In case you missed it, rivers of ink have been spilt over Japan's supposed aversion to litigation, often in juxtaposition to a United States portrayed as the ninth circle of litigiousness hell. Theories abound as to whether Japan's fabled litiga-phobia is due to cultural, structural or other factors, but the focus is typically on how and why people use the courts to resolve disputes. Or don't.

All civilized societies have mechanisms for resolving disputes, but preventing them from arising in the first place is even more important. And no, this paragraph is not going to transition into some blather about Japan being a wa-based culture of harmony and consensus-based decision-making; it's going to transition into the dull but important subject of Official Documents, and where they come from.

People associate courts with resolving disputes, and that is of course one of their principal functions. What people from common-law jurisdictions like the U.S. may take for granted, however, is the possibly abnormal role their courts play in issuing Official Documents, even in situations where there is no real dispute.