Introduce yourself in 50 words.
– I am a PhD student in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester where I am conducting a research on atypical forms of employment. My main areas of interest are labour law and policy.
What led you to Japanese law? Didn’t you know that Japanese do not like the law?
– The curiosity to know whether the Japanese really don’t like the law!
Tell us something about your current research: your subject, why did you choose it, your approach, etc.
– My interest in non-regular (atypical) forms of employment in Japan originated when I came across the Toshikoshi haken mura while I was an exchange student at Hosei University in 2008. Consequently, I started to investigate the dynamics of atypical employment in the country. This led me to my current research subject, i.e. the Japanese labour policy concerning non-regular workers – with a particular focus on agency and part-time workers – and the individuation of litigation patterns of behaviour, that is whether/to what extent workers use the legal resources provided to them in order to protect their rights and foster an improvement in their working conditions.
The selection of this particular topic was determined by what struck me as a peculiar gap of knowledge – in the scholarship on Japanese legal system – in the area of employment and workers’ rights as a research field, the few noticeable exceptions either focusing on the formal dimension of employment relations or circumscribing the discourse on issues relevant to regular employees.
My methodology falls within the law-and-society field. Consequently, I intend to couple documentary research regarding employment policies and courts decisions with qualitative research methods such as in-depth interviews with workers and legal scholars for the collection of first-hand empirical data which might lead to a better understanding of law as a social phenomenon.
What were the most challenging problems that you faced in your research?
Can you tell us something about your results so far?
– The greatest challenge for me has been ‘getting acquainted’ with legal notions and language, not to mention the intricacies of judicial reasoning of Japanese judges. Not coming from a legal training and background, it is an everyday struggle for me.
On a more practical level, one of the biggest difficulties is the one typically associated with the use of qualitative research methods such as interviews – tracking people down for interviews!
So far, I’ve been engaged in a literature review of the existing scholarship on Japanese employment relations and policies on both regular and non-regular forms of employment. One of the most interesting findings so far is undoubtedly the role assumed by non-mainstream trade unions – community and general unions – in supporting workers’ individual labour disputes and legal battles.
Is there anything you find really “strange” in the Japanese legal system? Anything you think should be changed?
What instead is a strength of the Japanese legal system, that should inspire other countries?
– What has always struck me as peculiar are the long incubation periods of legislative reforms, often buried for years in shingikai before reaching the Diet. Changing this aspect of the legislative-making pattern – which to me is definitely a shortcoming – would certainly be beneficial, I think.
As for the strengths, Japan developed a full-fledged and well-organized system of ADR that can act as a means to broaden access to justice. I believe such a system can be of example to other countries.
What is the situation of Japanese (legal) studies in your home country?
– The situation of Japanese legal studies in both my home country (Italy) and the country where I am conducting my studies (UK) is quite discouraging. Japanese law and legal system are hardly seen as fruitful research fields, probably because the old mantra that ‘Japanese don’t like law’ still holds. In other words, still a long way to go!
Tell us your 3 favourite works on Japanese law.
– Henderson, D.F. (1965) Conciliation and Japanese Law: Tokugawa and Modern, Washington: University of Washington Press.
– Yasueda, H. (1998) Rodo no Ho to Seisaku [Labour Law and Policy], Tokyo: Yuhikaku, II ed.
– Upham, F.K. (1998) ‘Weak Legal Consciousness as Invented Tradition’ in S. Vlastos (ed.), Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan, Berkeley – Los Angeles – London: University of California Press.
Your advice to a law student with an interest in Japan(ese law).
– To quote Mark West (p. 7), keep in mind that – ‘Law matters in everyday Japan. But how law matters also matters’.
Thank you very much Fabiana for sharing your thoughts on your research!