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Formalising the jurisdiction of the Japanese court

On April 1 2012, the Revised Code of Civil Procedure (the Revised Code) came into effect, which defines the scope of the jurisdiction of the Japanese court with respect to international matters. Before the enactment of the Revised Code, Japan did not have a law that clearly defined the jurisdiction of the Japanese courts with respect to cross-border disputes. As such, until the enactment of the Revised Code, the jurisdiction of the Japanese court has been determined by judicial reasoning and court precedent, which was widely criticised due its lack of consistency.

It is expected that the enactment of the Revised Code, which clearly establishes when the Japanese courts may assume jurisdiction over an international dispute, will ameliorate this issue and facilitate the handling of international disputes in Japan.

The Revised Code confirms that the Japanese court will have jurisdiction over claims against people with either a registered address in, or who are otherwise resident in, Japan, including companies with an office in Japan (Article 3-2 of the Revised Code).

The Revised Code confirms that Japanese courts will have jurisdiction over contractual claims where the locus of the performance of the contractual obligations is Japan (Article 3-3, item 1 of the Revised Code).

The Revised Code also confirms that Japanese courts will have jurisdiction with respect to property claims where the subject of such property claim is located in Japan, or the subject matter of the claim is with respect to the payment of money and the defendant holds property in Japan upon which attachments can be made (except when the value of such property in Japan is below the de minimis level) (Article 3-3, item 3 of the Revised Code).

As far as tort claims go, the Revised Code states that Japanese courts will have jurisdiction over tortious acts that occur in Japan (Article 3-3, item 8 of the Revised Code).

With respect to real estate, the Revised Code confirms that Japanese courts will have jurisdiction over real estate claims and related matters that arise with respect to real property located in Japan (Article 3-3, item 11 of the Revised Code).

The Revised Code also affirms that Japanese courts will have exclusive jurisdiction over certain types of claims, including Registration claims and Intellectual Property claims (Article 3-5 of the Revised Code). In principle, parties can agree as to which country will have jurisdiction over any disputes that arise from their respective relationship. However, in order for such choice of law provision to be valid and binding it must be in writing, otherwise it will be of no force.

In addition, choice of law provisions in or with respect to consumer contracts may be of no force, unless certain factors (as enumerated in paragraph 5 of Article 3-7 of the Revised Code) are met. Similarly, choice of law provisions with respect to labour and employment disputes will generally be of no force and effect unless certain conditions (see paragraph 6 of Article 3-7 of the Revised Code) are met.

Hiroshi Kaneko

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