Japanese Contract and Anti-Trust Law: A Sociological and Comparative Study

Japanese Contract and Anti-Trust Law: A Sociological and Comparative Study

Japanese Contract and Anti-Trust Law: A Sociological and Comparative Study

Japanese Contract and Anti-Trust Law: A Sociological and Comparative Study


Little has been written on Japanese contract law and anti-trust law in Western languages. This book describes the role of this law in protecting the distributor against unilateral terminations of distribution agreements. There have been significant pressures both to lower prices and restructure distribution channels in Japan which have strained many distribution agreements. This volume, based primarily on Japanese language legal material, not only involves a study of applicable black-letter law, but also a sociological study of its application in practice. Detailed analysis has been made in particular of famous legal termination cases during the 1990s in the Japanese luxury cosmetics distribution system which generated influential decisions by the higher courts and the Fair Trade Commission, providing new insights into whether or not there are distinct Japanese attitudes towards contracts.


Since the beginning of the 20th century, starting in the 1920s, there has always been a strong interest in domestic continuing trade relationships (keizokuteki torihiki) among legal scholars and practitioners in Japan. in the first 20 years there had been much influence of German legal doctrine upon these scholars. During that period the labour and lease contract were the main representatives of continuing contracts. Yet, their interest was not so much based on practical cases. It was not focused on the actual condition of these relationships, but rather on general theory. There was mostly a theoretical interest in continuing trade relationships.

In contrast, particularly since the 1960s, many Japanese scholars and practitioners became more interested in Japanese 'living law' and more empirical research was conducted on commercial relationships within the distribution sector. For this reason, many of these scholars started to gain more interest in distribution agreements as one type of continuing commercial contract. This was also triggered by the growing number of termination disputes concerning distribution agreements which received their attention.

Of a slightly different nature is the recent focus in Japan among legal scholars and economists on continuing commercial trade relationships and Japanese trade customs (nihonteki torihiki kankō). During the period of great economic growth in Japan there had already been an interest in these customs, but particularly the recent trade problems between Japan and the us have caused this interest to become

1 Continuing contracts can be structured in a variety of ways: 'long-term' contracts with stipulated, periodic deliveries and payment; long-term master contracts under which a series of subsidiary, independent sales are made; open-ended contracts with an alternating series of obligations; or a series of orders placed with a transaction partner on the same terms each time, within a trading relationship.

See Veronica Taylor (1993), 'Continuing Transactions and Persistent Myths: Contracts in Contemporary Japan', 19 Melbourne University Law Review 371.

2 German legal doctrine had a strong influence on Japanese civil law after the enactment of the Japanese Civil and Commercial Codes at the end of the 19th century. They were drafted largely along the lines of the German Civil and Commercial Codes.

3 Takashi Uchida (1997), 'Keizokuteki torihiki ni kansuru jisshōteki kenkyū no mokuteki to igi' (The Meaning and Purpose of Empirical Research in Relation to Continuing Trade), 627 New Business Law 6. For a list of these Japanese studies, see Hiroyasu Nakata (1994), Keizokuteki baibai no kaishō (The Termination of Continuing Trade), p. 20-24.

4 H. Nakata (1994), Ibid., p. 28,44.

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