International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law: The Impact of International Law on Japanese Law

International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law: The Impact of International Law on Japanese Law

International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law: The Impact of International Law on Japanese Law

International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law: The Impact of International Law on Japanese Law


The impact international law has had on Japanese law has been substantial, especially in the field of human rights. The author of this volume, one of Japan's leading international lawyers, examines extensively the relationship between his country's domestic rules and regulations, and the numerous international treaties and conventions which it has ratified in recent years. Some changes were made to domestic laws in an attempt to make them conform with these international instruments, but individuals went to the courts to try to obtain further necessary modification. Such direct invocations of international law have met with little success, but the laws concerned are often amended at a later date, due to political pressure. The changes in domestic law thatsuch amendments have wrought, have improved the human rights situation in Japan, and have lead to a growing interest in international law within that country. The author pays particular attention in this volume to the laws governing sexual equality, the legal status of aliens, and the treatment of mental health patients, amongst others. The book details the changes that international law has brought in these areas, despite the skepticism of the Japanese courts regarding the validity of international human rights law as a source of law.


This book is an attempt to analyse the relationship between international law and national law in a Japanese context and demonstrate the impact international law has had on Japanese law. The impact of international law upon Japanese law has been considerable, especially in the area of human rights; thus, the primary focus is placed upon issues of human rights.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force in 1976, and Japan ratified them in 1979. At that time, I anticipated that these treaties would have great potential impact in Japan and embarked upon an examination of their 'self-executing' character, or direct applicability. In the course of this examination, however, I realised that the concept of 'self-executing' treaties was in great confusion, and consequently I decided to engage in a comprehensive study of the direct applicability of treaties in general. I believed that such an inquiry would be of great significance, especially because I predicted that more treaties on human rights would be ratified by Japan and that they would be increasingly invoked in Japanese courts. I expected that the status of those treaties in domestic law, their direct applicability in particular, would become an important issue in Japan. My inquiry resulted in a book published in Japan more than a decade ago: Domestic Applicability of Treaties: What Are 'Self-Executing' Treaties? (Tokyo: Yūhikaku, 1985) (in Japanese).

Though I dealt with treaties in general in the book, the focus of my concern was treaties on human rights. And, while the conclusions drawn in the book should be valid not only in Japan but also in other countries, it was the situation in Japan which had aroused my interest. The present book, which deals specifically with developments in Japan in the area of human rights, is thus in a way a sequel to the book published in 1985, and is a culmination of work extending over a period of nearly two decades. My prediction that more human rights treaties would be ratified by Japan and would be invoked in Japanese courts has proved correct. This book will attest to the notable developments which have occurred in Japan in the past two decades.

I have published articles analysing various aspects of the development of international law and its impact in Japan in the British Year Book of International Law, Human Rights Quarterly, the Japanese Annual of International Law, and books published by Kluwer Law International. I thank the publishers for permission to use these publications as the basis of this book.

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