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Questions continue over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s financial plan (known as ‘Abenomics’) following the introduction of negative interest rates in 2016, with efforts to weaken the yen and increase spending producing debatable results. Japanese businesses are thus still focused on outbound work, with outbound M&A continuing to dominate for domestic and international firms, particularly in matters involving Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Overseas antitrust authorities continue to take an interest in Japanese companies, and are particularly active in conducting cartel and price-fixing investigations into vehicle parts businesses. Domestic and foreign firms also act for cash-rich Japanese companies in obtaining merger clearance of their global acquisitions.

The hospitality sector received an influx of investment from hoteliers, which looked to benefit from the government’s plan to bring in 40 million tourists annually before the 2020 Olympics. Prospects for the shipping industry are bleak, with the recent bankruptcy of Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha increasing the risk of companies exiting the market.

A couple of notable laws came into effect, including an April 2016 amendment to the Patent Act which stipulates that the right to an employee invention belongs to the employer unless stated otherwise. At the beginning of 2016, changes were made to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act aimed at enhancing trade secret protection – in particular the introduction of criminal penalties for misappropriation following high-profile cases brought by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, SanDisk and Toshiba.

In September 2015, an amendment to the Worker Dispatch Act made it mandatory for staffing companies to obtain licences to use dispatch workers for a term of three years, which can be extended for a further three years subject to employee consent. No limit is placed on how many times a company can renew the placement, but businesses must help to secure employment opportunities for employees who are finishing their term.

The international commodity price drop has significantly affected the Japanese LNG market, although the recent focus by the government on renewable energy sources is generating work. Nuclear energy remains dormant following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and the boom in solar projects is likely to be impacted by the 2016 changes to the renewable energy feed-in tariff, but other sources of renewable energy are increasing in prominence. Wind power and biomass are key focuses for firms.

Due to the language barrier, the division between domestic and international firms continues, and the domestic market as a whole continues to be relatively closed.

The ‘Big Four’ domestic firms are Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu and Nishimura & Asahi. However, some suggest that TMI Associates is not far behind.

Due to the nature of the market, the international firms also remain largely unchanged, although several new players have entered the market. Recent market entrant King & Spalding Gaikokuho Jimu Bengoshi Jimusho now has a strong foothold, and Ashurst and Hogan Lovells Horitsu Jimusho Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo have both seen substantial growth.

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Legal Developments in Japan

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  • Taking control of a Japanese publicly listed company:

    Introductory notes for successfully completing an M&A
  • Yuasa and Hara Business Law News

    Contents of the Issue Law on liability for breach of contract Review on the amendment to the cabinet office order on Corporate Disclosure

    The Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter (“the Minister”), has published the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 (“the Bill”). The main purpose of the Bill is stated to be “…to amend the criminal law to improve certain procedural matters and strengthen Garda investigative powers. The intention is that such improvements will assist in reducing the delays associated with the investigation and prosecution of complex crime, in particular white collar crime.”
  • Japan: New legislative framework for Sukuk

    The new framework passed in May 2011 will provide a solid legal platform for issuing Sukuk Ijarah under Japanese law. NAOKI ISHIKAWA highlights key legal structures and tax treatment in respect of the anticipated Sukuk issuances in Japan.
  • 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).
  • Japan: Recent Developments in Practice and Law

    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). 

Press Releases worldwide

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