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Historical Context

Japan first wrote articles about juvenile justice in the “OmiRyoWoo (Ancient Law Books)” in 1668, and the first juvenile reformatory was formed by the private sector in Osaka in 1884 with the stated purpose of protecting juvenile offenders. The reformatory movements in Europe and the United States affected the way in which the Japanese reformatory establishment instituted this reform. Juvenile reformatories had been formed in each Japanese administrative district

J.J. Chung (*)

Shandong University School of Law, 5 Hongjialo street, Jinan, Shandong 250100, People’s Republic of China e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

S.H. Decker, N. Marteache (eds.), International Handbook of Juvenile Justice, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-45090-2_10

by 1911; however, these facilities did not adequately protect juvenile offenders and had many defects with regard to the methods of protection. During the world economic crises that ensued after World War I, the number of juvenile offenders rapidly increased. Under these circumstances, the laws related to juvenile justice being applied in the United States and other foreign countries were introduced in Japan. The Law Inspection Committee accepted the responsibility of making special laws for juveniles after 1911. Considerable debate occurred concerning the content of these laws, but the committee persisted, preparing a draft entitled “Juvenile Law.” The Juvenile Law and the Juvenile Reformatory Law were finally formed in 1922. The first juvenile training school was established in 1923; the first juvenile classification home, designed to work with families to help diagnose the issues that juveniles who broke the law faced and form a corrective course of action, was established in 1949.

The original Juvenile Law of Japan announced in 1922 already included articles to protect juvenile offenders in the spirit of education (Morita 2002). Nevertheless, the Parens Patriae doctrine was not completely assumed as the model for Japanese Juvenile Law. In the early twentieth century, Japanese legislators, while sympathetic toward the American doctrine of protection, were also critical of its views. In Japan’s eyes, the notion behind the Parens Patriae, that no child younger than 18 could be held criminally accountable, was too simplistic. Practitioners of this system at the time characterized its spirit as “the strict- father, tender-mother approach.” It is fair to say that it achieved its dual aim. The American occupation of Japan after World War II by the General Headquarters (GHQ)/Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers displayed a bold initiative in the legal and political reform of postwar Japan. The Parens Patriae doctrine was reaching its culmination in American juvenile courts at this time. A GHQ document from the same period, supporting the proposals of Burdett G. Lewis (chief administrator of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers), declared, “It is established that the Juvenile court is a chancery court with jurisdiction based on the doctrine of the Parens Patriae” (Morita 2002: 367).

After Japan was defeated in World War II, all Japanese laws and systems, including Constitutional Law, needed to be reconsidered and revised; the Juvenile Law of 1922 was no exception. The new draft of the Juvenile Law, which revised the Juvenile Law of 1922, was drawn up by the Protection Department in the Ministry of Justice. Burdett G. Lewis sent a four-point guideline to Japan’s Ministry of Justice. He ordered a total revision of its Juvenile Law based on the Standard Juvenile Court Act. The changes would require the setting up of the Juvenile Court and rejected the prosecutor’s prior-decision right that was codified in the juvenile justice system of the Juvenile Law of 1922 and was also in the current draft of the Juvenile Law that would supersede the 1922 original. Eventually, the new Japanese Juvenile Law was influenced by the ideology of US law, adopting into the juvenile justice system the judge’s “prior decision right.” However, the new Japanese Juvenile Law revised the Juvenile Law of 1922 and elected the Juvenile division of the Family Court instead of separate Juvenile

Court. Broadly speaking, juvenile justice systems had already been in place in the United States for half a century, and the Family Court and juvenile justice system of Japan were American initiatives during the occupation (Ryan 2005). Accordingly, the new Juvenile Law (passed in 1948) contained the purpose and overall ideals of the juvenile justice system of the United States.

This Juvenile Law had, by and large, four characteristics that differentiated it from the Juvenile Law of 1922. First, the definition of a juvenile was broadened to include those younger than 20 years old. Secondly, the ability of prosecutors to decide whether to refer juveniles to the Juvenile Court or Family Court was abolished. Prosecutors are now required to transfer all juvenile suspects to Family Court, even when detention is necessary. Third, a juvenile suspect could be referred back to prosecutors if a Family Court judge concludes that the juvenile committed a serious crime and if the juvenile was at least 16 years old at the time of the trial; those younger than 16 years had to remain in Family Court. Lastly, during this period it was possible to detain the juvenile for 2 weeks, with a possible 2-week extension. During these detentions, juveniles were primarily kept in a Juvenile Detention and Classification Home (shonenkanbetsusho). The hearing was closed and informal (Ryan 2005). Thus, the philosophy and implementation of the original Juvenile Act were characterized by an emphasis on rehabilitation and on directing juveniles away from the criminal justice system.

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