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Certainly, there are no grounds for the idea of increasing punitivity in sentencing the decreasing numbers of juvenile offenders in the adult courts in Japan. However, this trend might potentially be affected by the recent changes that have been imposed from outside youth justice, lowering the voting age from 20 to Before discussing this further, however, it is important to examine how the bulk of juvenile offenders are processed. As in many jurisdictions, Family Court hearings are closed to the public. They typically involve a single Family Court judge, although three judges can be involved in more demanding cases Hirose et al.

This is often a lawyer, but if not, the Family Court must give them permission to attend Art. Victims in serious cases can also apply to attend, but judges must be satisfied that it would be appropriate and not likely to disrupt the healthy development of the juvenile, indicating a positive bias toward the primacy of welfarist considerations Art. Further, in serious cases, the Family Court can also require public prosecutors to attend the Family Court hearing for adjudication Art. In this case, the Family Court must assign a lawyer as an attendant if the juvenile does not already have one Art.

The extent of attendance of both public prosecutors and lawyers was extended by the revision of Juvenile Act Kawaide, , p. In the Family Court, there must be a consideration of whether the case can be dismissed if it finds it impossible or unnecessary to place the juvenile under Family Court protective measures.

This is a very common result. As Figure 12 shows, in just over half 54,; 52 percent of cases referred to the Family Court were dismissed without a hearing and no further criminal justice action was taken. At the investigation stage, distinctly non-justice options are considered. This can involve referral to one of the 50 nationwide juvenile classification homes Art. These assessments are used to decide whether a Family Court hearing is appropriate, and even if appropriate, whether outcome options other than criminal justice options are appropriate.

Of the remaining 50, cases that proceeded to a hearing whether through protective detention or not , 21, 42 percent were deemed to require no further action, and a small number were referred to non-justice social welfare agencies. This disposal, which is limited to juveniles younger than 18 and accounts for less than 1 percent of hearing disposals, is most likely to be ordered for those at risk of delinquency or involved in delinquency due to family circumstances, for example neglect.

Juveniles are required to live in the centers and are cared for by qualified social workers these used to be mainly married couples, but increasingly are conventional shift workers. Rooms can be locked only through permission from the Family Court. CSRSs and foster homes have similar functions for juveniles with no guardian, or where abuse is apparent: to ensure a stable living environment and help with developing self-reliance. Figure Family Court Disposals, The second disposal, probation, is a more recognizable justice disposal in its own right and accounts for 41 percent of hearing disposals, or in fact, the bulk 71 percent of Family Court hearings where further action was decided upon.

However, some authors e. Indeed, there is no equivalent probation disposal in adult justice, only supervision related to custodial sentences, mostly related to parole and a small proportion of suspended prison sentences Lewis et al. If juvenile probation is considered as diversion, then only a very small proportion of Family Court hearings result in a criminal, that is custodial, sanction, mostly through JTSs, which are run independently to the adult prison system.

JTSs account for only 6 percent of Family Court hearing disposals, which means that 3, juvenile offenders were subject to some type of juvenile incarceration through the family court, in addition to the 31 sentenced to adult prison as identified earlier. In short, there is relatively light use of incarceration for juvenile offenders in Japan. Although JTSs are secure buildings, juveniles are not locked into their rooms, which is an explicit commitment to maintaining a distinction between juvenile and adult custody.

Health Care in Japan (Routledge Library Editions, Japan: Sociology & Anthropology, Vol. 79)

Similarly, the program of activities is not punishment-based but instead consists of typical Japanese school elements such as life and vocational guidance, academic studies, health and physical education, and so forth. There are four types juvenile incarceration centers, and juveniles are sentenced according to age, level of assessed criminal tendency, and physical and mental condition at the time of admission.

Although the number of cases dealt with by the Family Court has gone down from , in to , including kanisochi in , as figure 12 shows, in line with the rapid decrease in juvenile crime, the relative distribution of the disposals has changed very little over that time see Ministry of Justice, White Paper on Crime, — In some cases, 17 before the disposal stage, there is a further overtly welfarist element to the Family Court processes.

Tentative supervision Art. It is also worth noting that use of community service has been piloted at the tentative supervision stage, but only in a limited way. It was introduced in the Tokyo Family Court in , but only juveniles experienced this between and Hayashi, Igarashi, Kikuchi, and Sasaki, It has been extended since, including Kyoto and Nagoya Yanagishita, , but the numbers are small: for instance only juveniles between June and December in the Koyoto Family Court participated Yanagishita, In a comparative context then, Japan, perhaps not surprisingly, has a complex set of jurisdictions over juveniles and outcomes for young people.

On the one hand, the tendency toward a welfare model that involves non-criminal justice agencies means that there is a level of net-widening that draws in pre-delinquents who technically would not be offenders in many jurisdictions. On the other hand, there are those who technically would be dealt with as offenders within a youth justice process in most countries, but who are instead diverted under child welfare provisions. Hamai and Ellis a have argued that penal populism genbatsuka has affected both adult and youth justice in Japan in ways that might seem very familiar to those in the United States, England and Wales, New Zealand, and many other countries.

Since then, Honjo has highlighted the increasing public willingness to sentence juvenile offenders with harsher punishments, including the death penalty. He uses the example of the Ishinomaki case, in which an year-old juvenile injured his ex-girlfriend and a man also present, but killed her elder sister and her friend. Such death sentences for juveniles are rare, and appeals take a very long time.

An earlier death sentence was passed in on a juvenile who had killed a mother and her month-old daughter in April Here, the Supreme Court overturned two previous life sentences in the lower courts and returned the case to the Hiroshima High Court to pass the death sentence.

Before that, there had been only two such cases since an appeal denied by the Supreme Court in for Norio Nagayama, who shot dead four people in ; and in for a year-old who killed four family members in Ichikawa Inagaki and Tanaka, Given the evidence of public punitivity, there are justifiable concerns that sentencing for juveniles will take a harsher turn if they are tried in the adult court. It is important to bear in mind, however, that in all cases in the district courts, the saiban-in powers are limited and in all cases are led by a professional judge.

Further, if an appeal is made, the higher courts have no saiban-in.

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Hamai and Ellis b are skeptical of the likely impact of saiban-in and stress that the power of the public prosecutors in the adult court is unlikely to be reduced. There are simply too few cases at present on which to judge this. There is no doubt that successive revisions to the Juvenile Law have become punitive for young offenders at the same time that their offending has plummeted.

Yoshinaka argues that amendments to the Juvenile Law since have seen a greater emphasis on placing criminal responsibility on older juveniles in serious cases. The revisions in lowered the age limit for transfer from the Family Court to the adult court from 16 to 14 years of age for serious cases Kai, , p.


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The same revisions made it easier for juveniles aged 16 and over at the time of the offence to be tried in an adult court if the offence involved the intentional killing of a person Yoshinaka, The remaining two key revisions in were provisions to allow adult court public prosecutors to be present and take part in adjudication at Family Court hearings for more serious cases and contested cases and victim statements to be included in juvenile cases Hirose et al.

The latter was further strengthened with a revision. Hamai and Ellis b and Katsunori have argued that the revisions were to some extent provoked by media coverage of high-profile cases such as the Sakakibara case in , where a year-old boy killed two school children and injured three, and a case in where a year-old boy high-jacked a bus and injured passengers, killing one of them.

Routledge Library Editions: Japan

These changes have been opposed by many Japanese academics Saeki, ; Murayama, ; Konishi, a , b ; Konishi, , some of whom argue instead for the involvement of psychiatrists in order to establish the maturity of young offenders in serious cases, while Kai , p. This revision is applicable to juveniles who commit crimes that would have attracted a life sentence had they been adults. Since adult courts are open to the public, the small number of trials that has involved juveniles in the adult district courts has also generated a level of publicity that would not have been possible for Family Court hearings.

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While this might have been anticipated, there is now a strong argument to restrict attendance and publicity in adult courts if the trial involves a juvenile Hirose, , p. In June , the Japanese parliament Diet lowered the voting age to 18 from 20 it was last changed from 25 to 20 in Within the supplementary provisions of this revised Public Offices Election Law is a consideration to also lower the upper age for juvenile justice in the future from 19 to 18 Japan Times, Should this be enacted, it will have a profound change on the picture of juvenile justice we have presented here.

Not surprisingly, it is vigorously opposed by the Japan Bar Association, but also by some politicians, academics, and Family Court practitioners. It is clear that Japanese juvenile justice, as with much of Japanese criminal justice system, is not a uniquely autochthonous development and has borrowed and adapted from systems developed by other advanced economies, especially the United States, during its history.

It is also fearsomely complex due to its long period of evolution. While the Family Court is the fulcrum on which youth justice turns, it also involves many social welfare elements, the police, and the adult courts. The contemporary picture that emerges is of a hardening of rhetoric, policy, and legislation for juveniles in Japan, yet over the same period youth offending has plummeted and adult offending has provided a much bigger contribution to overall recorded crime.

We agree overall with Schwertfeger and Zimring that although Japan has officially moved towards more overtly punitive youth justice policies, empirically its juvenile justice practices are still largely focused on rehabilitation and reintegration. There has been no evidence of increased punitivity in the Family Court and no increase in committal of juveniles into the adult system, despite the continuous lowering of age restrictions for serious offences since However, current proposals to lower the age of majority to 18 could prove to be a more serious challenge to the current juvenile justice system and could result in an increase in serious case committals to the adult court.

Overall, there is a clear integration of criminal and social welfare policy for juveniles in Japan, with the latter still taking precedence in the majority of cases. Whether this results in net-widening, labelling, and establishing middle class norms and values for working class kids, or whether it results in creating collective responsibility for juveniles and preventing their exclusion, is a topic that will continue to be debated.

However, our analysis suggests that the Japanese juvenile justice, unlike Japanese adult justice, favors welfare over justice outcomes. Aldous, C. Enigma Variations: Reassessing the Koban. Nissan Occasional Paper No. Oxford: Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies. Find this resource:. Ambaras, D. Ames, W. Police and Community in Japan. CA: University of California Press. Anderson, C. A, Shibuya, A. Armstrong, D. Research, Policy and Governmentality, and Youth Offending.

Bala, N. Bayley, D. Forces of Order: Policing Modern Japan. Beck, U. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.

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Routledge Library Editions: Japan

World Risk Society. Cambridge, England: Polity Press. Cosmopolitan Vision. Berezin, E.