When I began studying Japanese, one of my goals was to be able to read the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's version of The Wall Street Journal. Achieving that goal, however, meant realizing that it is possibly The Most Boring Newspaper on Earth.

My experience with Supreme Court of Japan opinions is similar: Having gotten to the point where I can sort of understand them, I often find myself disappointed by how sparse they seem in terms of reasoning and results.

The problem is mine; I am a U.S.-trained lawyer accustomed to heroic decisions like Brown vs. Board of Education, which signaled the end of racial segregation in America. Yet despite the current system having been designed during the U.S. Occupation, the Japanese judiciary has been more heavily influenced by continental European theories of jurisprudence, including on constitutional interpretation. As explained in a recent article by Shigenori Matsui, a leading constitutional scholar, "Many justices (on Japan's Supreme Court) tend to view the Constitution not as law, but more as a political document stipulating political principles."