Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo > Tokyo, Japan > Firm Profile

Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo
Shin-Tokyo Building 2F-246
3-3-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-0005

Japan > Labour and employment: Independent local firms Tier 2

Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo provides a full service to a global client base covering large redundancies, sexual and power harassment matters, complex non-compete cases and overtime issues. Due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm has been active advising on furloughs, government subsidies, remote working and redundancies related to the crisis, as well as offering assistance with maintaining health and safety within the workplace. The growing team is co-led by experienced employment specialist Akiko Yamakawa and disputes expert Kazuki Okada.

Practice head(s):


‘The VLT team is always considering what we can try to do, sharing potential risks and/or their plenty of experience. Of course everything does not always go well, but they always have “plan B” to solve the issues.’

‘I have been consulting with Mr. Kazuki Okada and Ms. Akiko Yamakawa about labour issues for many years. They always focus on how to make a client’s wish available even if it’s very difficult to achieve. Their advice and approaches are always reasonable and practical based on their insight, knowledge, expertise and experience in variety of financial business sectors. And especially Ms. Yamakawa’s bilingual (English / Japanese) skills helps me a lot to work on very sensitive and complicated labor & employment issues with ex-Japanese executives in the firm.’

Japan > Dispute resolution: Independent local firms Tier 3

Known for its court skills, notably witness examination, Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo represents international clients in a range of litigation in Japan. Kazuki Okada is notable in dispute resolution and his expertise includes issues related to complex financial instruments, the right to privacy, defamation and the right to be forgotten, and representing global firms seeking to recover damages from fraud. A key specialism for the practice is employment disputes, where Akiko Yamakawa is the go-to expert. The firm also assists with internal and regulatory investigations related to issues such as employee misconduct, fraud and regulatory breaches.

Practice head(s):


‘They fully understand the legal and practical realities particularly at the multinational company like us and can offer practical advice. Many law firms always say termination is difficult in Japan or advise from the book but Vanguard is different. Even under the employee friendly law in Japan, they always provide us with proactive advice on how to deal with them so that we could move on.’

‘Akiko Yamakawa is our main attorney who is fully bilingual and also provides practical advice to our overseas legal and people team. Her advice and explanations are always clear, concise, and logical. She understands the nature of the issues and can offer practical commercial advice. There is always “answers” whenever we go to Akiko sensei’.

Firm Profile

The Firm
Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo specializes in providing Japanese legal services to a broad range of multinational clients in the areas of Japanese labour and employment law, dispute resolution and investigations, and corporate matters. Our experience includes working on a variety of challenging, high profile and complex mandates in recent years. We provide creative solutions, and proactive and practical advice to multinational clients to navigate complex Japanese legal issues.

Areas of Practice

Labour and Employment
Our labour and employment team has deep and extensive knowledge in the areas of labour and employment law that are unique in Japan and can provide you with practical and strategic advice on how to deal with issues that arise “only in Japan”.

A Full Service Practice
Our practice focuses primarily on providing Japanese labour and employment law advice to global companies with operations in Japan. We regularly deal with in-house counsel and HR professionals based in various jurisdictions, including the US, the UK, continental Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. We advise our global clients on all aspects of employment related issues. We understand the needs of global clients and focus on providing proactive advice and creative ideas, rather than just pointing out the risks under Japanese law.

The key types of work we engage in are:
– Representing clients in Japanese courts in relation to various employment disputes;
– Providing advice in relation to the management of poor performers;
– Providing advice on overtime issues;
– Internal investigations and advice relating to workplace harassment such as power harassment and sexual harassment;
– Providing advice on redundancies; and
– Providing advice on how to deal with union issues and representing clients in collective bargaining with unions.

Dispute Resolution and Investigations
We have represented clients in Japanese courts on a wide variety of complex commercial litigation, many of which involved cutting-edge legal issues. Our practice focuses on providing Japanese litigation and investigation services to global companies. We advise our global clients on all aspects of Japanese dispute resolution.

Litigation in Japanese courts and International Arbitration
We have represented global clients in a wide variety of litigation in Japan, such as representing a financial institution in various disputes involving highly complex financial instruments, representing a global media firm in various lawsuits involving complex Japanese legal issues such as the right to privacy, defamation and the right to be forgotten, and representing global firms in various lawsuits seeking to recover damages resulting from fraudulent activities. We also have represented a broad range of clients in various employment lawsuits concerning various matters such as redundancies, termination for poor performance, overtime claims, harassment claims, employee misconduct issues, leaking of confidential information, etc. Furthermore, we represent clients in international arbitration, and Akiko Yamakawa serves as an arbitrator for JCAA arbitrations conducted in English.

We regularly assist clients with internal and regulatory investigations involving a wide variety of issues such as employee misconduct, fraud, and regulatory breaches, including regulations concerning financial institutions and life science businesses. We also have extensive experience in dealing with investigations with a cross-border element, and we are fully aware of the potential pitfalls and how to minimize risks in such investigations, given the lack of the concept of privilege in Japan and other aspects unique to Japan.

Our corporate team acts on behalf of international clients in various industries and advises on a wide range of corporate issues including corporate governance, M&A and corporate finance. Based on the team’s experiences of working at the Tokyo offices of leading global law firms, we are able to provide practical and strategic advice to resolve various issues from the perspectives of both Japanese and international mindsets.

Labour and Employment / Dispute Resolution and Investigations Akiko Yamakawa
Labour and Employment / Dispute Resolution and Investigations Kazuki Okada
Corporate / Dispute Resolution and Investigations Akira Nakazawa
Number of lawyers : 14

Labour and Employment

Provided advice:

  • to various multinational companies on large scale redundancies;
  • on employment related matters in connection with a joint venture between a multinational investment bank and a Japanese financial institution;
  • to a major UK retail company on various employment issues including advising on their plans for restructuring;
  • to a major US financial information services firm on various employment issues including termination of poor performers, plans for restructuring and representing the firm in various employment related lawsuits;
  • to a major global financial institution on various lawsuits, including successfully defending against lawsuits relating to overtime work and various reinstatement claims by former employees.
  • to a major US manufacturing firm on its disputes with a trade union relating to the closure of its plant in Japan; and
  • to a major global platform provider in proceedings filed by delivery partners who have formed a labour union claiming that they are “employees” .

Dispute Resolution and Investigations

  • Successfully represented a world-wide top fashion brand company in relation to a trademark buy-back matter;
  • Successfully represented a client in a dispute with its former licensee in Africa relating to the manufacturing license agreement;
  • Represented a major investment fund on an epoch making lawsuit in Japan, successfully obtaining an injunction to prevent the issue of moving strike warrants for the purpose of diluting shareholding;
  • Conducted internal investigations and successfully represented a major multinational firm in large commercial lawsuits relating to a series of fraudulent transactions;
  • Represented a global investment bank in lawsuits concerning disputes over large derivatives transactions;
  • Represented a global news agency in various lawsuits involving issues such as the freedom of the press, privacy, defamation and the right to be forgotten;
  • Represented a foreign government in various lawsuits concerning various rights held by the government over real estate in Japan;
  • Conducted internal investigations and advised on strategies for a global investment bank which was the victim of a series of fraudulent transactions; and
  • In addition to the above, we have conducted various internal investigations for a broad range of clients on matters relating to sexual, power harassment, expense fraud and other types of employee misconduct.


Provided advice:

  • to a Japanese university regarding on a partnering agreement and a consortium agreement with a foreign foundation, university and institution;
  • on a merger between listed corporations;
  • to a global medical devices company to acquire a Japanese company;
  • to private equity funds with respect to investment in public and private Japanese companies;
  • to foreign funds to acquire shares of Japanese listed companies;
  • to US insurance companies to sell all shares of their Japanese life insurance subsidiaries;
  • to Japanese venture companies to issue preferred shares to various investors;
  • on business sales between global medical devices manufacturers;
  • to Japanese listed companies to strengthen their governance and compliance systems; and
  • on other overall Corporate Law and Commercial Code issues.

Globally-Recognised Awards

ALB Japan Law Awards, presented by Asian Legal Business (ALB)

The firm was awarded in several categories by the ALB Japan Law Awards as below.

【Boutique Law Firm of the Year 2021, 2020】
【Labour and Employment Law Firm of the Year 2021, 2019】

Chambers Rankings, published by Chambers and Partners

The firm and our attorneys received the following numerous top rankings in several areas of practice by the Chambers Rankings.

Chambers Asia-Pacific 2022, 2021

Ranked Departments

【Employment in Japan】:Band 1
【Dispute Resolution : Domestic in Japan】:Band 2

Ranked Lawyers

【Employment : Bengoshi in Japan】Akiko Yamakawa: Band 1
【Dispute Resolution: Domestic in Japan】Kazuki Okada: Band 1
【Crisis Management: Domestic in Japan】Kazuki Okada: Spotlight Table
【Banking & Finance: Domestic in Japan】Naoki Kinami: Senior Statespeople

Chambers Global 2022, 2021

Ranked Departments

【Dispute Resolution: Domestic】Band 2

Ranked Lawyers

【Dispute Resolution: Domestic】Kazuki Okada: Band 1
【Banking & Finance: Domestic】Naoki Kinami: Senior Statespeople