The relatively low involvement of Japanese parties in arbitration is a perennial puzzle which has drawn attention for decades. This article examines some recent statistics in order to evaluate theories about the perceived reluctance of Japanese parties to engage in arbitration and Japan’s arbitration infrastructure. Comparisons are drawn in relation to equivalent statistics for the neighbouring country of South Korea to better situate the Japanese experience within a wider international context.
In the Western popular imagination, Japan is a place both mysterious and inscrutable. Things are different there. Although questions of dispute resolution perhaps hardly have the abiding interest of samurai and geisha, there is certainly an element of mystery about arbitration in Japan. This is not due to any lack of knowledge of the law or to the rules of the leading local arbitration institution, the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA), both of which are modern and suitable for pursuing arbitration. The mystery is why more Japanese companies do not take advantage of this positive environment and pursue arbitration as a method of dispute resolution. Indeed, this mystery is well known to academics and practitioners and, indeed, the author has spent much time drinking green tea and expressing sympathy to talented Japanese lawyers who would like to see much more use of arbitration in Japan.