The last of the “junkaiin”

Practicing law as a foreigner in Japan is riddled with regulatory issues. Technically, you’re not supposed to handle legal cases unless you’re admitted to the Japanese bar. And while you can be admitted to the Japanese bar by virtue of being a lawyer in a foreign state, you become a gaikokuho jimu bengoshi or “foreign law attorney,” and you’re only technically allowed to advise on your home state’s law.

This wasn’t always the case. Until the late 1950s, a foreigner could be admitted to practice law in Japan by becoming a junkaiin or “quasi-member” of the bar association, which required special permission from the Supreme Court, but gave the foreign lawyer all the privileges of a Japanese lawyer. The junkaiin admitted at the time of the system’s abolition were the only foreigners allowed to practice law in Japan until the mid-80s (with the exception of Thomas Blakemore, a nutter who managed to pass the bar exam in Japanese).

There are only four junkaiin still alive today. Last time I checked last year, there were six! So we’re watching an interesting piece of legal history fade away with time. Here are the four who are still around to tell their stories:


James Shogo Adachi (photo, right) is a partner in the Tokyo law firm of Adachi, Henderson, Miyatake & Fujita. It looks like a small firm, as it only has four attorneys at present, but it has trained many of the top corporate and commercial lawyers working in Japan today (including the managing partner of the firm where I once worked).

Adachi was president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan in the early 1970s. Now, he is essentially retired and lives in San Francisco.

His late wife Barbara (who died in 2005) is also an interesting figure. She was born in Harbin before the war, as her father was managing Citibank’s operations there, and she spent most of her youth in prewar Tokyo, leaving for college in the US just in time to miss World War II. She came back in 1946 to work for the occupation government and stayed in Tokyo until her death, becoming prominent in the local foreign women’s community. She was also a bunraku (traditional puppet theater) fan, and donated a massive bunraku library to Columbia University.


Francis Sogi (pictured with his wife Sarah) is a first generation Japanese-American born in Hawaii. He entered the University of Hawaii shortly before World War II broke out: while his ROTC unit was pulled into active service, he was almost deported from Hawaii before he volunteered to stay in the Army. He was in Army Intelligence for the duration of the war, and then completed his business degree at Hawaii and a law degree at Fordham.

Sogi is a “lifetime partner” in the law firm of Kelley Drye & Warren, which seems to practically mean that he retired from the firm on good terms (he’s no longer listed in active practice there). Most of his career was in New York, but he qualified as a junkaiin and still holds that status today. He maintains an office in Kioicho, Tokyo, which has the somewhat awkward name of “Sogi Foreign-Qualified Attorney Law Office” (蘇木外国弁護士資格者法律事務所). He’s a very charitable fellow, a big figure in the Japanese-American community and a major benefactor of the University of Hawaii.


Richard Rabinowitz is currently a part-time advisor to Tozai Sogo Law Offices, a smallish firm in Kioicho that handles international litigation and commercial work.

He studied Japanese during World War II, went to Yale Law School after the war, was admitted in Japan in 1953 and co-founded the law firm of Anderson, Mori & Rabinowitz. Although Anderson Mori was initially run by Americans (Mori was a Japanese-American), all three name partners left by the end of the decade and the firm was taken over by Japanese lawyers. Following its merger with Tomotsune & Kimura it became Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, and is now one of the largest law firms in Japan, with offices on top of the Izumi Garden Tower in Tokyo. (It’s also known as one of the least hospitable work environments for foreign lawyers in Tokyo: the “NOVA” of law firms, if you will.)

After departing from Anderson Mori, Rabinowitz obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard, in the course of which he wrote the first comprehensive English article on the Japanese bar. He was later admitted to the bar in South Korea (although I have no clue how), and taught for several semesters at Harvard and Yale.


Reinhard Einsel is an intellectual property specialist at Kawamitsu & Einsel, a firm in Okinawa.

He was admitted to practice law in Okinawa in 1965, when the islands were still occupied by the US, and was grandfathered in as a Japanese junkaiin when Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972. (There are only eleven other practicing lawyers who joined the Japanese bar as a result of the Okinawa handover, and all of them are Japanese.) So Einsel has the advantage of being slightly younger than his counterparts on the mainland, and will probably be the last of the junkaiin because of the unique way he came into the system.

16 thoughts on “The last of the “junkaiin””

  1. Very interesting round-up, thank you.

    Explains why Anderson & Mori dropped the “Rabinowitz” from its title…

  2. Speaking of which, who was the “Christensen” of the former Aoki, Christensen and Nomoto (now part of Baker & McKenzie – Tokyo)?

  3. Joe, did you find anything indicating that the junkain system was created at the behest of the GHQ? How about the similar system of licensing foreign lawyers that existed in Okinawa under US post-war occupation?

  4. Aoki & Nomoto was the oldest international law firm in Japan. It began in 1897 as the law office of Nicholas William McIvor, a former U.S. Consul-General in Yokohama. James Lee Kauffman joined McIvor in 1913. McIvor died in 1915, Kauffman continued to practice in Tokyo until 1926 when he returned to the United States, maintaining, however, the Tokyo firm McIvor & Kauffman. In 1951 Kauffman recruited John B. Christensen, a recent Yale Law School graduate with Japanese language competence, to join the firm. In 1963 the firm was renamed McIvor, Kauffman & Christensen. Kauffman died in Tokyo in 1968. The firm was again renamed in 1985 to Aoki, Christensen & Nomoto.

    Source: A footnote in this article.

    Googling him further, this obituary from Princeton Alumni Weekly came up…

    John Bell Christensen ’44 … died July 30, 1993, in Honolulu. Princeton, corporate law, and the nation have lost an admirable and valuable man. John prepared at Pingry, where he excelled in both the written and spoken word. At Princeton, he majored in politics and furthered his prowess as a speaker. His undergraduate prizes and plaudits are numerous (see the 1944 NASSAU HERALD). He joined the army in 1943, attending the Japanese language school and ultimately joining Gen. MacArthur’s staff in Japan. He returned to Princeton for his A.B. in 1947 and then went to Yale Law. He married Barbara Starkweather in 1949 and earned his LL.D. in 1950. After passing the New York bar, he began to practice corporate law on Wall Street. In 1952, he went to Tokyo, where he worked for McIvor, Kauffman and Yamamoto for three years, before joining Reid & Priest in NYC for five years. The family returned to Tokyo and an enduring 30 year involvement with the McIvor firm. John became a partner in 1962. He was named managing partner when the firm became Aoki, Christensen and Nomoto. John was one of the few Americans admitted to the Japan Bar. He was fluent in Japanese and a highly respected American presence in Japan. He retired in 1986, moved to Honolulu, and began a happy, active, international speaking life that took him to the U.K., U.S., and Asia. He loved talking to people and sharing his knowledge of Japanese business and law. From across the globe he remained a faithful, informative correspondent with ’44 throughout these 50 years. To his widow, Barbara; his daughter, Holly; his brother, Bob ’50; and a legion of friends around the world go our deep sorrow and sympathy.

    I suppose this means he became a junkaiin in 1952. He came to Tokyo at just the right time to support the rest of his legal career, since he retired around the time that foreign lawyers were allowed admission to the Japanese bar again.

  5. So when were foreigners first allowed to sit for the Japanese bar? Got a history of nationality requirements for that? I imagine the numbers are little more than trivia in terms of Americans/Europeans being able to join, but there must have been plenty of zainichi Koreans who wanted to become lawyers, which may have had something to do with the change in regulations.

  6. Foreign attorneys were obviously allowed to practice in Japan back in the Meiji era, although this was before bengoshi was even a word (back then, lawyers were called daigennin [代言人]). Although I can’t find any sources on point right now, the junkaiin system definitely existed before World War II. It was repealed in 1955.

    As for Okinawa lawyers, Japanese Wikipedia has an article on the subject which provides the criteria for admission to the bar in occupied Okinawa:


    Registration with the Legal Affairs Bureau shall require fulfillment of one of the following:

    A. Possession of an attorney’s license issued by the Empire of Japan prior to the military occupation of the Ryukyus.
    B. Service as a judge or prosecutor in the Ryukyu Islands for five or more years.
    C. Proof of graduation from a certified law school (法律学校) and two or more years of practical experience, either in Japan or the Ryukyus, in duties requiring legal training.
    D. Certification through the examination of the Ryukyu Bar Association Examination Bureau.

  7. The first non-citizen to go through the modern Japanese bar admission process was a zainichi who graduated from Waseda and passed the bar in 1976. The Supreme Court was initially going to deny him admission to LRTI (the Supreme Court’s lawyer training institute), but they relented after he protested the discriminatory treatment, and he was allowed into LRTI’s entering class of 1977. He ended up working on a number of high-profile human rights cases in Japan, until he died of cancer two years ago. Although he used a Japanese name in college, he switched to his real name upon graduation, and it appears that he never naturalized despite living in Japan all his life. (Asahi Shimbun, 4/19/77; Chosun Ilbo, 1/3/06; obituary in JANJAN, 2/25/06)

    1977 was not really behind the curve on this issue: nationality restrictions for attorneys were allowed in the US until the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 1973. (This is mentioned in the Asahi article quoted above.)

    Anyway, that fellow’s admission paved the way for other foreigners to become full-fledged attorneys in Japan, including 3/4 honky-American Douglas Freeman (who grew up in Japan and graduated from Todai, so it’s not quite so surprising that he passed).

    Incidentally, current debate in the US: Whether to admit ex-cons to the bar.

  8. Hi guys, really sorry to bother you
    Im living in Tokyo and teaching for Nova (teaching was the only way i could get a working visa)
    Im a barrister from London (i have passed all my bar exams but have not taken pupilage) I have also sat nd passed the California Bar exams and am admitted to practice there

    Now i want to get legal work in Tokyo, i am totally unfussed about starting as a paralegal or something similar, i really dont mu=ind starting at the bottom.

    The thing is, i have no clue as to where to start and i have no contacts out here

    Can anyone help me? Tell me where i can get a list of firms in Tokyo? Refer me to any websites? Provide me with links?

    Im 27 years old and should be pushing on with a career now so i really want to get started in law, i love Tokyo and want to stay here, so common sense says the two go together.

    Im currently learning Japanes, but right at the moment it is poor

    Many many thanks


  9. sorry me agin!

    Should have mentioned, although qualified to practice in California, i have NOT practiced any where and have only got 2 yers of paralegal work experience in the UK



  10. Paddy, here’s a good list of firms which hire foreign lawyers in Tokyo.

    If cold-calling doesn’t work for you you might also want to try meeting people in the Roppongi Bar Association, which is supposed to be at least good for carousing…

    It’s a picky market though. Not like New York or London, but it’s no cakewalk either. Unless you speak Japanese really well or have home jurisdiction experience coming in, any job you get will probably be by luck. Demand does shift, though, so you never know what you’re going to find.

  11. I thought readers of this post (and the author) might be interested to know that there is a foreign law firm called Sonderhoff & Einsel in Tokyo that I believe dates back to at least 1915.

    They are actually a “yugengaisha” which is not allowed anymore for a foreign law firm as I understand, and known in Japanese as “Esu unto ee yugengaisha” (i.e. S & E – with “unt” being “and” in German). I believe they were grandfathered in somehow in the Taisho or early Showa period.

    They are not very well known in Tokyo because they have a boutique practice serving exclusively German and European clients. I happen to know this from a German fellow I met at an RBA meeting.

    P.S. My e-mail bounced when I tried to send to

  12. I believe both Arthur Mori and Dick Rabinowitz were still working for the firm from the AIU Building (now AIG, the building up for auction) when I worked in Tokyo in the late Seventies and probably just into the early Eighties. Aryhur may by then have been a consultant or similar but Dick was definitely still a principal. Arthur Mori was one of the most delightful men I have known.

  13. Some good comments on this post.

    Anderson Mori is a very interesting enterprise. Considering that it was established by foreigners, it seems unusual that it keeps its foreign lawyers at arm’s length from the Japanese lawyers.

    Sonderhoff & Einsel appears to be set up legitimately — they have five registered Japanese lawyers and one registered foreign lawyer, and probably a few patent attorneys and foreign associates as well. The Japanese name of the firm is ゾンデルホフ&アインゼル法律特許事務所 so I suspect the yugen-gaisha they use is some sort of vehicle for business consulting or office operational purposes.

    Incidentally, I have heard something similar about the grandfathering of the German and Italian chambers of commerce. Because they have existed continuously since before World War II, they operate under a different license standard than the other foreign chambers of commerce such as the ACCJ.

    Also incidentally, as of today, there are three junkaiin left in the JFBA database. Mr. Adachi is no longer on the list.

  14. Some of the information here is not correct. For example Richard Rabinowitz was the head partner of AMR and ran it well after the other two name partners left. He left the practice to teach at Harvard in 1987. He received his Ph.D. at Harvard before, not after, practicing in Japan. He retired to New York and he asked to have his name taken off the law firm since it was going in a different direction. When he was there, it was very hospitable to foreigners, and had an FLA (foreign legal apprentice) program with over 100 alumni today. The late Dick Rabinowitz was a legend and very academically oriented, having been involved with the Fulbright program in Japan for decades.

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