Extract from Mayu Arimoto’s article “Is There Attorney-Client Privilege in Japan?”
Disappointingly, the answer is “No”. There is no attorney-client privilege (or lawyer-client privilege) in Japan as in Western countries, where the principle is established to protect such communications from disclosure in civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings as well as in alternative dispute resolution proceedings such as arbitration. Under Japanese law, there are some provisions which protect the confidentiality of communications between a client and an attorney, but such protection is not over-arching and does not belong to the client.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations is concerned about this issue, saying it causes clients to be hesitant to carry out full and frank consultation with attorneys, which ultimately deteriorate the clients’ right to candid and effective legal advice. Moreover, in international legal cases, this creates a significant disadvantage for a company which has been forced to disclose its confidential information under Japanese laws as mentioned below.