Japan is an Asian island nation lying east of North and South Korea, China and the Sea of Japan. Technically an "archipelago" (large cluster of islands), the nation of Japan is comprised of nearly 7000 islands, with the largest four islands being Hokkaido, Shikoku, Honshu (home to Tokyo, Japan's largest city) and Kyushu. Tokyo is currently the world' largest metropolitan area, home to 35 million people and a thriving economy based on the production of high-tech products and exports.

Fast Facts about Japan

  • Japan has one of the highest life expectancy in the world--80 for men and 83 for women.
  • Buddhism, Shintoism and various forms of Christianity are Japan's primary religions.
  • Japan is a mountainous, forested country famous for the majestic Mt. Fuji, a semi- active volcano rising nearly 12,500 feet (3800 meters) but often capped by deep snow.
  • Japan's currency is the yen. One yen equals 100 sen. Yen coins are available in one, five, ten, 50, 100 and 500 denominations.
  • Students planning to study law in Japan should be aware that most ATM machines are closed on the weekends. In addition, only ATM machines found in post offices and some convenient stores take foreign ATM cards.
  • Japan has three separate writing systems that are integrated into one: Hiragana, Kanji and Katakana. Children learn the Hiragana and Katakana system initially, then are taught Kanji throughout middle and high school.
  • Japan's leader is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Emperor and with the "confidence" of Japan's House of Representatives.

Japan's Legal System

Japan adopted in 1945 a constitution containing 31 articles describing human rights and providing for the division of judicial, legislative and executive powers. The Japanese government consist of two parliaments--the "Shuugi-In" (the lower diet) and the "Sangi-In" (the upper diet), while the court system is supported by one Supreme Court, eight higher courts and 50 family and district courts.

Civil suits and small crimes are decided by one of nearly 500 summary courts that have jurisdiction in specific prefectures. With the rapid development of Japan's economy over the past 30 years, the nation's contract laws, which are primarily based on the Civil Code, have been subject to re-examination and revisions. In fact, Japan is experiencing a shortage of lawyers specializing in contract and civil law due to economic expansion and emphasis on international business transactions.

Criminal law in Japan is categorized under crimes against individuals, crimes against the state and crimes against society. Crimes against citizens and their freedoms include homicide, bodily injury, rape, kidnapping and assault. Property crimes involve robbery, embezzlement, theft, extortion and fraud. Arson and indecent public behavior are considered crimes against society. In Japan, anyone under 20 years old is still legally considered a juvenile and subject to laws differing from laws covering adults. Family court decides juvenile cases and initiates