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The depreciated yen is slowly but surely benefitting the economy, alongside other factors included in the ‘Abenomics’ master plan – introduced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The government is looking to increase tourism from 13 million to 20 million in time for the 2020 Olympics, in conjunction with which lawyers anticipate a minor construction boom for the tourism and hospitality industries. However in the long term, many have speculated that Abe’s policies will not be advantageous due (in part) to the lack of structural reform. The domestic legal market is still relatively closed, primarily as a result of the language barrier faced by foreign practitioners, and there remains a clear division between local and international firms operating in the country.

Outbound M&A continues to dominate the workload for international firms in Japan, while local firms agree that cash-rich Japanese companies are continuing to look abroad for investment opportunities. Such investment is occurring primarily in Africa and Eastern Europe, relatively new jurisdictions for the trading houses compared to their traditional interests in Southeast Asia and the US.

The J-REIT market continues to do well, as does the renewable energy sector; and while nuclear energy has been dormant since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, firms are gearing up for future activity.

While shipping has remained relatively stable, the marine-construction sector has witnessed a trend towards consolidation (via merger) in an attempt to remain competitive before the seemingly ever-thriving Chinese and Korean companies in this industry. Concurrently, there has been a drop in charter rates, which has affected small shipping businesses.

Changes in labour legislation, which came into effect at the end of September 2015, means companies can now use temporary staff indefinitely, but with a requirement that they change staff every three years, in line with attempts to deregulate Japan’s labour market as part of the government’s growth strategy. In the intellectual property sector, the Patent Act has been amended to make infringements easier to take to court; the norms concerning trade secrets in competition law have also seen changes.

After recent expansion in Southeast Asia, the ‘Big Four’ law firms in Japan’s domestic market remain the same: Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu and Nishimura & Asahi.

While the dominant firms in the international market also remain largely unchanged, developments include new entrant King & Spalding Gaikokuho Jimu Bengoshi Jimusho, which hired a number of former Ashurst partners, and, following the dissolution of Bingham McCutchen, the movement of the majority of its members to Anderson Mori & Tomotsune. Several firms employ a different business model from other internationals and are particularly noted for the strength of their bengoshi (local lawyer) teams: these firms are Baker & McKenzie (Gaikokuho Joint Enterprise), Hogan Lovells Horitsu Jimusho Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo, Morrison & Foerster Ito & Mitomi and White & Case LLP – White & Case Law Offices (Registered Association).

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Legal Developments in Japan

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to
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  • Yuasa and Hara Business Law News

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  • Japan: New legislative framework for Sukuk

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  • Yakult Bottle Acquired Distinctiveness

    Do you know about Yakult's delicious lactic acid drink which is contained in a small bottle? Yakult's lactic acid drink (hereafter referred to as "Yakult drink") is the most famous lactic acid drink in Japan and today is also being sold in many countries around the world. When you are enjoying Yakult drink, please keep in mind the case mentioned below.
  • Tax: Japan: International Joint Ventures

    Tax on international joint ventures. Country Q&A (Japan).
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    The successful closing of two Islamic fi nance transactions which was announced in July 2010 by Nomura Holdings have paved a concrete path for Japanese corporations to consider overseas Islamic fi nance markets for their fund raising activities. The fi rst transaction was in Asia for the issuance of Sukuk Ijarah and the second was in the Middle East for the establishment of a Commodity Murabahah facility (Nomura Deals).
  • Renewable energy takes off in Japan

    Like many other countries, Japan has decided to reform its renewable energy (RE) policy, to dramatically increase the use of renewable energy. The core policy mechanism is a feed-in tariff (FIT). This chapter summarises the contemplated Japanese FIT and its practical impact on existing and future investment in this sector, providing an overview of:
  • Licensing - 2010

    Q & A on Licensing in Japan 
  • Law on the Civil Jurisdiction of Japanese Courts over Foreign Countries, etc.

    The Law has been enacted to clarify the scope of application of the civil jurisdiction of Japanese courts over foreign countries, etc., and set exceptions to civil preocedings involving foreign countries, etc., based on the United Nations Convention on the Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their property (UN Convention on Immunities) (see Article 1). 

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