Changing Culture on Japan

Topics: Law, Court, Common law Pages: 12 (4057 words) Published: April 15, 2013
Since the Meiji Restoration in 1868,Japan has pursued a path of modernization, using the industrialized nations of the West as its model. In this way, modernization in Japan meant westernization and industrialization; it led to the transformation of the traditional governing structure into a highly centralized one and turned the agricultural society into a technologically modern and industrially productive nation. One ofthe first stepstoward the westernization ofJapan wasthe largescale adoption of modern legal systems, starting with the Meiji Constitution (1889) that was drafted after some field-investigations of the constitutions of major European nations. This was followed by the enactment of the criminal and civil codes which were modeled afterthe German and French codes. There was an urgent necessity to modernize the traditional Japanese legal system in order to amend the unequal treaties thrust upon Japan by the Western powers when the Tokugawa shogunate government was finally forced to open Japan after 260 years ofself-imposed isolation. Underthese treaties, theWestern nationsrefused to recognize the Japanese government'sjurisdiction overforeign nationalsin Japan by claiming that the Japanese legalsystemwas grossly inadequate to protect the rights and safety of foreigners.

From its inception the Meiji government strived to build a modem industrial society, capable of mass production, and able to sustain a strong military force. It took Japan only three quarters of a century after the Restoration to achieve a high level of industrial and military development. However, Japan's militarism led her into World War 11 and to subsequent defeat at the hands of the Allied Forces. By the end of the war, Japan's major industrialsites and plants were almost totally destroyed by the strategic bombing of the United States. In spite of this almost total industrial annihilation, Japan, during the latter half of the 20th century, rebuilt her industries and has become a ITlajor economic power in the world. Japan has achieved this by concentrating on international trade and economic activity while keeping military spending to a bare minimum. Throughout this period,Japan single-mindedly pursued economic 209FU/IKURA Koichiro

and industrial growth at all costs. Japan has since paid the price for this rapid growth with the destruction ofits natural environment and serious problems with industrial pollution.
It is often pointed out that the pervasive attitude of the West, which conceives of nature as a target to be conquered by mankind, isthe underlying cause of the present environmental crisis. In the East, in contrast, it is said that human beings are considered a part of nature and, therefore, a harmonious coexistence between people and the natural environment generally exists. In reality, however, this "nature respecting" perspective ofJapan obviously has made little difference in the continuing destruction of the environment in the name of industrial development.

It is indeed ironic that environmental destruction resulting in damage to people's health and the loss of human life became the first and Inajor focal point for a change in values and a change of the traditional legal culture in postwar Japan. Before entering into a discussion of this value change, a brief sketch of traditional legal culture in Japan is in order. 2. ASSERTION OF RIGHTS AND LEGAL CULTURE IN JAPAN

The following four points are characteristic ofJapanese legal culture. They are interrelated and thus briefly described here in comparison withAmerican legal culture for the purpose of making the contrasts more apparent. By legal culture, I mean people's attitudes, values, and opinions with regard to law and the legal system. This includes their values and attitudes about whether or not to use law and the legalsystem in settling disputes. A word of caution...

References: Friedman, Lawrence M. (1985): Total Justice. New York: Russell-SageFoundation.
Haley,John O. (1991): Authority Without Power. Law and the Japanese Paradox. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
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