By: Sarah Pilcher

The Legal System

In Japan, the legal system in place is an adversarial system made up of three tiers. The first level of Japan’s legal system depends on the severity of the crime. If the offense is less severe, it is taken to the summary court and if the crime is worthy of at the most one year of imprisonment go to district court. Summary courts are presided over by one judge who deals with sentencing and verdicts while in District Court there is a panel of three judges that decide on a verdict. There are no juries in the first tier of the Japanese system because most crimes in the first tier are petty crimes often dealing with family issues or financial cases. The second level is the High Courts (there are eight in total). The high courts are led by a panel of three judges and a president who is appointed by the Cabinet. The High Courts are appellate courts because it takes several appeals in the Summary Court to get to the High Courts. The third, and final, tier is the Supreme Court where associate judges preside. The Supreme Court justices are appointed by the cabinet and the Emperor of Japan. The Grand Bench is subdivided into three “Petty Benches” with five judges each. These five judges hear the appeals sent to the Grand Bench and recommend cases they feel need to be further judged. An appeal to the Supreme Court requires an error in interpretation of the Constitution or the case in the Higher Courts or even in some cases the Summary Courts. Japan also abides by a civil law system were the only group in government that can change the law is the cabinet.


A Current Court Case in Japan

A recent trial that’s verdict has been released was an undisclosed citizen versus the internet super-company, Google Inc. to remove web search results showing his arrest for child pornography and prostitution. The man argued that the availability of his crime on the internet violated his right to be forgotten. The Japanese court ruled for Google which provides an opportunity for debates to spark over the right to know and the protection of privacy on the internet. The verdict was decided by a five-justice Third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court after each party was represented by a lawyer which showcases the adversarial system in Japan. An adversarial system is based on a professional such as an attorney representing both the defendant/plaintiff and the prosecution, and that is exactly what happened in this case. The three judges proceeded over the court case and not a jury, though, which shows a significant difference between the US adversarial system and the Japanese adversarial system.

Why the Adversarial System is the Most Fair

The adversarial system is the fairest system out of the two because it allows for the role of the court to be impartial. In the inquisitorial system, the court has an avid involvement in the investigation of facts of the case. Because the court is involved in the investigation, this can lead to bias in the verdict. In an inquisitorial system, there is also usually only one person making the judgment in the case. This lack of diversity in the ruling can lead to corruption and bias. The adversarial system solves this problem because in this system there is usually multiple people providing the verdict allowing for less corruption within the case. The adversarial system also allows for the court to be impartial to the evidence in the case and this is why I believe it is the fairest out of the two systems.

Works Cited

Feeley, Malcolm, and Setsuo Miyazawa, editors. “The Japanese Adversary System in Context: Controversies and Comparisons.” University of Illinois College of Law, 2002,

“Limiting the right to be forgotten.” The Japan Times,

“Major Differences Between the Japanese and American Legal Systems.” Major Differences Between the Japanese and American Legal Systems – Blog | @WashULaw, 20 Nov. 2013,