Presence and Voice: The History and Status Quo of Women Law Professors in Japan

57 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2020 Last revised: 13 Dec 2022

See all articles by Mark Levin

Mark Levin

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

Makoto Messersmith

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 8, 2020


English Abstract: This article presents data relating to women in legal education in Japan. Part II gives a historical background that introduces Japan’s pioneer women scholars of law from the 1940s up to the late-1980s, noting what has been termed a “dark ages” period of nearly no women entering the field between 1962 and the mid-1970s. In Part III, we look to the current status quo numerical count of women law scholars in Japan, data which ought to be easily accessible and well-known, but in fact is neither. In Part IV, we draw from certain proxies in legal scholarship to assess the voice of women scholars in recent decades, noting some progress but similarly room for improvement. Part V adds comparative observations with the United States before Part VI concludes with our hopeful contribution to the field of feminist legal theory more generally and a road map for future investigations.

By our observation, writings in this field typically simply presume the significance of feminist contributions in the legal academy. The point is at least an understated premise. However, the comparison with Japan, which is starkly different in its history from the 1960s onward, makes available a clarifying “what if” alternative scenario to consider this question. If there had not been feminist contributions in our legal academy, or a mere fraction of what we’ve had, then we believe we’d have ever greater lags for the progress of equality for women in the U.S. society more generally. The comparison with Japan detailed in this article adds credence to such a claim.

Japanese Abstract: この論文は日本の法学教育における女性に関するデータを世に発表することを目的として執筆されたものである。第二章では、1940年から1980年終わり頃までの、日本女性法学研究者達の歴史的な背景を簡潔にまとめている。1962年から1970年半ば頃までは、「暗黒時代」とされており、日本女性がほとんど法学教育に足を踏み入れることがなかった。次に、第三章では、現在の女性法学研究者に関するデータから彼女たちをとりまく現状について考察する。これらのデータは容易にアクセスできるべきであるにも関わらず、実際はデータ収集をするのに困難が伴った。第四章では、女性法学研究者に関するある一定のデータから導き出せる女性研究者達の声について考察している。


Keywords: Comparative legal education, Japanese legal education, Feminist legal theory, Legal scholarship, Herma Hill Kay, Patsy Mink, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Exec. Order 11,375, Title IX, Intersectionality, Women in academic leadership, Women law professors, East Asian law and society

Suggested Citation

Levin, Mark A. and Messersmith, Makoto, Presence and Voice: The History and Status Quo of Women Law Professors in Japan (December 8, 2020). Asian-Pacific Law & Policy, Journal Vol. 23, No. 2, 2022, University of Hawai’i Richardson School of Law Research Paper No. 2464720, Available at SSRN: or

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


Makoto Messersmith

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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