Basic information about a company (i.e. company name, principal office address, list of directors and the representative(s), paid-in capital, the purpose of the company, the date of incorporation…) is publicly accessible on the companies register .
Real property register
The real property register is publicly accessible . While the official database at the Legal Affair Bureau does not enable us to cross-search based on a name, we can do so through our membership at a private search company.
A bankruptcy search is available in the Gazette .
Patents, utility models, designs and trademarks can be searched on a platform called J-PlatPat , which the Japan Patent Office runs.
Teikoku Databank provides corporate credit reports . G-Search (Fujitsu) offers business database services .
Private detective agency
We may hire a private detective agency to collect evidence. We sometimes instruct them to conduct a site visit to inspect the defendant’s address on paper to support our application for service by publication.
We are developing open-source intelligence (OSINT) skills to spot the digital footprint left by the opponent.
Access to the resident register
Lawyers are allowed to access the resident register, where the local authorities compile the information of each resident’s current address under certain conditions . For example, if the opponent’s last known address is available, we can reach their current address on the resident register.
Bar association inquiries
Lawyers can request third parties to disclose information through the bar associations . While this request is not legally binding, major businesses (e.g. banks, mobile carriers) and public authorities generally answer our requests. For instance, most mobile carriers disclose information about the owner if we show that a number is used for fraud.
There are several types of orders available at the court. As far as the investigation is concerned, an order can be made to collect or preserve evidence for the trial .
Asset discovery: obtaining information from the judgment debtor
We can make an application to a court to order the judgment debtor to disclose their assets. If they make a false statement, they will be subject to imprisonment for six months or less, or a fine of ¥500,000 or less .
Asset discovery: obtaining information from third parties
We can further apply to the court to order third parties (e.g. a local government, a securities brokerage) to disclose information about the judgment debtor’s assets . This can overlap with bar association inquires (for example, banks disclose information about the defendant’s bank accounts either way). However, asset discovery is available only after obtaining a winning judgment.
 The Residential Basic Book Act, Article 12-3
 The Attorney Act, Article 23-2
 CEA, Article 205 and thereafter
- The Code of Civil Procedure (Act No. 109 of 1996) (‘CCP‘)
- The Civil Execution Act (Act No. 4 of 1979) (‘CEA‘)
You can find English translations of these statutes here: Japanese Law Translation