Country Profile: Japan

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of Japan (Nihon-koku/Nippon-koku), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Japan’s Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status.

Country Background

Japan is an island chain located in East Asia. It is east of the Korean Peninsula, and is bounded by the Sea of Japan, North Pacific Ocean, East China Sea, and Philippine Sea. The capital of Japan is Tokyo, which is the largest city in the world by population. While Japan does not have an official language, its national language is Japanese. Additionally, another eleven regional languages are recognized by the Japanese government. The country’s population in 2017 was approximately 126.5 million. Japan is a predominantly Shinto/Buddhist country, with about 79% of the population Shinto and 67% Buddhist (many adherents to Shintoism and Buddhism practice both, thus the large percentages).

Constitution & Legal Structure

Japan is referred to as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, where sovereignty lies with the people and officials are elected through a democratic process. The current system of government in Japan was put into place after WWII and the 1947 Constitution was adopted. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch resides in the National Diet and is the only law-making body in Japan. There are two chambers of parliament: House of Councilors Upper Diet (Sangi-In) and House of Representatives Lower Diet (Shūgi-In). Japanese politics encompasses the multi-party system. The executive branch is composed of the various ministries and the prime minister. In the aftermath of WWII, Japan was forbidden from building a military ever again. Furthermore, although Japan’s emperor continues to have a public role, his current status as a figure head also dates to the 1947 Constitution. Lastly, judicial power is vested in a four tier court system: summary courts, family courts, district courts, and high courts. Each has a unique purpose and is tiered in its level of importance, with the high courts having the ultimate say in a ruling. The legal system in Japan is a civil law system based on the German model; the system also reflects Anglo-American influence and Japanese tradition.

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no constitutional status in Japan. . . .

Read Japan’s profile.