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2023 Japanese Law Symposium

September 22, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 3:30 pm


Public access to government information is indispensable for any effort of democratic control to hold the government accountable for its policies and actions. However, However, no law required government agencies to provide internal information to the public when the country was governed by the iron triangle of conservative politicians, bureaucrats, and big businesses. The US Freedom of Information Act 1966 inspired reform-minded scholars, lawyers, and citizens to start the open government movement in the 1970s. They succeeded in persuading progressive local politicians to enact local ordinances, but the central government continued to refuse their demand until the 1980s. Then a series of severe cases of bribery, bid-rigging, and failure to take proper preventive actions (HIV cases) erupted in the 1980s and the 1990s. The government finally enacted the Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs in 1999, which went into effect in 2001. Although it was a weak law with elastic categories of exempt information, high user fees, and broad government discretion to deny or delay disclosure, a group of citizens, lawyers, and scholars formed the Access-Info Clearinghouse Japan (AICJ), an NPO, to pursue the improvement of the system and practice. The AICJ led an effort to use administrative appeals and litigations to require information disclosure and prevent record destruction. The movement succeeded in forcing the government to enact the Public Records and Archives Management Act in 2009. Still, conservatives continued their effort to prevent further disclosure of government information or to limit that range of information disclosure. Under the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government enacted the Act on the Protection of Specifically Designated Secrets in 2013, which enabled government agencies to prevent the disclosure of a specific range of information concerning the Self Defence Forces, diplomacy, terrorism, and the like with criminal penalties to violators.


The open government movement in Japan has succeeded in changing the legal system and administrative practices to a great extent. But it still faces many challenges and must go on. This symposium will discuss its achievements and current challenges from a comparative perspective with the United States.


The symposium will have two speakers. One is Lawrence Repeta, an attorney in Seattle who practiced and taught in Japan for many years and participated in the open government movement in Japan. The other is Hiroshi Miyake, a Japanese attorney who has led a group of activist lawyers in the movement and is widely considered a leading theoretician about the information disclosure system in Japan. He was the President of the Daini Tokyo Bar Association (one of the three bar associations in Japan). He worked to form a cooperation agreement between his bar association and UC Law SF.


The symposium will have a UC Law SF faculty as a discussant. That is Marsha Cohen, who had much experience in FOIA litigations.


Lunch at noon and reception immediately following the symposium.



Friday, September 22, 2023.

Primary sponsor:

Center for East Asian Legal Studies (CEALS), UC Law SF.

Invited speakers:

(1) Hiroshi Miyake, attorney (Tokyo), former president of the Daini Tokyo Bar Association (Niben).

(2) Lawrence Repeta, attorney (Seattle), former professor at Meiji University in Tokyo.


Marsha Cohen, UC Law SF.


Time Table of the Symposium:

Noon: Lunch

12:30: Welcome by Keith Hand, CEALS Director.

12:40: Welcome by Morris Ratner, Provost & Academic Director.

12:50-1:00: Group photo.

1:00-1:20: Speech by Lawrence Repeta, the tentative title “History of the Open Government Movement in Japan and the Role of Hiroshi Miyake.”

1:20-1:50: Speech by Hiroshi Miyake, the tentative title “Current Challenges for the Open Government Movement in Japan.”

1:50-2:00: Discission by Marsha Cohen.

2:00-3:00: Q&A.

3:00-3:30: Reception


To attend the symposium, please register by clicking here.


Zoom registration here.




September 22, 2023
12:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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