Resolving Disputes in U.S.-Japan Trade - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 39, No. 4
Kazuyoshi Yamane is general manager of the Legal Department of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.). Inc. This article is based on an address delivered
at Arbitration Day in New York City on May 17, 1984. The views expressed herein are the author's own and not those of Mitsui & Co.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Differing attitudes toward commercial disputes among businesspeople in Japan and in the United States are discussed in this article.
This includes a view of the syslems of civil litigation in force in the two countries. Topics relating to arbitration in Japan are also presented.
Americans often talk about the attitudes of the Japanese regarding litigation. Many Americans believe that Japanese people are far less litigious than the American people. It is true that traditional Japanese society has been far less litigious than American society. This difference arises from the contrasting nature of the two societies and their legal environments.
In Japanese Society (published by the University of California Press in 1970), Chie Nakane, a professor at Tokyo University, said that Japan has been a vertical society. This means, among other things, that in traditional Japanese society, people had a strong consciousness of the place in which they were located (for example, their place of work, organization, office, or school). This is called a "group consciousness." In such a society, the vertical ranking, such as seniority ranking, functioned as the charter of the social order. People were very mindful of being a member of such a society. In the traditional village, the people in a particular location had strong ties with one another, while they tended to reject outsiders. In such a society, as Professor Nakane observed, the bonds between people were based on emotional ties. People were always considering or guessing the feelings of their neighbors before they took any action. People were, therefore, traditionally timid about bringing a lawsuit. This sentiment was prevalent before the modern age of Japanese history.