Japanese arbitration – much work done; much still to do

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This year will mark the 13th year since I first advised a Japanese party in arbitration. In that time, Japanese arbitration has come a long away - from an antiquated arbitration law and lack of knowledge of its merits to a modern arbitration law based on the UNCITRAL model law and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of international arbitration in major Japanese corporates. However, there remains much work to do in order to make Japan a significant  jurisdiction for international arbitration.

In this article, I focus on the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA), the country’s premier domestic arbitral institution – first, examining some recent statistics and secondly, expressing some personal views as to how the JCAA (and Japan more widely) can build on a modest trend of increase in international arbitration.

Below are two tables. The first is a table of arbitration statistics received from the JCAA, covering arbitrations in the years 2006 to 2010 and dividing these between domestic arbitrations and international arbitrations. This is based on the JCAA’s definition which categorise an arbitration as “international” if at least one of the parties is non-Japanese and “domestic” if both parties are Japanese. Of course, “domestic” arbitrations between two Japanese parties may still potentially involve some international elements such as foreign subject matter or foreign governing law (and, indeed, to the author’s knowledge, there has been one such major arbitration in the period below). The second table identifies the nationality of the law firms involved in JCAA arbitrations over the same period.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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