Having kindly published my intermittent ramblings on Japanese law and the occasional other subject over the years, The Japan Times has seen fit to give me a monthly column.

It seemed appropriate to welcome readers to the inaugural with a couple of headline slogans that the Japanese government has used to encourage tourism. I try to write for "tourists" — the general reader who may be sort of interested in law and the way it affects society but doesn't do law for a living. Most of my readers are also probably non-Japanese, whose understanding of law is based primarily on what they have learned and experienced in their home country, a background that may make the Japanese system seem very quirky and different.

Law is a fascinating subject if approached as a type of infrastructure rather than as a bunch of boring texts and semantic arguments. Just as the design of bridges, subways and buildings reflects a variety of engineering decisions involving requirements, resources and physics, how a government functions, how economic activity is regulated and who gets to tell whom what to do in a society are all manifestations of the legal framework on which it is established.