Prof. Mami Hiraike Okawara
5 March 2011

Mami Hiraike Okawara is Professor and Dean at the Graduate School of Regional Policy, Takasaki City University of Economics; Chair of the Japan Association for Language and Law; Mediator at the Maebashi Family Court; and a Public Member of the Gunma Prefecture Local Labor Relations Commission. Prof. Okawara’s research focuses on legal terminology. She obtained her PhD in the area of forensic linguistics from the University of Sydney, Australia.

Prof. Okawara presented a fascinating talk on the different ways that lawyers and non-lawyers approach and understand language, using as examples the discussions (the ‘suppressions of rebellions’ [hanko no yokuatsu]) that took place in the Project to Simplify Courtroom Language implemented by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations Headquarters for Implementing the Lay Judge [Saiban’in] System. Drawing on that experience, she focused on how the Japanese citizenry understands the language used in the Japanese legal profession.

Prof. Okawara described the categories of legal language, namely:

legal terms of art, such as goriteki utagai (reasonable doubt), tennen kajitsu (natural fruits), kakuji (each person), and sekinin munouryoku (lack of capacity);
terms of legal custom, such as shikaru-beku (duly); and
intermediary terms, meaning terms used in the media, such as yogisha (suspect) and fujo boko (rape, sexual assault).

Focusing on terms of art, she delved into a further classification of legal language. Ultimately Prof. Okawara asked the audience to consider why the legal profession uses these sorts of words.

Prof. Okawara had given an earlier presentation on the results of the Project to Simplify Courtroom Language at the October 2010 international conference of the global plain legal language organization ‘Clarity’.