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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Japanese law: a solid reference book


The Compendium of Basic Laws of Japan, by Ted Toku Morita. Kojinsha, Tokyo, 2011, 287 pp. (paperback)

Add another reference book to your Japanese shelf; there's a wedge of space between the kanji dictionary and your battered "Japanese for Busy People." Ted Toku Morita's translation, "The Compendium of Basic Laws of Japan," is one of those reference books you will be glad to have if the need arises.

As Morita explains in the preface, an English version of Japanese law had never been available to the international society before 2010, and he "thus collected Japanese basic laws frequently used." Morita provides his translation alongside the original Japanese for easy reference. A graduate from the Department of Law, Meiji University, and a former employee of the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, Morita also spent time working for the U.S. State of Maryland.

Nine laws are collected in accordance with the "Japanese Law Translation Database System": the Constitution, the Civil Code, the Companies Act, the Code of Civil Procedure, Nationality Act, Labor Standards Act, Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, Act for the Prevention of Spousal Violence, and, finally, the Penal Code of Japan.

In practical terms, the book thus covers a wide range of law, from inheritance, the types of divorce in Japan, property to labor specifics, including working hours and accident compensation. Also included in "Compendium" are all the details of immigration or nationality and finally, crime and punishment.

Morita's translations are clear and concise. The organization, with an extensive table of contents at the front of the book, as well as a listing of the laws covered, section by section at the start of each chapter, makes specific questions easy to reference.

Overall, this reference book is well worth its place on your shelf. Not only does it explain specific law, but, as a whole, it acts as an informant on Japan itself. Admittedly not your typical nonfiction book on Japan, the sections on the constitution and laws concerning women and foreign nationals nevertheless provide fascinating insights for anyone interested in how law reflects culture. The book also informs as an historical document, with the dates given for each section's enforcement into law. The Civil Code, for example, was enforced in 1898, while the Constitution, enforced by America after World War II, became law in 1947. Morita has indeed provided a solid reference book for the English-speaking community in Japan.



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