ABSTRACT

World markets remain awash with manufactured products from Japan, despite its

‘lost decade’ of economic stagnation over the 1990s. Indeed, export markets have

been Japan’s lifeline preventing outright depression, and some now argue that

they provide a model for Japan’s resurgence over the medium term (Katz 2003).

Japanese goods also retain a reputation for excellent design and reliability. Yet

since mid-2000 a series of scandals has revealed serious quality control problems.

They have afflicted jewels in the crown of Japan’s export industries, as well as less

competitive sectors focused on domestic markets. This book outlines some

perspectives for appraising such developments, and issues of product safety more

generally, comparing especially Japan’s Product Liability Law (the ‘PL Law’,

No. 85 of 1994). Before setting out the general approach and plan for this study,

some conceptual challenges are illustrated by sketching in more detail the recent

problems, and the conflicting perspectives offered on them by the media and

academic commentary on Japan, its products and consumers, and its legal

system.