Japan - Country Commercial Guide
Licensing Requirements for Professional Services

Includes license requirements for key professional services that are open to U.S. service providers.

Last published date: 2020-10-31

Professionals with only U.S. certifications have limited ability to practice or work in Japan.

Legal Services

To be licensed to practice Japanese law in Japan, professionals must complete an undergraduate law education in Japan or attend a Japanese law school, pass the Japanese bar examination, and complete one-year training at the Legal Training and Research Institute of Japan’s Supreme Court. However, qualified international attorneys may become “Foreign Law Business Attorneys” (“Gaikokuho-Jimu-Bengoshi”) upon application to and approval by the Minister of Justice and registration with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA).

Based on an amendment to the Act on Special Measures concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers (known as the 2020 Gaiben Law), requirements to receive a Gaikokuho-Jimu-Bengoshi license include the need to have practiced at least one year in the home jurisdiction, plus two years in Japan, for a total of three years of experience.  While registered foreign lawyers are prohibited from handling legal matters that involve Japanese law, the 2020 Gaiben law expands their scope to handle international arbitration and mediation.  An summary English translation of the amendment can be found here.

Accountancy

The highest-grade accounting license in Japan is the Certified Public Accountant. To become a Japanese CPA, one must pass the CPA examination, and have a minimum two years of practical accounting or auditing experience. Experience can be completed before or after the CPA exam. The CPA Examination is conducted only in Japanese. After passing the exam, one must complete a three-year professional accountancy education program provided by the Japan Foundation for Accounting Education and Learning (JFAEL). Those who completed the program are qualified to take the final assessments conducted by the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (JICPA) and the successful candidates are eligible to register with the JICPA.  See requirements and steps here.

Certified Public Tax Accountant

Japan also has a Certified Public Tax Accountant certification. Becoming a Certified Public Tax Accountant requires passing the Certified Public Tax Accountant examination or being already registered as an Attorney at Law or a Certified Public Accountant. To practice, a Certified Public Tax Accountant must also be registered with the Japan Federation of Certified Public Tax Accountants Association.

Consulting
There are no special qualifications required to become a business, management or human resources consultant in Japan. Some consultants are often accredited as Certified Public or Tax Accounts.