Dispute Resolution Developments in Japan

Various forms of non-adversarial dispute resolution have been adapted to Japanese society, including: judicial conciliation, administrative dispute resolution, and private dispute resolution.

The goal of judicial mediation or conciliation is to resolve civil disputes by mutual concession between the parties. The Civil Conciliation Act and other laws, which include chapters on mediation, have played a vital role in the judicial system and have assisted the parties in resolving their disputes with the assistance of neutral third parties. However, the number of judicial mediation petitions filed in the courts is decreasing annually, as are the number of cases.

Administrative dispute resolution processes have existed for decades. They were established to manage environmental disputes at the national and regional level in the 1960s, when pollution became a serious problem. In the 1970s, public awareness of consumer problems grew, and consumer protection agencies were established nationwide to achieve the resolution of disputes between buyers and sellers. Some of these organizations are now facing budget cuts and are struggling to maintain their services. 

Private dispute resolution is relatively new. The Act on the Promotion of the Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution became effective ten years ago. The purpose of this Act is to provide the means for resolving disputes promptly in a fair and appropriate manner with the support of specialized expert third parties. In order to achieve this goal, the Act established a certification system, and by 2018, more than 150 organizations had registered as certified ADR providers. These providers handled only approximately 1500 disputes in 2017, suggesting that public awareness of the new ADR system is low.

By Mayu Watanabe, Senior Fellow-Japan, Weinstein International Foundation

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