Depositions in Japan
Taking a deposition in Japan can be complex; depositions are controlled by detailed agreements between the United States and the Government of Japan, and procedures cannot be modified or circumvented. Orders by U.S. courts cannot compel the Government of Japan to amend or overlook its judicial regulations and procedures. In addition, the Embassy cannot compel the Government of Japan to act faster, or in a way more convenient or beneficial to any party, even with a U.S. court order requesting such action.
The best way to ensure the success of your deposition is by carefully reading these instructions, and carefully following the steps outlined below.
Processing times can vary; clearance and visa issues solely under the control of the Government of Japan can take several weeks or longer, so it is never too early to begin the process.
If you are a U.S. government official/attorney participating in a deposition in Japan, please contact the Office of Legal Affairs for Overseas Citizen Services of the Bureau of Consular Affairs (ASK-OCS-L@state.gov) and the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo (firstname.lastname@example.org) prior to travel.
With very rare exceptions, depositions must occur at the Embassy or Consulates.
While electronically recording depositions is permissible, Japanese authorities have informed the United States that Japan does not permit the taking of testimony via telephone. While videotaping is permitted, videotaping equipment is not available at the Embassy or Consulate General for use in depositions.
Tokyo Deposition Room (seats about 8 people)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, in-person depositions have been suspended until further notice. Video depositions of witnesses located in Japan may be available on an extremely limited basis and subject to prior approval of the Japanese authorities. Japanese government approval is not guaranteed.
If you are a party, or counsel to a party, to litigation, flexible with your timing, are prepared to secure a court order for a deposition, and can provide the information below at a minimum to obtain Japanese government approval, then please contact email@example.com. Please provide the following information when writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Incomplete requests will not be considered.
We can provide further details, including information on how the depositions process might differ from the description provided below, once we receive an inquiry with all of the information listed above.
In the event your deposition request is approved by the Japanese authorities, please note the number of people in the depositions room should be kept to a minimum (e.g., the witness, one lawyer, the videographer). All other services you procure (e.g., court reporter, interpreter) can connect to the video deposition from their respective locations in Japan.
The U.S. Embassy and the Consulates in Japan are closed on both U.S. and Japanese holidays.
Make a Reservation
Request a reservation by fax or email with the following information:
Within 3 Weeks, Pay the US$1,283 Reservation Fee
6 Weeks Prior to the Deposition
At Least 3 Weeks Prior to the Deposition
2 Weeks Prior to the Deposition
Please review carefully our detailed instructions for Depositions at U.S. Embassy Tokyo and Depositions at U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe to avoid delays before beginning to schedule your deposition.
Stenography, Interpretation, Videography etc.
The Embassy and Consulate do not supply and cannot arrange interpreters, court reporters, video crews and the like. Follow the links below for services which you can contact independently to arrange for your support needs. The U.S Embassy and Consulate do not endorse or recommend any particular service, but provide these lists for informational purposes only. Other providers may also be available.
Security Guidelines and Access Requirements
Your use of the deposition room falls under the general security guidelines that govern all visitors to the Embassy. Please note:
Other Judicial Assistance Information
Article 17 of the United States – Japan Consular Convention authorizes U.S. consular officers to take depositions in Japan, “on behalf of the courts or other judicial tribunals or authorities of the sending state (United States), voluntarily given, in accordance with the laws of the sending state (U.S.) and in a manner not inconsistent with the laws of the receiving state (Japan).”
This general reference to the authority of consular officers to take depositions has been interpreted by the Government of Japan very strictly. Japanese law and practice, and the mutually agreed upon interpretation of the United States – Japan Consular Convention concerning obtaining evidence in Japan, permits the taking of a deposition of a willing witness for use in a court in the United States only:
Therefore, depositions may be taken in Japan:
The following fees are required for consular actions during depositions according to Title 21, Chapter 22, Part 1.52 of the Code of Federal Regulations:
52. Taking depositions or executing commissions to take testimony:
A reservation fee of US$1,283.00 must be paid to the Embassy or Consulate General. The reservation fee is not refundable if the deposition is later canceled. This covers consular officer and staff time in scheduling the deposition, communicating with requesting counsel by telephone, fax or email, and coordinating with Japanese authorities to confirm the scheduling of a deposition so that they can issue the special deposition visa to persons traveling to Japan to participate in a deposition. If rescheduled, another non-refundable reservation fee will be charged. The Embassy or Consulate General cannot confirm a reservation for a deposition until we receive the reservation fee.
A reservation fee must be paid within 3 weeks from the date the reservation is requested. Payment should be made in US dollars by U.S. postal money order or certified bank check payable to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or U.S. Consulate General in Osaka as appropriate. Personal or corporate checks are not acceptable.
Neither the Embassy nor Consulate General schedules the appearance of deponents or make arrangements for court reporters/stenographers or interpreters for private attorneys.
Consular Hourly Rates/Costs
The statutory fee for consular services in connection with depositions, item 52(b), is US$309.00 per hour, assessed in minimum increments of one hour. The entire fee must be received at least six weeks before the start of the deposition. Additional US$309.00 per hour fees may be charged if additional consular time is expended during the deposition beyond the time originally estimated. Any unused portion from your deposit will be refunded. Payment should be made by U.S. postal money order or certified bank check payable to the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, Japan or U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe.
Along with the prescribed statutory fees, please include a certified copy of the court order/commission at least six weeks before the start of the deposition. The court order/commission should be addressed to “ANY CONSUL OR VICE CONSUL OF THE UNITED STATES ASSIGNED TO TOKYO, JAPAN” or “ANY CONSUL OR VICE CONSUL OF THE UNITED STATES ASSIGNED TO OSAKA, JAPAN” as appropriate and worded “ON OR ABOUT” a date for maximum flexibility in scheduling. The names of all persons to be deposed must be included in the court orders/commissions noted above. The original or a certified copy of the court order/commission must be sent to the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General in advance. (These documents must bear the seal of the court). If the court order and deposit are not received in our office at least six weeks before the start of the deposition, the deposition room will be released for other reservations.
See sample commission text here (PDF 15KB).
Special Deposition Visa
Apply for a “special deposition visa” at the Japanese Embassy or Consulate in the United States nearest you. You will be required to present a photocopy of the commission or court order to the Japanese consular officer when you apply for the “special deposition visa”. This special deposition visa must be applied for at least two weeks before departure for Japan. The request should be made on letterhead stationery and include the following information:
Travelers will also be required to present their U.S. passport, complete Japanese Embassy/Consulate visa application forms and to provide the requisite photographs. A photocopy of the commission or order for a U.S. consular officer to take the deposition must accompany the request.
Special deposition visas are required of all deposition participants, unless they are citizens of Japan or hold Japanese residence status that allows for participation in depositions. Inquiries should be made of the appropriate Japanese consular officer at the Japanese Embassy or a Consulate in the United States.
Once it receives the application for the special deposition visa,
Note Regarding Foreign Attorneys Residing in Japan
In Note Verbale Hokubei 1 No. 220 dated October 31, 1996, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided additional clarification regarding the visa status of American attorneys residing in Japan who wish to participate in depositions at the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in Japan. American lawyers residing in Japan under the status of “legal/accounting services” (as “gaikokuho jimubengoshi”), “permanent residents,” or “spouse or child of Japanese national” may participate in depositions under their current visa status, that is, without the special deposition visa, under certain circumstances. They must notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo of their proposed participation.
When submitting the note verbale notification to the Ministry, the Embassy will need to provide the names of such lawyers, their company affiliation in Japan, their address, telephone number, and the type and validity of their visa, in addition to a copy of the requisite commission or court order issued by the court in the United States for the taking of the deposition before the U.S. consular officer on U.S. consular premises. In order to facilitate the notification procedures, the Embassy has prepared a worksheet which each lawyer resident in Japan will need to fill out in order for the Embassy to submit the requisite note verbale.
Signing, Certifying and Mailing Transcripts
Participants to a deposition may stipulate regarding the manner in which the transcript of the deposition (any exhibits) should be signed, certified and mailed. The transcript may be forwarded to counsel rather than to the clerk of court which requested the deposition. Moreover, participants may stipulate that after the deposing of witnesses is completed and the stenographer transcribes the testimony, the transcript may be sent directly to the witness for signature or to counsel who will make arrangements directly with the witness for signature of the transcript.
If required by local or federal rules in the United States, the witness may bring the transcript to the U.S. Embassy or Consulates for signature before a consular officer, making any necessary corrections in the presence of a consular officer. If required, a consular certification of the deposition may be made at this time.
If you plan to have the deposition taped without subsequent transcription, the Embassy and Consulate General ask that the court order or commission specify whether audio or video tape is to be used. Tapes may be sent directly by the video operator or by the Embassy or Consulate General via registered air mail to either the person stipulated by the participants or directly to the court clerk immediately following completion of the deposition. Any change in the above procedures would have to be agreed to by both parties in the dispute and, if necessary, covered by an amended court order.
Deposition Closing Certificate Fee and Postage
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates require a US$415.00 fee for the consular certification of the completed deposition transcript in accordance with Schedule of Fees item 52(e). Actual costs for postage and packing materials must be received in advance before transcripts can be forwarded. The Embassy and Consulate General may require a deposit for these postage and packing costs from which any unexpended monies will be refunded.
Firms may provide the Embassy or Consulate General with their express delivery service account number against which such costs may be charged. As federal regulations prohibit the performance of consular services in advance of payment of statutory consular fees, depositions cannot be convened until all the required funds have been deposited.
For administrative and security reasons, the deposition rooms at the Embassy and Consulate General and consular staff are not available for deposition taking outside the working hours or on weekends or holidays. The Embassy and Consulate General will be closed on both U.S. and Japanese national holidays. No one is allowed to remain in the deposition room during the lunch hour. Please note also that deposition taking must stop early enough to enable all participants to leave the consular premises prior to the closing time at which time the doors will be locked.
Voluntary Depositions on Written Questions
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General generally do not take written depositions due to limited staffing. However, voluntary depositions on written questions may be taken in Japan (28 USC Fed. R. Civ. P., Rule 31, 22 C.F.R. 92.58) after coordination with the Embassy or Consulate General. Requesting counsel should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General to arrange a mutually convenient day when the deposition may be conducted. The requirements for a U.S. court order or commission, consular fees and scheduling our deposition room based on space availability still apply. Counsel must make all the arrangements for the witness to appear and for stenographic or video services and translators if necessary.
The Consular Officer will administer the oath to the witness, and if necessary to the stenographer, video tape operator or interpreter/translator, and be continuously present throughout the deposition to read the questions provided in a court order. If the witness does not speak or read English adequately, a Japanese translation of the English text should be provided. The questions should be sent directly to the U.S. consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General where the deposition is scheduled. If preferred, the witness may write down the answers to the questions, rather than dictate the answers to the stenographer or video tape operator. The consular officer will affix a closing certificate after the deposition is completed.
Please inform all attorneys, for both the plaintiff and the defendants, of the above requirements, particularly the special deposition visa and our security policies.