Shipping: Independent local firms in Japan

Hiratsuka & Co

Hiratsuka & Co is 'a small boutique firm with genuine international capability in marine and marine insurance work’. The ‘cordial, professional, practical, and legally unparalleled’ firm provides the ‘highest quality of service.’ The practice has experience handling litigation and arbitration cases in Japan, particularly on behalf of non-Japanese clients, as well as having expertise in collisions, fire, and cargo claims. The ‘outstandingly experiencedMakoto Hiratsuka is ‘one of the most respected attorneys’ and ‘understands the requirements of international clients’. He leads the team that includes the experienced Shinichiro Yamashita and Yoichiro Tadano, who joined from the Legal Training and Research Institute of the Supreme Court of Japan in 2018.

Practice head(s):

Makoto Hiratsuka


‘Makoto Hiratsuka is one of the most revered attorneys in Japan.  On the back of his experience and standing he has developed a strong team of talented attorneys’

‘The team has all round experience in handling shipping casualties and contractual disputes both in the Japanese Courts and in Japanese arbitration proceedings’   

‘They have a broad client range often representing non Japanese interests’

‘They have a clear lead over other firms when it comes to insurance coverage work’

‘Makoto Hiratsuka is one of an elite band of senior lawyers who matter in Japanese shipping law’

‘Not afraid to take on the large Japanese players which’

‘The go to factor in the case of Hiratsuka & Co is the experience of Mr Hiratsuka and his standing among colleagues and with Judges’

‘Shinichiro Yamashita is a partner and handles many of the leading cases. He is very hard working and tenacious’

‘Yuji Miyazaki is a rising star’

‘Makoto Hiratsuka is supported by a wonderful group of professionals who are the best of the best’

Max Law Office

Boutique shipping firm Max Law Office has particular expertise acting for foreign P&I clubs and shipping companies. The practice handles casualty (wet cases) and shipping litigation (dry cases). Uniquely, the firm has three master mariners as consultants, including Captain Shigeru Akachi, who is also a partner and the head of casualty investigation team. Practice head Takayuki Matsui has expertise in large casualties and shipping litigation. Also notable is Rie Akiba, who focuses on shipping finance.

Practice head(s):

Takayuki Matsui

Other key lawyers:

Rie Akiba; Shigeru Akachi

Work highlights

  • Handled a collision and oil spill (Beagle III and Pegasus Prime) in Tokyo Bay together with ITOPF advisors, which took place in 2014. The claim amount of the oil spill case was over $100m.
  • Won the “Great Dream” case in Tokyo High Court regarding the direct action against foreign insurers by the Japanese fishermen as regards the ship collision accident. The court set aside the claim of the fishermen.
  • Acted for a Chinese shipowner whose four ships were arrested by a Japanese bunker supplier. The practice successfully set aside all ship arrests.

Atsumi & Sakai

Atsumi & Sakai is known for ship finance transactions, acting primarily on behalf of financial institutions. Clients range from domestic institutions and shipowners to international banks and general trading companies. The practice specialises in providing practical advice in complex structured finance transactions. The team is co-led by Bonnie DixonDavid Deyo DeckTakeshi Takahashi, and Ryosuke Oue. Also notable in the team is Yutaka Sakai, whose experience includes structured finance, securitisation, project finance, ship finance, aircraft leasing, and syndicated loans.

Practice head(s):

Bonnie Dixon; David Deyo Deck; Takeshi Takahashi; Ryosuke Oue

Other key lawyers:

Yutaka Sakai

Okabe & Yamaguchi

Okabe & Yamaguchi has expertise in maritime law and related cross-border matters. Areas of specialism include maritime accident research and investigation. Notable names for the firm are founding partners Hiroki Okabe and Shuji Yamaguchi.

Other key lawyers:

Hiroki Okabe; Shuji Yamaguchi

TMI Associates

TMI Associates’ shipping practice covers domestic and cross-border matters, acting for ship owners, operators, trading houses, shipbuilders, P&I clubs, and hull insurers. The practice is known for shipping finance, providing a range of advice including the drafting or reviewing of contracts ancillary to financing transactions. In addition, the team acts in both dry-shipping and wet-shipping matters, as well as providing contentious expertise. The group advises on a range of disputes relating to shipbuilding, charter parties, bills of lading, cargo claims, casualties, and insurance claims, and is particularly strong in issues relating to oil, chemical, and LNG tankers. Practice head Jumpei Osada specialises in shipping finance, as well as providing experience in various contentious and non-contentious matters.

Practice head(s):

Jumpei Osada