Kyoto University: Part 2


For an introduction to the Kyoto University exchange visit can be found in the blog post prior to this one.

Professor Naraoka’s lecture was followed by Professor Takayama’s presentation on the Criminal Legal System in Japan. During my PhD journey on EU – U.S. cooperation in cyber security I had the chance to learn about EU and U.S. cyber crime legislations, therefore I was really excited to broaden my knowledge about the criminal legal system from a Japanese perspective.

Professor Takayama started her presentation by stating that Japan has a mixed (hybrid) legal system that has a combination of foreign (European and Anglo-American) elements. Traditionally, Chinese law heavily influenced the Japanese legal system but when the modernisation process started it borrowed elements from the Western legal system such as French law (in the 19th century) then changing to German law and then to American law. The professors thought-provoking question was whether the importation of elements from the Western legal system meant the “modernisation” and reform of the Japanese legal system. Towards the end of the presentation Professor Takayama drew our attention to a questionnaire on death penalty that is conducted every 5 years by the Japanese Government. According to the latest survey (2014) the public opinion was strongly pro death penalty (80.3 %). It was interesting for me to learn that in Japan still many think that death penalty can act as a “deterrent” in order to prevent people from committing serious crime and that there is a lack of information about the world tendency towards the abolition of death penalty (for e.g. in South-Korea the last execution was in 1997).

My impression was that while Japanese criminal legal system remains dynamic, it is also manifested by the law that has been recently adopted (2014) to criminalise the possession of child pornography.

Debate surrounding Death penalty: a Solution of a culture of violence? continued in the afternoon, when one of the five breakout groups discussed this topical issue.

The remaining group discussions were both illuminating and exciting. 

Religions and the State in Japan and Beyond:

The group discussion kicked off with sharing our own thoughts about what we think about religions in Japan. Then Dr Kanetake (moderator) showed us one survey stating that the two main religions followed by Japanese people are Shinto (80%) and Buddhism (70%) in contrast to Christianity that is only 1.5 %. It was followed by discussing the characteristics of Shinto and Buddhism, exchanging views on the relationship between state and religion in our own countries and debating whether there is too much influence of politics on religion and vice versa, and whether minority religions are easily accepted or not.

Hate speech in Japan

It was very interesting to see that the challenges Japan is facing about xenophobia are to some extent similar to the ones in Europe. The participants learnt about the case of ethnic Koreans residing in Japan who are still facing discrimination in Japan. It was very saddening yet a reminder of the treatment reserved to minorities in Europe, too. This example helped the participants to reflect on the policies implemented in European countries. In the end, the conversation about the place of ethnicity in nationhood made the discussion very interactive and stimulating because of the divergent opinions.

LGBT in Japan

Three groups discussed Marriage Equality, Transgender issues and Businesses and LGBT. The groups all agreed that visibility and representation were a problem for Japanese LGBT people and that possible paths to improvement involved corporations using advertisements that included same-sex couples, better anti-discrimination laws, education about LGBT issues and obviously the people lobbying the government.

 Regional Human Rights Protection in Asia: does the European model work?

It was an extremely fruitful discussion with a lot of conflicting and divergent opinions. The participants were all extremely interested in the promotion of human rights in the region but at the same time very conscious that a top down government led approach would be of limited effectiveness. Therefore, a more soft power oriented, grassroots approach focusing on the exchange of ideas between students and countries was proposed.

Text by Eva Nagyfejeo

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