Inside the Supreme Court of Japan – From the Perspective of a Former Justice

17 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2014 Last revised: 15 Jul 2014

See all articles by Koji Miyakawa

Koji Miyakawa

Miyakawa Mitsuharu Law Offices

Mark Levin

University of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law

Megumi Lachapelle


Date Written: June 14, 2014


Koji Miyakawa, a lawyer by training and practice, served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Japan from September 3, 2008 until February 27, 2012. His tenure at the Court was an eventful time for law in Japan, as the major reforms of the millennial Justice System Reform Council, including a lay judge system for major criminal cases, were then being implemented nationwide. After completing his service, Justice Miyakawa wrote of his experiences in the journal of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, a mandatory bar constituted by all practicing lawyers in Japan.

The article contextualizes his time on the court with regards to the JSRC reforms and contemporaneous events in Japan. Next, he concretely addresses scholarly writing about the Court’s operations, its implicit or explicit political engagement, and the like, with comparisons to the Supreme Court of the United States as well as to other Supreme and Constitutional Courts in the larger Asian region.

The third section of the article shares specific recollections of key cases from Justice Miyakawa’s tenure, including economic and financial decisions, criminal justice decisions, and most notably, his dissents in constitutional cases regarding voting inequality and freedom of conscience surrounding workplace mandates on public school teachers to sing or play music of Kimigayo, the song restored to status as Japan’s national anthem in 1999.

A final section presents Justice Miyakawa’s impressions regarding the work of the Supreme Court’s Office of Judicial Research Officials (chosakan). Though the work of chosakan has been criticized elsewhere for intruding on justices’ capacity to decide cases based upon their own views, Justice Miyakawa weighs in on this debate with essentially unqualified praise for the Office and its manner of operations.

(A bibliography of English language scholarly writings on the JSRC’s reforms is available at

Keywords: Japan, Japanese Law, Justice System Reform Council, Supreme Court of Japan, Koji Miyakawa, Kimigayo cases, Judicial Administration, Judges, Courts, Instrumental Judicial Administration, Comparative Judicial Administration, Comparative Constitutional Law

Suggested Citation

Miyakawa, Koji and Levin, Mark A. and Lachapelle, Megumi, Inside the Supreme Court of Japan – From the Perspective of a Former Justice (June 14, 2014). Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 196-212, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Koji Miyakawa

Miyakawa Mitsuharu Law Offices


Mark A. Levin (Contact Author)

University of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States


Megumi Lachapelle


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