Insolvency proceedings in Japan consist of civil rehabilitation and corporate reorganisation for restructuring businesses, and bankruptcy and special liquidation, which are primarily aimed at liquidation. Both civil rehabilitation under the Civil Rehabilitation Act (Act No. 225 of 1999) and corporate reorganisation under the Corporate Reorganisation Act (Act No. 154 of 2002) are the procedures commenced by a court in response to a petition filed by a debtor or applicable interested party for the purpose of restructuring the business of a debtor. These procedures are collectively known as rehabilitation-type legal proceedings, under which restructuring of a debtor and distribution to creditors are implemented pursuant to a plan approved by a statutory majority of creditors and confirmed by the court.

Bankruptcy, under the Bankruptcy Act (Act No. 75 of 2004) and special liquidation, under the Stock Company, Liquidation section (Part II, Chapter IX) of the Companies Act (Act No. 86 of 2005), are also procedures commenced by a court after the appropriate petition has been filed, and are collectively known as liquidation-type legal proceedings. While bankruptcy and special liquidation are pursued for liquidation, in practice these proceedings also provide a useful means for restructuring the business.

Further, disciplines for private arrangements are available, by which a debtor could carry out debt restructuring without the potential disadvantages associated with the legal proceedings.

With respect to cross-border insolvency cases, foreign insolvency proceedings can be effective within Japan by obtaining a recognition order under the Act on Recognition and Assistance for Foreign Insolvency Proceedings (Act No. 129 of 2000), which was established in 2001, referring to the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency. In addition, a debtor in a foreign insolvency proceeding may file a petition for Japanese statutory insolvency proceedings and, once the petition is granted, Japanese and foreign proceedings can be initiated in coordination.

Legislative history

The first comprehensive bankruptcy law established in Japan was the bankruptcy section of the former Commercial Code (Act No. 32 of 1890), which was modelled on French law. The bankruptcy section was soon found to be insufficient in providing means of monetising debtors' assets and, accordingly, the Bankruptcy Act (Act No. 71 of 1922) was established under the influence of German law. The 1922 Bankruptcy Act was in force for more than 70 years, until the current Bankruptcy Act took effect. The revised Commercial Code of 1938 introduced special liquidation as an alternative to bankruptcy, by which liquidation of a stock company could be conducted in an effective manner.

With respect to rehabilitation-type proceedings, the Composition Act (Act No. 72 of 1922) was enacted with the 1922 Bankruptcy Act. However, the Composition Act was not always fully functioning because of certain shortcomings, such as that the grounds of commencement of composition were too limited, the requirements to approve the conditions of composition were too strict, and the implementation of the composition was not ensured.

The former Corporate Reorganisation Act (Act No. 172 of 1952) was established by referring to the US bankruptcy laws at the time. A reorganisation trustee had the exclusive power to control, administer and dispose of debtors' assets and to manage the business of the debtor. By taking advantage of a reorganisation plan, by which modification of both creditors' rights and organisational matters of the reorganisation company could be accomplished, the former Corporate Reorganisation Act functioned as a powerful tool in revitalising the business.

After the burst of Japan's economic bubble in 1991, many corporations went bankrupt and this became a social issue that needed to be addressed. In response to the changes in economic circumstances, an overall revision of the legislative insolvency regime was initiated in 1996. First, the Civil Rehabilitation Act was enforced on 1 April 2000 to overcome the shortcomings of the Composition Act. Second, the Corporate Reorganisation Act was significantly revised in 2002, with the intention of introducing speedier and more effective reorganisation proceedings and providing the reinforced reconstruction method to a reorganisation company. The current Bankruptcy Act was enacted in 2004, and special liquidation was amended by the newly established Companies Act as a result of streamlining the proceedings.

Rehabilitation-type legal proceedings


Civil rehabilitation and corporate reorganisation share their primary purposes (ie, enabling a distressed debtor to rehabilitate or reorganise under the procedure); however, they have distinguished characteristics, particularly in the following aspects.

Form of subject company

Corporate reorganisation is only available for stock companies established under the Companies Act, whereas civil rehabilitation is also available for other types of companies, legal entities and individuals.

Limitation on exercise of secured claims

In civil rehabilitation, security interests are treated as rights of ‘separate satisfaction', which means that secured creditors may generally exercise their secured claims regardless of the pending civil rehabilitation proceedings. In contrast, in corporate reorganisation, secured claims exercised prior to the commencement are stayed and further exercise is prohibited. Secured creditors shall also be bound by the reorganisation proceedings and their secured claims may be impaired in accordance with the reorganisation plan.

Status of management personnel

In corporate reorganisation, the court appoints a trustee who handles the operation of business, as well as the administration and disposal of assets of the reorganising company, and management personnel (ie, directors) of the company lose their managerial rights. Usually, an attorney with extensive experience in insolvency practice is appointed as a trustee.

In this respect, since 2009, the Tokyo District Court has introduced the so-called debtor-in-possession (DIP) style of corporate reorganisation, in which the incumbent management personnel may be appointed as a trustee under certain conditions (eg, the management personnel shall not be a person who has been involved in any unlawful management and the involvement of such personnel in management of the reorganising company shall not be objected by major creditors). Since the introduction of the DIP style, other cases are often referred to as ‘administered-type' corporate reorganisation.

In civil rehabilitation proceedings, a trustee is generally not appointed, and the existing management personnel will continue to manage the company (DIP).


Corporate reorganisation is designed for large companies, and it provides a powerful mechanism for reorganisation with the involvement of all interested parties in the distressed company. As a trade-off, the procedures in corporate reorganisation are generally complicated, strict and require much time and expense to comply. However, as an effort to reduce these disadvantages in practice, the Tokyo District Court released the standard schedule, as shown in Table 1, and the proceedings are currently proceeded in accordance therewith. The Tokyo District Court has also announced that the DIP style can be completed in a shorter time.

As for civil rehabilitation, the process from the petition to the confirmation of the rehabilitation plan is generally completed in approximately five months, as shown in Table 2, which is the standard schedule issued by the Tokyo District Court. In comparison with corporate reorganisation, the procedures in civil rehabilitation are simpler and require a shorter time and less expenses to comply. As such, also thanks to its feature that directors of a debtor company generally keep their position, civil rehabilitation is generally regarded as being a more debtor-friendly procedure and, accordingly, debtors are often inclined to use civil rehabilitation rather than corporate reorganisation.

Meanwhile, corporate reorganisation is used where it is necessary to bind secured creditors, or where more strict proceedings are required to cause management personnel to resign, when a company has become insolvent a result of fraud, misconduct or similar. A recent trend has been an increase in the proportion of corporate reorganisation cases that have been initiated by a petition filed by creditors.

Table 1: Standard schedule of corporate reorganisation (Tokyo District Court)

Events in the proceedings

Number of days (standard type)

Number of days (simplified type)

Petition; provisional administration order

Zero days

Zero days

Investigation on grounds of commencement/status of assets

Order of commencement

One month from petition

One month from petition

Deadline for filing of claims

Two months from commencement order

One month and two weeks from commencement order

Completion of asset evaluation; statement of approval/disapproval submission deadline

Five months from commencement order

Three months and two weeks from commencement order

Reorganisation claims investigation

Proposed plan submission deadline

Nine months from commencement order

Six months from commencement order

Voting by document

Resolution; order of confirmation

11 months from commencement order

Eight months from commencement order

Execution of reorganisation plan

Order of termination


One to 10 years from order of confirmation

One to 10 years from order of confirmation

Table 2: Standard schedule of civil rehabilitation (Tokyo District Court)

Events in the proceedings

Amount of time from the filing of a petition for the commencement of proceedings

Filing of a petition for the commencement of proceedings; prepayment of expenses

Zero days

Date for scheduling meeting

Up to one day

Issue of a temporary restraining order; appointment of supervisors

Up to one day

Creditors' meeting organised by the debtor

Up to six days

First meeting between the debtor and the court

One week

Order of commencement

One week

Deadline for filing of claims

One month and one week

Asset evaluation, written report submission deadline

Two months

Proposed plan (draft) submission deadline

Two months

Second meeting between the debtor and the court

Two months

Statement of approval/disapproval submission deadline

Two months and one week

Ordinary period for investigation

10 to 11 weeks

Proposed rehabilitation plan submission deadline

Three months

Third meeting between the debtor and the court

Three months

Opinion letter by supervisors submission deadline

Three months and one week

Order of convocation of creditors meeting

Three months and one week

Voting by document

Up to eight days prior to creditors' meeting

Creditors' meeting; order of confirmation of the plan

Five months

Overview of the proceedings

Petition for commencement

A debtor may file a petition with a court for the commencement of either corporate reorganisation or civil rehabilitation if there is either (i) a suspicion that the factual basis that constitutes the grounds for the commencement of bankruptcy (insolvent or unable to pay debts) would occur; or (ii) a suspicion that a significant hindrance to the continuation of the debtor's business will occur, if the debtor repays the debts that are due. A creditor may also file a petition for the commencement of either procedure if there is a suspicion referred to in (i) above provided that, with respect to corporate reorganisation, creditors, either individually or collectively, are required to hold claims that account for one-tenth or more of the amount of the stated capital of the stock company to file the petition. Shareholders, either individually or collectively, holding one-tenth or more of the voting rights of all shareholders may also file a petition in corporate reorganisation.

Orders issued prior to commencement

Civil rehabilitation

Temporary restraining order

To prevent the debtor's assets from being dispersed and to protect the assets from any preferential repayments prior to the commencement, the court may order a provisional seizure or provisional disposition or issue any other necessary temporary restraining order concerning the debtor's business and property, such as an order to prohibit the debtor from making repayments to creditors.

Supervision order

The court, when it finds it necessary, may issue an order of supervision by a supervisor. The responsibilities of a supervisor cover various matters, such as giving consent to certain actions by the rehabilitation debtor, conducting an investigation into the business and property of the rehabilitation debtor, preparing an opinion letter on a proposed rehabilitation plan, and supervising the implementation of the rehabilitation plan. In practice, a supervisor is generally appointed from among experienced insolvency attorneys.

Corporate reorganisation

Appointment of provisional administrators and provisional order

Usually a petition for a provisional administration order is filed at the same time as a petition for the commencement of the reorganisation proceedings, and the court appoints a provisional administrator, generally from among experienced attorneys, to maintain the status of the company's assets ‘as is'. Upon the appointment, the provisional administrator is vested with the exclusive rights to administer and dispose of the company's estate until the commencement of the proceedings.

Supervisor for DIP-style reorganisation

In a DIP-style reorganisation, the existing management maintains the rights to administer and dispose of the property and to manage the business before the commencement of the proceedings. However, to prevent the property from being dispersed, a provisional order, such as an order to prohibit the company from making repayments to creditors, is issued, generally immediately after the petition is filed. In addition, the court generally appoints an experienced attorney who serves as both a supervisor and an investigator.

Commencement order

Where a petition for the commencement of the rehabilitation or reorganisation proceedings is duly filed and the grounds for the commencement are satisfied, the court issues an order of the commencement of rehabilitation or reorganisation proceedings.

With respect to the reorganisation proceedings, the court, upon making an order of the commencement, appoints a reorganisation trustee. The provisional administrator is usually appointed as a reorganisation trustee and continuously manages the company's business. In the case of DIP-style proceedings, the existing management is appointed as a trustee and the attorney who served as the pre-commencement supervisor and investigator is appointed as an investigator for post-commencement proceedings in general.

No trustee is appointed in civil rehabilitation other than in exceptional cases, but the debtor is continuously supervised by the supervisor.

Right of avoidance

In corporate reorganisation, the reorganisation trustee has the right of avoidance to nullify any debtor's conduct occurring before the commencement of the proceedings that is detrimental to creditors. Specifically, a debtor's conduct that either unduly reduces the estate (fraudulent conduct) or impairs the equality of creditor (preference) is subject to the execution of such right.

In addition, in civil rehabilitation, the fraudulent conduct and preference of the debtor before the commencement can be nullified by the right of avoidance. While the right of avoidance is exercised by a trustee in corporate reorganisation who has the ability to administer and dispose of the estate, in civil rehabilitation it is not exercised by a debtor who has such ability but by a supervisor whose primary duty is to supervise a debtor during the proceedings.

Filing, investigation and determination of claims

An unsecured creditor needs to file a proof of claims with the court under the rehabilitation or reorganisation proceedings. A secured creditor also needs such a filing in corporate reorganisation. In civil rehabilitation, a secured creditor is not required to file a proof of secured claims (though still needs to file a proof of the unsecured portion of a claim) as he or she may exercise his or her security interest regardless of the pending proceedings.

A rehabilitation debtor or reorganisation trustee prepares a statement of approval or disapproval depending on whether the claims and the number of voting rights that have been filed are approved or not, and submit the statement to the court.

A creditor who has filed a proof of his or her claim may make an objection to the court, within the ordinary period for investigation designated by the court, with regard to the content of a claim made in a statement of approval or disapproval.

For the claims that were approved by a rehabilitation debtor or reorganisation trustee and to which no objection was raised by any creditor, the content and the number of the voting rights are determined. In contrast, for the claims that were not approved, or to which an objection was raised during the investigation period, an assessment procedure is implemented to determine the claims.

Preparation and submission of an evaluation report, etc

A rehabilitation debtor or reorganisation trustee shall evaluate the value of any and all property that belongs to the debtor, and prepare an evaluation report to be submitted to the court. A rehabilitation debtor or reorganisation trustee shall also prepare an inventory of assets and balance sheets based on the evaluation and submit the same to the court.

Submission of the proposed plan to the court

A rehabilitation debtor or reorganisation trustee shall prepare a proposed rehabilitation or reorganisation plan specifying such matters as a policy to rehabilitate or reorganise the debtor's business, modification of rights held by the creditors and a payment plan, and submit it to the court. Creditors who filed the claims may also submit a proposed plan to the court.

Resolution of the proposed plan

Rehabilitation plan

The proposed rehabilitation plan is approved by obtaining the consent of both the majority of the creditors who exercise voting rights, and the creditors who account for not less than half of the total number of voting rights.

Reorganisation plan

The proposed reorganisation plan is approved, as a general rule, by obtaining approvals by statutory majority from two classes of creditors (ie, more than half the total number of voting rights held by reorganisation creditors, and not less than two-thirds of the total number of voting rights held by secured reorganisation creditors).

Confirmation of the plan

The court shall make an order of confirmation of the rehabilitation or reorganisation plan approved by creditors unless there exist any grounds for disconfirmation as stipulated in laws, such as infeasibility to implement the plan, and the plan's contents being unfair or inequitable.

Once the order of confirmation becomes final and conclusive, the rehabilitation plan becomes effective, and the rights of the rehabilitation creditors are modified in accordance with the rehabilitation plan. On the other hand, the reorganisation plan becomes effective upon issuance of an order of confirmation, before it becomes final and conclusive.

Implementation of the plan and close of proceedings

A rehabilitation debtor or reorganisation trustee implements the confirmed plan, such as making payments in accordance with the plan.

As a general rule, when a supervisor is appointed under the rehabilitation proceedings, such proceedings are closed after three years have elapsed since an order of confirmation of the rehabilitation plan became final and conclusive. With respect to the reorganisation proceedings, the court shall make an order to close such proceedings, where the payment of the debts in accordance with the reorganisation plan has been completed or where the payment of more than two-thirds of the debt has been made and the court does not find that the reorganisation plan is unlikely to be implemented.

Table 3: Comparison of corporate reorganisation (DIP and administered) and civil rehabilitation


DIP corporate reorganisation

Administered corporate reorganisation

Civil rehabilitation


Rehabilitation-type court procedure


Stock company

Legal entity or natural person


Debtor, creditor, shareholder

Debtor, creditor, company director, etc

Person in charge of leading the procedure

Trustee appointed by court (management personnel of debtor)

Trustee appointed by court (generally, attorney)


Requirements for creditors' approval on plan

Reorganisation claims:

consent of persons who hold voting rights in excess of half of total voting rights of reorganisation creditors


Secured reorganisation claims:

consent of persons who hold voting rights of two-thirds or more of total voting rights of the secured reorganisation creditors (in general)

(i) consent of majority of rehabilitation creditors who exercised their voting rights; and

(ii) consent of persons who hold voting rights in excess of half of total voting rights of rehabilitation creditors

Handling of secured claims

Incorporated in procedure as secured reorganisation claims; prohibited to exercise

Treated as rights of separate satisfaction; freely exercisable regardless of pending procedure

Right of avoidance


Supervision by court-appointed person

Before commencement:

supervisor concurrently serving as investigator
(in general)


After commencement:

(in general)

None (in general)

Supervisor (in general)

Required period of time (according to standard schedule)

Approximately seven months

Approximately one year

Approximately five months

Liquidation-type legal proceedings

Of the two types of court-based liquidation procedure (bankruptcy and special liquidation), bankruptcy has its emphasis on pursuing the liquidation in an equal and fair manner pursuant to the strict statutory procedures. By contrast, special liquidation was originally enacted for the purpose of mitigating adverse effects that would derive from the strict nature of bankruptcy; namely, the significant amount of time and expense involved in the proceedings. As such, first, special liquidation is pursued by a liquidator appointed by a resolution of a shareholders' meeting of the company, as opposed to a trustee appointed by a court in bankruptcy. Second, while bankruptcy proceeds pursuant to the statutory procedures, special liquidation is designed to enable a liquidator to implement the proceedings flexibly and swiftly on the basis of the autonomy of interested parties (ie, a liquidating company and its creditors).

For instance, a trustee appointed by a court in bankruptcy makes monetary distribution to creditors on a pari passu basis strictly in accordance with the preferential order of claims designated by the law. Whereas in special liquidation, the treatment of creditors in a repayment plan may deviate from a pro rata basis if either the creditors agree with such treatment or such treatment is applied only to minor claims in a fair manner, thereby providing a liquidator with flexibility in designing the plan.

A comparison of features of bankruptcy and special liquidation is provided in Table 4. As indicated in the table, whereas the distribution is conducted by following the law in bankruptcy - either by executing an agreement with each and every creditor or by obtaining the approval of a creditors' meeting - a repayment plan is necessary to implement the repayment in special liquidation. Accordingly, if creditors are unlikely to cooperate with the procedure, a debtor may wish to consider bankruptcy instead of special liquidation. Moreover, in cases where a fraudulent transfer is found, bankruptcy is suitable, as a trustee in bankruptcy is equipped with the right of avoidance, whereas this mechanism is not provided in special liquidation. 

Special liquidation is particularly used for liquidation where, for instance, a parent company, management or a major creditor is able to provide the funds or necessary assistance for liquidating the company smoothly. Further, since special liquidation enables interested parties to implement the proceedings by their own initiative, it is frequently used as a method of restructuring by combining it with a business transfer or a company split.

Table 4: Comparison of bankruptcy and special liquidation



Special liquidation


Liquidation-type court procedure


Any individual or legal entity

Stock company


Debtor, creditor, company director, etc

Creditor, liquidator, auditor or shareholder

Grounds for commencement

‘Unable to pay debts' (the condition in which a debtor, because of an inability to pay, is generally and continuously unable to pay debts as they become due) or ‘insolvent' (the condition in which a debtor is unable to pay its debts in full from its assets)

Suspicion of being insolvent, etc

Person in charge of leading the procedure

Trustee appointed by court (generally, attorney)

Liquidator appointed by shareholders meeting (generally, former director or attorney)

Right of avoidance


Not available

Monetary distribution to creditors

Pari passu basis

Pari passu basis in principle; exceptions are cases where creditors agree or minor claims are treated differently in a fair manner

Requirements for creditors' approval on repayment plan

Not required
(distributed pursuant to order and proportion prescribed by law)

Either agreement with each creditor, or approval on scheme of arrangement in creditors' meeting (ie, consent of both majority of number of creditors and creditors who have voting rights in excess of half of total voting rights of creditors) is required

Supervision by
court-appointed person


Investigator may be appointed

Required period of time

A few months to a few years, depending on time necessary to monetise the debtor's assets after commencement of procedure

Private arrangements

With the court-based insolvency procedures described above as a backbone, many insolvency cases in Japan are also worked out through so-called private arrangements, referring to a process in which a debtor and creditors negotiate and implement a debt restructuring plan on the basis of a consensus without the involvement of a court.

Similar to the workouts conducted in other jurisdictions, notable advantages of a private arrangement in comparison to court-based procedures are: a reduction or even elimination of negative impact on corporate value (by not involving trade creditors); the status of being ‘behind the curtain'; the flexibility in designing a restructuring plan; and the increased speed in completing the process. While private arrangements can be conducted without referring to any publicly available mechanism for restructuring (known as ‘genuine' private arrangements), many cases are worked out on the basis of such mechanism. These include:

  • special conciliation, in which a debtor and creditors reach an agreement before a court, or otherwise a court can issue a binding resolution, without consensus of the parties under certain circumstances;
  • the Guidelines for Out-of-Court Workouts, which are designed to provide a procedure conducted in a transparent manner for a debtor company and financial creditors to agree on a restructuring plan on the basis of a consensus;
  • • Corporation, both of which are entities established by the law for the purpose of, among others, assisting debt restructuring of a distressed company; and
  • turnaround alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which is a procedure established by the law for the purpose of helping a distressed company to reach an agreement with financial creditors by the involvement of an impartial third party authorised by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Special conciliation is included in the mechanism for private arrangement, even the procedures done before a court, because it does not have the effect of prohibiting creditors from enforcing their rights, nor does it provide the binding effect of a restructuring plan on a majority basis. The Guidelines for Out-of-Court Workouts have not been used recently, as the procedure must be commenced by the initiative of both a debtor and the ‘main bank' of the debtor, thereby often resulting in a significant burden on the bank in practice. Turnaround ADR functions as a substitute to the guidelines to a certain extent; however, it is generally regarded as the most suitable procedure, in particular for large companies.

Cross-border insolvency

Effect of foreign insolvency proceedings in Japan

In the case of a debtor whose insolvency proceedings have commenced outside Japan and that has its business office or assets in Japan, such debtor may obtain a decision of the Tokyo District Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over recognition cases, to recognise the foreign insolvency proceedings so as to give effect to them within Japan, or may separately file a petition for commencement of insolvency proceedings in Japan concurrently with the foreign insolvency proceedings.

Recognition and assistance proceedings

In Japan, the Act on Recognition of and Assistance for Foreign Insolvency Proceedings was established, referring to the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, and enforced in April 2001.

The recognition and assistance proceedings under the aforementioned Act are the proceedings for recognising foreign insolvency proceedings so as to give effect to them within Japan. However, the order to recognise foreign proceedings in Japan does not have any specific effect in itself and only works as a precondition for an assistance order (ie, it allows the court to order proceedings such as a stay of compulsory execution or prohibition of repayment).

Concurrent insolvency proceedings

A debtor whose insolvency proceedings have commenced outside Japan may file a petition for bankruptcy or civil rehabilitation if it has either its business office or assets in Japan, or for corporate reorganisation if it has its business office in Japan. A trustee of foreign insolvency proceedings is allowed to file a petition for these proceedings in Japan. In the case of insolvency proceedings being concurrently commenced in Japan, the relevant Japanese laws prescribe the provisions concerning mutual cooperation and provision of information between a trustee in Japan (a debtor) and a foreign trustee.

In this regard, in the case of insolvency proceedings being processed both within and outside Japan, the hotchpot rule is applicable under Japanese laws, pursuant to which, if a creditor has received any repayment under foreign insolvency proceedings after the order of commencement of Japanese insolvency proceedings, such creditor may not receive any repayment under the Japanese insolvency proceedings until any other creditor with the same priority has received repayment in the same proportion.

Recognition of Japanese insolvency proceedings in foreign countries - Re Elpida Memory, Inc

Laws to recognise foreign insolvency proceedings have been enacted in many jurisdictions based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency. Japanese insolvency cases utilising the recognition proceedings in other jurisdictions have been increasing in cases where the debtor has its assets located outside Japan and needs to protect them from foreign creditors' actions for recovery. However, while the recognition of Japanese insolvency proceedings in other jurisdictions prohibits creditors from exercising their rights against assets located in that jurisdiction, modification of creditors' rights made under the rehabilitation or reorganisation plan does not become effective or binding in that jurisdiction by the recognition of the proceedings.

In this regard, reorganisation trustees of Elpida Memory Inc, a major DRAM manufacturer in Japan, obtained, in addition to an order to recognise the reorganisation proceedings, an order to recognise the reorganisation plan confirmed in Japan from the Delaware Bankruptcy Court under the proceedings stipulated in Chapter 15 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, thereby enabling the trustees to implement the plan in the United States.

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