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Negotiating war reparations is traditionally the province of the political branches, yet in recent decades, domestic courts have presided over hundreds of compensation lawsuits stemming from World War II. In the West, governments responded to these lawsuits with elaborate compensation mechanisms. In East Asia, by contrast, civil litigation continues apace. This Article analyzes eighty-three lawsuits filed in Japan, the epicenter of Asia’s World War II reparations movement. While many scholars criticize the passivity of Japanese courts on war-related issues, this Article detects a meaningful role for Japanese courts in the reparations process: awarding compensation, verifying facts, and allocating legal liability. By classifying the various types of lawsuits brought in recent decades and examining all relevant cases, not just the ones that attract significant media attention, this Article delimits the breadth and depth of the war reparations movement. It also posits a more active role for the Japanese judiciary in the war reparations debate than scholars have observed. In consistently awarding compensation to victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese judges not only play a key role in providing compensation, they also countervail the policy prerogatives of Japan’s ruling conservative party.

Recommended Citation

Timothy Webster, Japan’s Transnational War Reparations Litigation: An Empirical Analysis, 63 HARV. INT'L L.J. 1 (2022).