40 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 38: 1 2018]
of 1900.7 Japan’s law came on the heels of Illinois’ Juvenile Court Act of 1899 and adapted a
number of ideas from America’s juvenile justice system, including the pervasive spirit of parens
patriae. 8 In its original function, Japan’s Family Court was similar to the United States’ early
juvenile courts, and shared a focus on protecting youth, educating them, and minimizing the stigma
associated with juvenile proceedings. 9 Like the United States, 10 Japan’s courts also swept up
children who were living in poverty, were neglected, or who had committed relatively minor
offenses. 11 Japanese law allowed juveniles to be placed in reformatories for offenses such as
“living in improper homes, vagrancy, idleness, or even hanging around with the wrong people.” 12
As the Japanese and Americans witnessed the effects of net-widening status offenses in their early
courts, Japan’s approach began to diverge from that of their senpai, or predecessor, the United
The growth of volunteer reformers and a uniquely Japanese probation service marked the
first tangible deviation from the American model of juvenile justice. 13 As Japan’s system
developed, the Japanese government created a probation service that was, and still is, “staffed
largely by middle-class, relatively old, volunteer probation officers.” 14 The United States’ early
courts were, instead, staffed with professional, career probation officers who “were [also] largely
untrained, perform[ing] many of the service functions in support of the judge,” but who were
nonetheless career probation officers. 15 Japan has retained its unique volunteer probation system,
but has adopted the United States’ professionalism of the probation system. 16 In fact, Japan has
fewer than 1,000 professional probation officers, relying instead on a network of 50,000 volunteer
probation officers who are private citizens and generally members of the juvenile’s community. 17
Japan’s system of volunteer probation officers has been part and parcel of Japanese juvenile pre-and post-disposition phases, which we will examine in Part III.
Forty-eight years after Japan adopted the Juvenile Court Act of 1899, the country would
again find itself influenced by America’s juvenile justice system. During the Allied Occupation,
Japan passed its revised Juvenile Law, a law that reaffirmed a commitment to “emphasize
rehabilitation over punishment.” 18 Law Number 168 called for “protective measures to correct
their [juveniles’] traits and modify their environment…for the purpose of Juveniles’ sound
development.” 19 The last major change to Japan’s Juvenile Justice Act occurred in 2000, in
7 ROBERT STUART YODER, DEVIANCE AND INEQUALITY IN JAPAN: JAPANESE YOUTH AND FOREIGN MIGRANTS 41
10 CTR. ON JUV. & CRIM. JUST., Juvenile Justice History, http://www.cjcj.org/education1/juvenile-justice-history.html
(last visited Apr. 17, 2017).
11 Ellis & Kyo, supra note 2, at 5.
12 Ellis & Kyo, supra note 2, at 5, (internal quotations omitted).
13Id. at 6; see also KOICHI HAMAI ET AL., PROBATION ROUND THE WORLD 177 (2005).
14 Ellis & Kyo, supra note 2, at 66; see also Yasuhiro Muraki, Recruitment, Capacity-Building and Public Recognition
of Volunteer Probation Officers in the Tokyo Probation Office, UNAFEI Resource Material Series No. 96 (2015).
15 Robert E. Shepherd, The Juvenile Court at 100 Years: A Look Back, 6 JUV. JUST. 13, 16 (1999).
16 Id.; see also Hiroyuki, supra note 1, at 16.
17 Japanese Juvenile Justice, BBC NEWS (Feb. 24, 2001),
19 Shonen ho [Juvenile Law], Law No. 168 of 1948, art. 1, translated in (Japanese Law Translation [JLT DS]),