Enforcing Foreign Judgments in Japan.
Source of Law and Procedure of Enforcement
1. Japan has not concluded any bilateral or multilateral treaties for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, and the courts apply the article 118 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) for the recognition of a foreign judgment and the Civil Execution Act (CEA) for the enforcement of it. In Japan, enforcement shall be carried out by a court or a court execution officer upon petition (Article 2 of the CEA), and courts all over in Japan apply the same laws in a same manner because Japan is a civil law country and does not have a federal legal system.
2. With respect to the recognition of a foreign judgment, if it meets all of the requirements stipulated in the article 118 of the CCP, such a judgment is “automatically” recognized in Japan and no additional registration procedure is required.
The article 118 of the CCP states that a final and binding judgment rendered by a foreign court shall be effective only where it meets (i) jurisdiction requirement, (ii) service requirement, (iii) public policy requirement, and (iv) mutual guarantee requirement.
3. In order to enforce the foreign judgment, however, the claimant has to file a suit against an obligor to obtain an “execution judgment” pursuant to the Article 24(1) of CEA, and file a petition for compulsory execution to the district court based on the execution judgment (Article 22 (iv) of the CEA). An execution judgment shall be made without investigating whether or not the foreign judicial decision is appropriate (Article 24(2) of the CEA), and the action seeking an execution judgment shall be dismissed without prejudice when it is not proved that the judgment of a foreign court has become final and binding or when such judgment fails to satisfy the requirements listed in the items of Article 118 of the CCP((Article 24(3) of the CEA)). Therefore, in this procedure, courts review whether the foreign judgments satisfy all requirements listed in the Article 118 of the CCP.
Issues regarding the Recognition.
1. Jurisdiction requirement
Article 118 (i) of the CCP requires “The jurisdiction of the foreign court is recognized under laws or regulations or conventions or treaties.” This requirement must be judged based on the rules of international jurisdiction under the CCP. (In re Order of the Hong Kong High Court, Supreme Court, 28 April 1998). Therefore, understanding the CCP of Japan is required if you want to enforce a foreign judgment in Japan.
2. Service requirement
Article 118 (ii) of the CCP requires “The defeated defendant has received a service (excluding a service by publication or any other service similar thereto) of a summons or order necessary for the commencement of the suit, or has appeared without receiving such service.”
Service must comply with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters if the foreign judgment is rendered by the court of the nation which is the member of the Convention, and service which does not follow the Convention will not meet this requirements.
3. Public Policy requirement
Article 118 (iii) of the CCP requires “The content of the judgment and the court proceedings are not contrary to public policy in Japan.”
In Japan, gambling debts would be contrary to public policy, and judgment rendering punitive damage is also contrary to fundamental principles of Japanese tort law and the portion of the punitive damage is unenforceable in Japan (Northcon I An Oregon Partnership v. Mansei Kogyo Co.,Ltd., Supreme Court, 11 July, 1997).
If there is a final judgment issued in Japan which is in conflict with the foreign judgment, the execution judgment may not be rendered regardless of whether the foreign judgment was issued before or after the judgment in Japan (Marubeni America Co v Kansai Iron Works Ltd., Osaka District Court, 22 December 1977), but there is a criticism that this judgment is disregarding the automatic recognition system under the CCP.
Article 118 (iv) of the CCP requires “A mutual guarantee exists.”
The Japanese courts are basically generous to find the reciprocity, and there are cases in which the courts find the reciprocity with New York, California, Wisconsin, Nevada, Virginia, Hawaii, Minnesota, Maryland, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Queensland (Australia), Singapore, Zurich (Swiss), Korea, and Germany. There are cases, however, which the courts did not find reciprocity with China and Belgium.