People in the Western world eat bread and think that Asians only eat rice. Those who engage in comparative studies take delight in the discovery of clear dichotomy and drastic differences, which are at times imaginary. Some maintain that people in the West observe contracts while contracts mean little in Asia.2
And there are those who believe that disputes are typically resolved by litigation in the West and by conciliation in Asia. Such sweeping generalization is not tenable,3 but it is probably true that conciliation, which realizes the Asian ideal of harmonious human relations (and which also accords with the Christian ideal of reconciliation and love), is more popular in Asia. Japan, as a country of Asia, has a unique history and system of conciliation. Sections 1, 3 and 4 of this paper relate to experience in Japan, and Sections 2 and 5 deal with conciliation and mediation in general, although occasional references will be made to Japan.
1. FREQUENT RESORT TO CONCILIATION — THE CASE OF JAPAN
Among industrialized nations with a relatively large population, Japan has been known as a country where people generally find it somewhat repugnant to go to court.4 Litigation is relatively rare.5 What is unique there is the activities of a large number of conciliators who help settle civil, family and commercial disputes. This paper later will touch on conciliation outside the judiciary, but the court-administered conciliation is most noteworthy. Early in the 1990s, over 18,000 court-appointed conciliators actively engaged in conciliation.6