Travel.State.Gov > Legal Resources > Judicial Assistance Country Information > Japan Judicial Assistance Information
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND MAY NOT BE TOTALLY ACCURATE IN A SPECIFIC CASE. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO THE APPROPRIATE FOREIGN AUTHORITIES OR FOREIGN COUNSEL.
U.S. Consulate General Sapporo
Kita 1-jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku,
Sapporo 064-0821, Japan
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
All assistance at the Consulate General Sapporo is by appointment only.
U.S. Consulate Fukuoka
5-26 Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku,
Fukuoka 810-0052, Japan
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
Routine services are provided by appointment only.
U.S. Consulate Nagoya
Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor,
1-47-1 Nagono, Nakamura-ku,
Nagoya 450-0001, Japan
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
Emergency services only.
Japan is a party to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters. Complete information on the operation of the Convention, including an interactive online request form are available on the Hague Conference website. Requests should be completed in duplicate and submitted with two sets of the documents to be served, and translations, directly to Japan’s Central Authority for the Hague Service Convention. The person in the United States executing the request form should be either an attorney or clerk of court. The applicant should include the titles attorney at law or clerk of court on the identity and address of applicant and signature/stamp fields. Attorneys should cite Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or comparable state statute permitting attorneys to execute service requests. While Japan has not declared made a formal declaration under the Convention that it objects to the sending of judicial documents by postal channels directly to addressees in Japan, the representative of Japan made clear at the Special Commission of April 1989 on the practical operation of the Hague Service and Evidence Conventions made clear the absence of a formal objection does not imply that the sending of judicial documents by postal channels to addressees in Japan is always considered valid service in Japan. In fact, sending documents by such a method would not be deemed valid service in Japan in circumstances where the rights of the addressee were not respected. For additional information see the Hague Conference Service Convention web page and the Hague Conference Practical Handbook on the Operation of the Hague Service Convention. See also Japan’s response to the 2008 Hague Conference questionnaire on the practical operation of the Service Convention.
Service on a member of the U.S. Military in Japan: It is possible to effect service on members of the U.S. Armed Forces in Japan through the Japanese central authority. Service by mail may also be used if state law permits (APO and FPO are U.S. mail). Also, contact the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Office at the Pentagon for the particular branch of the service.
Service on a Foreign State: See also our Service Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) feature and FSIA Checklist for questions about service on a foreign state, agency or instrumentality.
Service of Documents from Japan in the United States: See information about service in the United States on the U.S. Central Authority for the Service Convention page of the Hague Conference on Private International Law Service Convention site.
Prosecution Requests: U.S. federal or state prosecutors should also contact the Office of International Affairs, Criminal Division, Department of Justice for guidance.
Defense Requests in Criminal Matters: Criminal defendants or their defense counsel seeking judicial assistance in obtaining evidence or in effecting service of documents abroad in connection with criminal matters may do so via the letters rogatory process.
Japan is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil and Commercial Matters. Requests to obtain evidence in Japan in civil and commercial matters are governed by the U.S. – Japan bilateral Consular Convention of 1963, customary international law and the practice of nations, applicable U.S. and local Japanese law and regulations, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (regarding transmittal of letters rogatory). See also Japan’s response to the 2008 Hague Conference questionnaire on the practical operation of the Hague Evidence Convention.
Requests from Japan to Obtain Evidence in the United States: The U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Evidence Convention is the Office of International Judicial Assistance, Civil Division, Department of Justice, 1100 L St., N.W., Room 11006, Washington, D.C. 20530.
Article 17(1) (e) of the U.S. - Japan Consular Convention provides that consular officers may …
"(ii) take depositions, on behalf of the courts or other judicial tribunals or authorities of the sending state, voluntarily given.
(iii) administer oaths to any person in the receiving state in accordance with the laws of the sending state and in a manner not inconsistent with the laws of the receiving state."
This general reference to the authority of consular officers to take depositions has been interpreted by the Government of Japan very strictly. Japanese law and practice, and the mutually agreed upon interpretation of the U.S. - Japan bilateral Consular Convention concerning obtaining evidence in Japan permits the taking of a deposition of a willing witness for use in a court in the United States only
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice have advised the United States that these requirements apply in civil, criminal and administrative cases. The Japanese requirement for a court order and special deposition visas would apply in all cases.
U.S. Court Order for the Taking of the Depositions: A certified copy of the court order must be provided to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo before application is made for the special deposition visa so that the U.S. Embassy is in a position to respond to the inquiry made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the U.S. Embassy before the Ministry authorizes the Japanese Embassy or consulate in the United States to issue the special deposition visa. Japan will not accept orders issued by administrative law judges. Court orders may be obtained from U.S. courts under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. 1651, by various administrative agencies for the taking of depositions in Japan. It is advisable that court orders include the language "on or about" concerning dates so as to afford maximum flexibility in scheduling.
Sample Suggested Text for Court Order or Commission:
Japanese authorities have requested that the court order or commission contain the following information:
NAME OF COURT
TO ANY CONSUL OR VICE CONSUL OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES (EMBASSY/CONSULATE) (NAME OF CITY)
Upon the application of (plaintiff, defendants), and pursuant to Article 17 of the United States - Japan consular convention,
You have been duly appointed and you are hereby authorized to take oral depositions at the United States (embassy/consulate) in (name of city), Japan, of the following witnesses who will appear voluntarily:
It is ordered that the depositions on notice of the following witnesses be taken at the United States (embassy/consulate) in (name of city), Japan
(names, addresses, and employer of witnesses) commencing on or about (date), (time) and terminating on or about (date), (time), and to mark any documentary exhibits in connection therewith.
Counsel for defendants who will participate in said depositions are (names); and counsel for plaintiffs who will participate in said depositions are (names). The proceedings will be reported by (name of court reporter, if one is travelling to Japan). Please cause the testimony of said witnesses to be reduced to writing and the depositions signed by said witnesses and annex said deposition testimony to your commission and close the same under your seal and make return thereof to this court with all convenient speed.
Date signature of judge
Name of judge
Participation of Judges From the United States: Japan has advised the United States that it will not permit the participation of foreign judges in the deposition of a witness located in Japan.
Telephone or Video Testimony: Japanese authorities have informed the United States that Japan does not permit the taking of telephone or video testimony.
Special Note Regarding American Attorneys Residing in Japan and Voluntary Depositions: Japanese authorities have informed the United States that Articles 3 and 72 of the Japanese Lawyer Law may prohibit the taking of depositions in Japan outside the procedures established for taking consular depositions under Article 17 of the U.S. Japan bilateral Consular Convention by private attorneys not admitted to practice law in Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised that private American attorneys residing in Japan who wish to participate in depositions at the U.S. Embassy or consulate in Japan under the status of "legal/accounting services" (as "gaikokuhu jimubengoshi"), permanent residents, or their spouses may participate in depositions under their current visa status, that is, without the special deposition visa under certain circumstances. They must notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo of their proposed participation. The Embassy will need to provide the names of such lawyers, their company affiliation in Japan, their address, telephone number, and the type and validity of their visa, in addition to a copy of the requisite commission or court order issued by the court in the United States for the taking of the deposition before the U.S. consular officer on U.S. consular premises. In order to facilitate the notification procedures, the Embassy has prepared a worksheet which each lawyer resident in Japan will need to fill out in order for the Embassy to submit the requisite note verbale.
Voluntary Depositions on Written Questions: Voluntary depositions on written questions may be taken in Japan. Requesting counsel should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to arrange a mutually convenient day or days when the deposition may be conducted. The requirements for an American court order, consular fees and scheduling the Embassy special deposition room based on space availability still apply. Counsel must make all the arrangements for the witness to appear and for stenographic or video services and translators if necessary. The U.S. consular officer will administer the oath to the witness, and if necessary to the stenographer, video tape operator or interpreter/translator, and withdraw, subject to recall. If the witness does not speak or read English adequately, a Japanese translation of the English text should be provided. The questions should be sent directly to the U.S. consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If preferred, the witness may write down the answers to the questions, rather than dictate the answers to the stenographer or video tape operator. The U.S. consular officer will affix a closing certificate after the deposition is completed.
Conducting Informal Interviews: While the taking of depositions, under the conditions explained above, is a right secured under the U.S.-Japan Consular Convention, 15 U.S.T. 768, conducting interviews and other informal evidence gathering or investigation techniques are entirely subject to the discretion of the Japanese government. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that it considers the conducting of information interviews by in Japan to constitute formal evidence gathering and therefore to be subject to the Japanese law on international investigative assistance. Private litigants may need to obtain a special visa for travel to Japan to conduct informal interviews, inspections or other investigations. Contact the Japanese Embassy or consulate in the U.S. for information. Japanese authorities may require that the request to conduct such interviews be made in the form of letters rogatory, or in criminal cases, on behalf of the U.S. Government, a formal letter of request. Local, state and federal prosecutors/attorneys seeking to conduct such interviews/inspections should contact the Office of American Citizens Services for additional information.
Depositions on U.S. Military Bases: Japan has further advised that depositions may not take place on U.S. military bases in Japan as that is not sanctioned in the U.S. - Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
Japan is a party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents. Japan’s competent authority for the Hague Apostille Conventionwill authenticate Japanese public documents with Apostilles. For information about authenticating U.S. public documents for use in Japan, see the list of U.S. Competent Authorities. To obtain an Apostille for a U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America, contact the U.S. Department of State, Passport Services, Vital Records Office.