Enforcement of Foreign Judgment in Japan

By Seiichi Yoshikawa, Koga & Partners Legal

In Japan, a judgment rendered by a foreign court ("foreign judgment") can be enforced by obtaining an "enforce-ment judgment" from the Japanese court. In brief, the party seeking an enforcement judgment raust show (1) the foreign court had jurisdiction over the dispute in question, (2) the defendant was properly served in the process before commencement of the case, (3) the contents of the foreign judgment and the procedure for issuance thereof were not in conflict with the Japanese public order and good morals and (4) the country to which the foreign court belongs provides a reciprocal treatment to a judgment rendered by the Japanese court.

These conditions can be normally satisfied without great difficulty, but there have been some cases in which the enforcement was denied. One such case relates to punitive damages. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that a California court's judgment ordering a Japanese company to pay punitive damages was unenforceable, because punitive damages were not recognised in Japan and such judgment was therefore contrary to the Japanese public order.

In another case, Party A (American company) obtained a judgment from a U.S. state court ordering Party B (Japanese company) to pay damages arising from product liability. However, before Party A started the enforcement procedure in Japan, Party B sued Party A in Japan and obtained a judgment from Osaka District Court declaring that Party B was not liable to pay any damages to Party A.

Under these circumstances, when Party A sought a judgment to enforce the U.S. judgment, the Osaka District Court refused to issue such judgment an the grounds that the U.S. judgment was contrary to its Prior judgment which constitutes the Japanese public order.

In a third case, the Tokyo District Court refused to enforce a judgment of the New York State Court which was rendered after the plaintiff sent a pro­cess via post directly to the Japanese defendant, instead of complying with the procedures stipulated in the Treaty for service of process.

Although these are exceptional cas­es, foreign lawyers should still bear them in mind when seeking to enforce a foreign judgment in Japan.


Seiichi Yoshikawa, Senior Partner
Koga & Partners Legal, Tokyo, Japan
T: +8i 33 578 86 81
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Seiichi Yoshikawa is a senior partner of Koga &. Partners and has handled many interna-tional litigation and arbitration cases including debt collection. He has served as Vice President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and Councillor of the International Bar Association.

Koga & Partners is based in Tokyo, Japan. Its practice areas include international litigation and arbitration, finance, competition law, M&A, media law and general corporate matters.


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