Last month, a Tokyo summary court judge ruled that advertising giant Dentsu would not get away with just paying a fine for violating the Labor Standards Act attributable to a culture of excessive overtime blamed for the death of several employees. The company will have to endure scrutiny of its employment practices in a public trial.

The judge's refusal to accept the proffered summary indictment and fine reportedly came as a shock to the prosecutors who had both requested the abbreviated proceedings and declined to bring charges against any members of the company's management (which, it is worth noting, included a board of directors whose members include a lawyer and the former top bureaucrat from the labor ministry). A formal trial will perhaps bring some semblance of justice to those harmed by its employment practices in a way that payment of a fine would not.

The Osaka summary court had previously issued similar rejections in other cases, indicating a possible trend toward greater judicial scrutiny of employment code violations. Perhaps this will also bring greater scrutiny to the usually obscure world of summary courts. Though perhaps "obscure" is not the right word; as in other countries, in numerical terms the majority of civil and criminal cases in Japan are resolved in the lowest tier of courts, largely out of the public eye (see table).