast status imposed on the Burakumin but this did not stop the discrimination against the group. In fact it is government policy to register the Burakumin under "new commoners" in the family registries which only furthers the discrimination. [35]

Human Rights[edit]

The third chapter of the Japanese Constitution outlines the rights and obligation of the Japanese people. These rights and obligations include, people shall not be prevented from enjoying the human rights outlined in the Constitution; the people will refrain from misusing these rights and use them for the public welfare; people will be respected and will not be denied life liberty and the pursuit of happiness; all people are equal under the law and no one shall be discriminated against due to sex, race, creed, social status or family origin, among other things. For a full list of rights and obligations visit http://www.solon.org/Constitutions/Japan/English/english-Constitution.html [36]

Works Cited[edit]

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  2. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. The World Factbook, "Japan." Website accessed 03/15/2010, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ja.html
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  10. http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/constitution_and_government_of_japan/fundamental_e.html
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