It is important to get good advice in times of trouble, especially if you did not grow up with the Japanese legal system. Here are some tips on how to use legal services in Japan, where you will be able to get the English language advice that you REALLY need.
If you're facing a legal issue, getting a lawyer's help is almost always a good idea, but legal services aren't cheap. In Japan, the national and local tiers of government offer a range of free counseling services to foreign nationals in several languages including English.
Immigration Information Centers
The Immigration Bureau of Japan operates a number of regional Immigration Information Centers that you can call for general information, and "one-stop" information centers in Tokyo "Shinjuku", Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Sendai and Fukuoka.
These centers can offer advice on a variety of issues, and not just those related to immigration. Information is given over the phone or by direct visit in various languages including English, Korean, Chinese and Spanish.
Ministry of Justice
If you believe your human rights have been violated, whether it is related to discrimination, bullying, defamation or privacy issues on the Internet, you may want to consult with the Justice Ministry’s Human Rights Counseling Offices for Foreign residents. This service is also free and provided in several languages.
A phone number is available for those who are unable to speak Japanese fluently. In addition, human rights counseling services in English and Chinese on the Internet are in place, enabling you to get counseling anywhere in Japan.
Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare
If you work in Japan, you are protected by Japanese Labor Law.
If you have problems with wage payments, unfair dismissal or other employment-related issues, you can find information and advice at your nearest Labor Bureau of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare which is responsible for maintaining work standards in Japan.
A "Telephone Consultation Service for Foreign Workers", is available in five languages "English, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish and Tagalog". The service will address problems with respect to work conditions by explaining laws and making referrals to concerned organizations.
Government Employment Service Centers For Foreigners
Local municipalities offer free consultation services. Employment Service Center for Foreigners "under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare", provides information and consultation about recruitment for foreigners who wish to work in Japan. The center also introduces jobs to people or give advice on procedures to reside in Japan.
Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners’ Website might come in handy, as it shows available consultation services in Tokyo at national, regional and local levels. They also publish a very useful handbook for Foreign Workers in Japan. To save time, call them in advance; there are Two Employment Centers for foreigners in Tokyo "Shinjuku".
You can receive such services in Osaka Employment Service Center for Foreigners and Nagoya Employment Service Center for Foreigners as well.
Yokohama Counseling Services for Foreign Residents also offers free advisory services for working conditions and other general daily life issues.
Japan Legal Support Center "JLSC"
If your income is lower than a certain level, you are eligible for free legal advice from the Japan Legal Support Center. The JLSC is a public institution that provides information on legal paths relevant to your inquiry and if necessary, will refer you to pertinent organization that offers more specialized services.
Civil Legal Aid provides support for people having financial difficulties when they get into legal trouble. The people include Japanese citizens and foreign nationals with mid- to long-term residential status.
If you can satisfy certain means-test criteria, you can receive a legal-aid loan to retain a lawyer for civil and family cases. Legal aid is available as long as lawyers are contracted with the Japan Legal Support Center, and provided that they are willing to take on legal-aid cases. Even if you do not have a legitimate residential status, you may still be able to receive legal aid in some cases.
Tokyo Public Law Office
The Foreign Nationals and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners as well as Japanese citizens who are involved in disputes with international dimensions.
To make an appointment for consultation you can Call or Send An E-mail.
Local Bar Associations
If you are interested in retaining a lawyer, with a quick search on internet you can find a number of English-speaking attorneys at private firms.
If you do not know any English speaking lawyers, there are several Local Bar Associations that provide legal counseling in Japanese for foreigners at 5,400 yen for 30 minutes with free interpretation.
Some even provide a completely free service "usually for those who have no incomes or low incomes". You can call the number: 0570-783-100 from anywhere in Japan, and make an appointment at the nearest Local Bar Association.
About Duty Attorney System "In Criminal Cases"
Regardless of your residential status, if you are unfortunate enough to be arrested, you can consult a lawyer once for free. People arrested will not be allowed to contact anyone they know.
In such a situation, you simply need to tell a police officer to call the Duty Attorney "tōban bengoshi" and the officer will contact a local bar association and get them to call a lawyer. The lawyer will bring an interpreter if you do not speak Japanese. A duty attorney interviews you at the police holding cell without the presence of police officers, explains about your right and the future procedures and also makes contact with your family.
A family member or friend of the arrested individual can also call a local bar association directly and ask them to send a lawyer.