Standard English legal code translation in works

by Setsuko Kamiya

Foreign businesses and individuals should be getting improved access to the legal system here, as a standardized English translation of Japanese laws is likely to be prepared within a few years.

A subpanel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s research commission on the judicial system issued a proposal Wednesday urging the government to work on such a project.

The move is part of an effort to support ongoing judicial reform, as well as to encourage more foreign investment in Japan.

Currently, government agencies as well as lawyers, researchers and businesses individually paraphrase related laws and regulations into English according to their needs.

Such translations often use different words and phrases for the same Japanese terms, and the lack of a unified translation has led to misinterpretations, causing problems in the business scene and triggering loss of credibility toward Japanese statutes, observers say.

In addition, none of the ministries make their translations available for public viewing, on the grounds they don’t want their versions to be considered an “official” government translation.

The LDP will push the government to set up a team immediately in the Cabinet secretariat to look into the feasibility of working on a standardized translation and establishing a system for accessing the final product.

The team is to develop a plan on how to proceed with the project, according to the LDP proposal. Having a standard translation of Japanese laws will also be helpful as Japan provides technical aid to developing countries like Cambodia to improve their legal systems, said lawyer Miyuki Sakai of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.