Judicial precedents

This webpage briefly explains Japanese Court System and Judicial precedents which can be searched in English on the internet.

The webpage How to search Judicial precedents (Japanese) describes search methods in detail.

Overview of Court System

The three-tiered court system is adopted in Japan. If a person is not satisfied with a court decision, he or she may appeal to a higher court. Appeals against the decision of the first instance court are referred to as "Koso appeals" and appeals against the decision of the second instance court are referred to as "Jokoku appeals".

Under the constitution, the Supreme Court has been established as the last instance court. Also, under the Court Act, the High Court, District Court, Family Court, Summary Court have been established as lower courts.

  • Judicial System in JapanLink to an external site(Supreme Court)
    This website describes the justice system in Japan and each court's jurisdiction, etc.
  • Outline of Criminal Justice in JapanLink to an external site (PDF)(Supreme Court)
    This website contains the outline of criminal justice in Japan and the flow from criminal investigations, lawsuits and court decisions in detail.
  • Outline of Civil Procedure in JapanLink to an external site (PDF)(Supreme Court)
    This website describes the flow of civil procedures in detail. In addition, it explains civil procedures including civil execution, civil preservation, bankruptcies, etc.
  • The Japanese Judicial SystemLink to an external site (Japan Federation of Bar Associations)
    This website explains courts, judicial proceedings, legal assistance, etc.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court is composed of the Chief Justice and 14 Justices. It has jurisdiction for Joso appeals and Kokoku appeals which are specially defined. It also has jurisdiction as the court of first and final instance on the impeachment of commissioners.    

Trials and judgments in the Supreme Court are heard by a Grand Bench comprised of all 15 Justices and three petty benches each comprised of 5 Justices. The cases are first assigned to one of the three petty benches, and those cases that involve constitutional questions are transferred to the Grand Bench for its inquiry and adjudication.

High Court

High courts are located in eight major cities in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Sapporo, and Takamatsu. In addition, in April 2005, the Intellectual Property High Court was established as a special branch of the Tokyo High Court.

High Court has jurisdiction for appeals against the judgment of district and family courts. In addition, it has original jurisdiction as the court of first instance in administrative cases related to elections, and criminal cases related to insurrections.

In principle, cases in a high court are handled by a three-judge panel.

District Court

District courts are located in 50 cities―one in every prefecture and 4 in Hokkaido.
District courts are normally the courts of first instance for both civil and criminal cases and have jurisdiction over appeals against summary court decisions and rulings in civil cases.  Usually a single judge or a three-judge panel presides over the trial in a district court.

Family Court

Family courts are located at the same places as the district courts and their branches. They deal with domestic disputes, such as disputes between married couples and between parents and children as well as cases involving juvenile delinquents.

Summary Court

There are 438 summary courts in Japan. Summary courts have the first instance jurisdiction over civil cases in which the disputed sum does not exceed 1,400,000 yen, and over criminal matters punishable by fines or lighter punishment.

Judicial precedents

Items in Judicial precedents

Items contained in Judicial precedents to be referenced for examining judicial precedents are indicated as below.

Some judicial precedents do not contain those items.

A specific judicial precedent can be identified through case numbers and court information.

  • Case number
    Case numbers comprise receipt dates of applicable courts, codes and numbers. Codes roughly shows types of said judicial decision. Codes can be referenced in a web page of Courts in JapanLink to an external site (Japanese)
  • Trial date・Courts name・Trial type
    Those are shown as "○○Year××Month□□Day, Tokyo High Court Judgement." The supreme court is divided into Full Bench,1st Petty Bench, 2nd Petty Bench and 3rd Petty Bench. Trial types comprise judgment, decision and order. They have differences in courts, availability of oral arguments and appeal proceedings.
  • Information of lower instance courts
    Judicial precedents of upper instance courts may contain court names and case numbers of first and second instances. If a case has different instances, each instance will have its own case number.
  • Main text(dismissal ・rejection・allowance, etc.)
    Main texts of judgements are core parts which indicate conclusions of trials. In civil trials, rejections or allowances or dismissals will be recorded. In criminal trials, sentences, acquittals, dismissals, exculpation, dismissals of prosecutions, lack of jurisdiction, etc. will be recorded.
  • Reasons
    Specific reasons for main texts in terms of facts and laws will be indicated.

Citation of Judicial precedents

In many cases, judicial precedents are cited as below:

(dai) (han) (dai)12.4.30 刑集2387(Keishu Vol. 2 p.387)
 ① ②   ③     ④ 

①Name of Court. "dai" means "Great Court of Cassation". 最大(sai dai) means Supreme Court Full Bench, and最一小(sai ichi sho)=Supreme Court 1st Petty Bench.

②Trial types. 判(han) means judgment, 決 (ketsu) means decision, and 命(mei) means order.

③Trial dates are cited by era name. 明(mei) means Meiji, 大(dai)means Taisho, 昭(sho) means Showa, and平(hei) means Heisei.

④Source. 刑集2巻387頁 means that the source is indicated in Supreme Court Criminal Judicial precedent collection vol.2 p. 387. In this way, sources of judicial precedents are indicated by abbreviation.
Please see below Judicial Precedent Collections(Japanese) for main abbreviations.

Judicial precedents which can be searched on the internet

Websites on which judicial precedents(English)can be searched

Judicial precedents are available on the following websites in English. Some websites have keyword search functions. Information of quasi-judicial proceedings conducted by administrative agencies is also available on this webpage.

For websites on which judicial precedents can be searched in Japanese, please refer to Japan- Judicial precedent link collections (Japanese)

  • Judgements of the Supreme CourtLink to an external site (Supreme Court)
    This website shows judicial precedents of the Supreme Court. Judicial precedents can be searched by trial year and keyword.
  • IP Judgments DatabaseLink to an external site (Intellectual Property High Court)
    This website shows full tests or summaries of intellectual property-related judicial precedents. Judicial precedents can be searched by trial dates, types of rights and keywords.
  • IP Judgments listed by topicLink to an external site (Intellectual Property High Court)
    This website shows intellectual property-related judicial precedents which had been seen frequently in terms of patent, trademark right, design right and copyright.
  • JudgementsLink to an external site (National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, Incorporated Administrative Agency)
    This website shows judicial precedents which serve as helpful references of consumers' life and problems with specialist scholars' and lawyers' explanations.
  • DecisionsLink to an external site (Patent Office)
    This website shows trial decisions, decisions on opposition and determinations of Patent Office on cases related to industrial property rights in Japan.
  • Courts & Case-LawLink to an external site (AsianLII)
    This website contains information on Japanese judicial precedents. It also includes information of pages written in Japanese.

Major Collections of Judicial precedents (Japanese)

Major collections of Judicial precedents which can be browsed in National Diet Library Digital Collections are indicated in the following table. By clicking Material Name, users can jump to digital screens.

For Judicial precedent collections held by the National Diet Library including judicial precedents which are not released on the internet, please refer to each page of Great Court of Cassation・Supreme Court Judicial Precedent Collections, Collections of lower court Judicial Precedents, Collections of Judicial Precedents by field, Other journals which contain judicial precedents, and Judicial decision examples.

Material Name


Recording periods of Judicial precedents

Digital browsing availability

Daishinin minji hanketsuroku


July, Meiji 8- December Meiji 17


Daishinin Minji shoji hanketsuroku


Meiji 18-20


Daishinin hanketsuroku minji
(大審院判決録 民事)


Meiji 24-44


Daishinin minji hanketsu shoroku


Meiji 31-Taisho 10 (Vil.1-93)


Daishinin Minji hanreishu


Taisho 11-Showa 21

Taisho 11(Vol.1) only

Daishinin keiji hanketsuroku


June, Meiji 8-November, Meiji 17, Meiji 19-20


Daishiin hanketsuroku keiji
(大審院判決録 刑事)


Meiji 24-44


Daishinin keiji hanketsu shoroku


October, Meiji 24-Taisho 10 (Vol.1-93)


Daishinin keiji hanreishu


Taisho 11- Showa 22 (Vol.1-26)

Taisho11,15-Showa18 (Vol 1,5-22) only



Meiji 11-33 (Vol.1-15)


Daishinin saibanrei


Showa 2-13 (Vol.1-11)


Daishinin Hanketsu Zenshu

Hanketsu zenshu

Showa 9-18 (Vol.1-10)


Gyosei Saibansho Hanketsuroku


October, Meiji 23-Showa 22 (Vol.1-58)

Showa13,14 (Vol.49,50) only

Rodokankeijiken hanketsushu


Showa 23


Hanrei Iho


Meiji 27-Showa 16 (Vol.1-52)

Taisho 1 (up to Vol.23)

Tokkyokyoku Shinketsuroku


Meiji 37-Taisho 2


Shinpan saiketsuroku(Kaiin Shinpan)


Meiji 30-Taisho 9

Meiji 30,32,33,40,41,44 only

Kaniseimeihoken Shinsaseikyujiken saiketsushu


Taisho 7-Showa 3