Institute of Comparative Law, Meiji University was approved by the University as an affiliate institution of the School of Law in 2013 and necessary provisions were determined by the School of Law faculty meeting in 2017. Its full-scale activities began with the opening memorial lecture in the same year.
While various comparative law centers in Japan have been closed, you may wonder why Meiji University has been moving in the opposite direction with the establishment of its Institute of Comparative Law.
Japan has a long tradition in comparative law. It can be found in the translation of the original foreign laws. During the Edo period, documents brought from Europe by the Dutch who settled in Dejima had been translated into Japanese at the request of the Japanese government. A government bureau, the “Bansho Shirabesho” (Institute for the Study of Foreign Books), was established and charged with the translation. This bureau later became the University of Tokyo. These translation activities have carried through to the present day and have come to be called the “Translation‐Superpower” in English-speaking countries, and the “Translations-Tsunami” in German-speaking countries.
In the 19th century Japan was forced to accept foreign legal systems from European countries and the North America as a result of unequal treaties. Consequently, modern laws were introduced, and the unequal treaties began to be revised in 1899. By 1911, those treaties had been gradually revised. During the course of these events, Meiji University played a central role. Japan’s introduction of foreign legal order was based in particular on that of the European continent. Since the legal system created as a result of the French Revolution of 1789 was the newest, Meiji University was established in 1881 as a law school based on the French legal system. French law remains as one of the course subjects provided by the School of Law today.
In the same year, for a variety of reasons, attention was also paid to German law, which is currently an area of specialization at the School of Law. During the time of the US occupation after World War II, American law gained importance in addition to French and German law. As a result, American law has also been offered as a course subject. And Japan’s remarkable postwar economic recovery and the expansion of Japanese export products helped create yet more specialized courses including Chinese law.
The introduction of foreign legal order is unique in Japan’s legal history as well as the history of the Meiji University School of Law. In light of this fact, the establishment of the Institute of Comparative Law could have occurred rather later.
Today, we are living in an age of globalization and Japan is an important member of multilateral organizations with deep ties to various countries around the globe. The need for comparative law will continue to grow stronger. The establishment of Institute of Comparative has not only historical significance but also is necessary in order to develop the legal order of modern society. It is my sincere wish that the Institute will make a significant contribution to the enhancement of the research methodology of comparative law in addition to foreign legal order.