On Launching of the Japanese Yearbook of International Law

Shigeru Oda
Honorary President, International Law Association of Japan

  Last year, the International Law Association of Japan published the 50th issue of the Japanese Annual of International Law (JAIL). We would like to take this opportunityto express our sincere gratitude to the authors, readers, and the members of the ILA for generous support.

  For the past fifty years, JAIL has played a unique role in the international law community. Published in English, it has presented Japanese perspectives in the fields of public and private international law and comparative law (hereinafter, “international law” will refer to these three fields). It has also made documents pertaining to these areas—including treaties concluded by Japan and Japanese legislation with international connotations—available in both English and French. With these contributions, we hope that JAIL has provided an important and unique perspective to the international law community.

  However, we recognize that, up until now, JAIL has focused primarily on Japan-related issues, and that most of the articles were written by Japanese authors commissioned by JAIL’s board of editors, which necessarily limited JAIL’s scope. The types of contributions included in JAIL were a product of the times. JAIL was first published in 1958, only six years after Japan regained its independence in 1952, and a mere two years after its admission to the United Nations in 1956.

  In the past fifty years, the global environment surrounding Japan and international lawyers in Japan has changed dramatically. Firstly, the role of Japan in the world has undergone a great transformation. In 1958, Japan wished to be recognized as a peace-loving state, and Japan’s attitude towards the international community was rather passive. However, Japan is now both required to participate, as well as fully prepared to actively contribute in leading the international community. Secondly, the rule of law in international relations has expanded dramatically. We are hoping to steadily accelerate this expansion. Thirdly, the role of international lawyers in Japan has gradually evolved with Japan’s growing global interaction. Recently, international lawyers in Japan are being more frequently requested to provide their perspectives not only on Japan-related issues, but also on the problems faced by the international community.

 Since modern international law was first introduced in Japan in the middle of the 19th century, international law studies in Japan have interacted with Japanese foreign policy. Thus, international lawyers in Japan in academic circles and in the government sector have traditionally played an important role in policy-making as it is related to international law.

 The influence of international law studies on Japanese foreign policy is only one aspect of Japan’s tradition. Since the end of the 19th century, when international law studies in Japan shifted from the phase of mere introduction of modern international law to that of producing original research, studies began to cover the theories and practices of foreign countries, with a broader focus on the historical nature and economic and social bases of international law. In many cases, however, these works have been available only in the Japanese language. But, in this aspect, international law studies in Japan are now in the process of dynamic change. Recently, while maintaining our traditions, many more authors than ever are engaged in the analysis of more contemporary issues that the globalized world is facing and are writing more articles in foreign languages. This response by the Japanese law community to new global challenges will hopefully bring new perspectives to the international law community.

  To commemorate JAIL’s 50th anniversary, and in view of all of the historical changes taking place in the world, we have decided to renew JAIL’s purpose and transform it into an important academic forum of international law studies. While maintaining its original focus, the journal will now promote the further advancement of international law studies around the world by seeking authors from other countries and publishing articles that offer a greater variety of perspectives. Thus, our aim is to develop JAIL into a forum where people with a diverse range of backgrounds can exchange views on issues that the present international community is facing. With this renewed purpose in mind, we have decided to change the title of our journal to the Japanese Yearbook of International Law (JYIL).

  Specifically, we have carried out the following, far-reaching reforms, which will now govern the journal’s publication guidelines: we will invite contributions from scholars around the world, we will publish articles on more general issues concerning international law, and we will increase the number of articles, doubling the journal’s content. The new Yearbook will consist of the following sections: peer-reviewed articles and notes on both general and Japan-related issues, digests pertaining to current Japanese practices in international law, digests relating to major judicial decisions by Japanese courts in the fields of public and private international law, and book reviews, as well as related documents including recent treaties and legislations.

  We sincerely hope that in this, the first volume of JYIL, which will be counted as volume 51 in continuity with JAIL, that these reform plans will begin to take shape, resulting in the realization of this forum as we intended. To this end, we would greatly appreciate comments and suggestions with regard to the new journal. We also invite participation in any ongoing debates in the international law community through the submission of articles, notes, and book reviews. As always, we deeply appreciate the generous support JAIL has received thus far, and ask for the continued support of both the Japanese and the international law community for this new of the Japanese Yearbook of International Law.

December 2008