• TroublesCourt Judgement

1 The Japanese Court System

  • Summary Court

    This court deals mainly with civil cases in which the sum in dispute is below a certain amount, and with criminal cases in which fines apply, et cetera.


    District Court

    As a rule, this court deals with the first trial in a lawsuit, and the second trial in an appeal relating to a judgement in a civil case tried at the Summary Court.They also deal with procedures of bankrupt and civil rehabilitation.


  • Family Court

    This court carries out conciliation and adjudication regarding domestic cases such as disputes between spouses or between parents and offspring, and adjudication in trials of young persons who have committed acts of delinquency.


  • High Court

    This court deals with appeals of various types relating to decisions handed down by the Summary, District and Family Courts.


    Supreme Court

    This is the highest court: its judgements are final decisions.

※When a foreign national is to appear in court, the court will show him or her a video explaining the procedural flow of the trial, and send him or her documents providing an overview of the trial procedure, et cetera, in aforeign language.

2 Court Interpreting

Professionals who interpret statements made at the bar in criminal cases involving foreign nationals are known as "court interpreters". The languages that can be accommodated by court interpreters include English, Chinese, Korean, Filipino (Tagalog), Portuguese, Thai, Spanish Vietnamese and so on. Having all statements made by the judge, the prosecuting attorney, the defendant and the defense attorney interpreted by court interpreters protects the rights of defendants who are foreign nationals, and plays an important part in ensuring that a fair trial is held.

3 The Industrial Tribunal System

Recent years have seen an increase in labor disputes such as sudden dismissal of employees by companies, failure to pay wages, and so on. However, judicial trials present certain hurdles: for example, they take time to reach a decision, and are expensive. Therefore, in April 2006, an industrial tribunal system was implemented, with the aim of expediting labor-related trials, and reaching decisions in a fair and efficient manner. The characteristic features of this system include the following:

  • an attempt is made to reach a decision in three sessions within a given deadline;
  • the fee for filing a claim is half that of a civil lawsuit.half that of a civil lawsuit.

The procedure under the industrial tribunal system is as follows.

Furthermore, besides the industrial tribunal system, the following court procedures also exist for the resolution of industrial disputes.

  • 1. Civil lawsuit: This is a procedure whereby the judge listens to the arguments put forward by both sides, and examines the evidence; the dispute is then resolved by the judge's decision.

  • 2. Civil preservation (provisional disposition order): This is a procedure for requesting provisional measures relating to an urgent situation, in order to preserve a worker's position under an employment contract, or to request temporary payment of wages because a termination of employment has been invalidated.

  • 3. Civil conciliation: This is a procedure for the amicable resolution of disputes through discussion, based on mutual concession through the good offices of a conciliation committee.

    The following procedures are also available, but restricted to disputes involving requests for the payment of money:

  • 4. Demand for payment: This is an expeditious procedure whereby, using a documentary examination, the court clerk orders the payment of the money.

  • 5. Small claim action: This is a special procedure whereby the judge concludes the hearing and gives a decision, within one session as a general rule
    (however, this procedure is only available when the sum in dispute is not more than 600,000 yen).

※Before deciding whether to use the industrial tribunal system or the procedures (1) to (5) listed above, it is necessary to understand the special features of each procedure and consider which method would be best.

4 Japan Legal Support Center (generally known as "Houterasu")

Houterasu is a public corporation established by the Japanese government to provide, free of charge, information helpful in resolving legal disputes. For example, it provides a legal system for dispute resolution, and refers users to specialist advice services; in some cases, information is provided directly by Houterasu at consultations held in its own offices. Houterasu also provides free legal consultations regarding legal problems concerning civil, domestic and government matters. To be eligible to use Houterasu's own legal advice service free of charge, applicants must satisfy condition A below(for details, contact Houterasu).Applicants must meet condition A below(for details contact Houterasu)to use free legal consultation.

  • A. The applicant's income must be below a certain amount.
    Guidelines for take-home monthly income (including bonuses) are as follows.
    Single person 2-member household 3-member household 4-member household
    182,000 yen or below 251,000 yen or below 272,000 yen or below 299,000 yen or below
    (200,200 yen or below) (276, 100 yen or below) (299,200 yen or below) (328,900 yen or below)

    ※Figures in brackets are for major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka (in Hyogo prefecture, these are Kobe, Amagasaki, Nishinomiya, Ashiya, Itami, Takarazuka, Kawanishi, Himeji and Akashi).
    ※Amounts are calculated in increments of 30,000 yen (33,000 yen) per additional household member.
    ※In cases where the applicant has outgoings such as rent, mortgage, medical or educational expenses, these outgoings will be taken into account (up to a fixed maximum amount) when calculating the applicant's monthly income
    ※The value of bank deposits, valuable securities, real estate (excluding the applicants home and the property under dispute) and other assets held by the applicant will be totaled, and if the total exceeds a certain amount, the applicant will, as a rule, be found ineligible for free legal aid.

  • B. The applicant must have a reasonable prospect of winning the lawsuit.

  • C. In the case of a lawsuit motivated purely by a desire for revenge, or intended for promotional purposes, or likely to involve an abuse of right, et cetera, the applicant will not be eligible for free legal aid.

  • D. As a rule, the applicant must be legally resident in Japan (except in cases where the applicant's residence status is itself in dispute).

If the problem cannot be resolved by legal consultation, or if the applicant requires representation by a specialist at a trial or in conciliation, negotiations or the like, Houterasu may refer the applicant to an attorney or accredited judicial scrivener. Houterasu will also grant a loan to cover court costs. Additionally, if the applicant will be bringing the case himself or herself, Houterasu will refer the applicant to an attorney or judicial scrivener who will prepare the documentation to be submitted to the court, and grant a loan to cover expenses thus incurred. Screening with regard to conditions A through D above will be carried out when the necessary documents have been submitted. Loans granted by Houterasu are to be repaid in monthly instalments (at no interest).
Contact details for Japan Legal Support Center (Houterasu)
Tel: (0570) 078374
The line is open from 09:00 to 21:00 Monday through Friday and 09:00 through 17:00 Saturday. (English-speakers available. However, legal advice will not be provided over the telephone.)

5 Legal Counseling Services

Name Contact Information Tel Languages spoken Consultation fee
Hyogo International Association Information and Advisory Service Center Kobe Crystal Tower 6F, 1-1-3 Higashi-Kawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0044 078-382-2052
Legal counseling available (in person only).
Mondays: Line open from 13:00 to 16:00 (counseling by advance reservation only).
English, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese Free
Free counseling services available at Kobe City Hall Citizens' Advice Center, Bldg.No.1, 3F Kobe City Hall, 6-5-1 Kano-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-8570 078-321-0033
Legal counseling available (in person only).
Monday to Friday: Line open from 13:00 to 16:00 (applicants in person received until 15:00), also 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month,(Details are subject to change: Please enquire regarding days on which counseling is available.) from 13:00 to 16:00. (Telephone reservation required.
Japanese only. Free
Kobe Counseling Center, Hyogo-ken Bar Association General Legal Center
(inside local branch of Hyogo-ken Bar Association)
Kobe Crystal Tower 13F, 1-1-3 Higashi-Kawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0044 078-341-1717
Monday to Friday: Line open from 09:30 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 16:00.
(Counseling available in person only. Advance reservation required. In Japanese only.)
Japanese only.
※ The Center can provide referrals to attorneys available for legal advice and representation in English,German,Koreon,and Chinese.
5,250 yen per 30-minute session
※In the case of consultations regarding multiple debts, the first session is free. Consultations regarding road traffic accidents (civil actions) are free of charge as a general rule.

The translation is based on the data available as of September, 2009. Please note that new systems, system changes etc. may have been introduced after this date. Responsibility for the linked websites lies with their creators. Kobe City accepts no responsibility for their content etc.