Guests at Bucerius: Takayuki Harashima from Japan
What is the major focus of your research in Japan and here at Bucerius? What are the main issues in your research area?
I’m researching public law. In my research, I compare German and Japanese theory and practice on public law. My research topic is the constitutionally-conformant interpretation of law (verfassungskonforme Auslegung) and the relationship between constitutional law and simple law. The constitutionally-conformant interpretation is a judicial instrument for directing the simple law to the requirements of the constitution.
The background to my interest is the legal practice of the Japanese Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has exercised its authority to review laws for their constitutionality and reject unconstitutional laws, but only very cautiously. However, the Supreme Court often resorts to constitutionally-conformant interpretation, which means constitutional law is more likely to be applied in the context of the interpretation and application of laws. Thus, constitutionally-conformant interpretation deserves attention, and it is important to understand how constitutional law works and should function at the level of the application of law.
From this perspective, the jurisprudence of the German specialized courts (Fachgerichte) appears to be a fruitful and instructive subject of research. In Germany, not only the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) but also the specialized courts apply constitutional norms in solving individual cases, with the constitutionally-conformant interpretation playing an important role. On the basis of the decisions of the specialized courts, I am endeavouring to ascertain how constitutional law in the context of the constitutionally-conformant interpretation functions in judicial jurisprudence. In addition, I am theoretically examining the possibilities and limits of such influences on the simple law by means of the “constitutionalization” (Konstitutionalisierung) of simple laws.
Why did you decide to conduct your research in Germany, and at Bucerius in particular?
From the beginning, Japanese law has been under the influence of various European and American laws, including German law. This is especially true of public law. In order to understand Japanese law properly and deeply, one should also look to German law. I was convinced that there was no better way to do this than by means of a research stay in Germany that would allow me to broaden and deepen my knowledge of German law.
My research stay at Bucerius came about through my supervisor, Professor Christian Bumke, who has published extensive work on my research topic. I got to know him during his research stay in Japan and garnered some important ideas for my research from talking to him. My personal relationship with him led to my decision to conduct research at Bucerius.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your stay at Bucerius, and what would you recommend to others who are thinking of applying for such a research stay?
During my stay, I found myself in the perfect place to carry out research, from both a personal and an academic standpoint. Bucerius has a cozy atmosphere and is located in a leafy central area. The university is set in beautiful and well-maintained grounds, and has an excellent library. It also boasts a beautiful cafeteria and café. In short, Bucerius has everything a researcher could possibly ask for in a university.
There are also very nice and smart people here. At the various lectures and seminars I attended, I met many wonderful students who contributed greatly to the quality of these events with their questions and answers. Everywhere at Bucerius you will find very pleasant and talented research assistants with whom to discuss various topics. I have received very important suggestions for my research work from the conversations I have had with them. The professors were also very personable and open-minded. They gave me useful advice and thereby broadened my research perspectives. Also, from an international point of view, I find the location of Bucerius really great. I worked in the visiting scholars’ room and got to know visiting scholars from many different countries (Austria, India, the Netherlands, Turkey, South Korea and Japan). In this way, I was exposed to a range of different cultures and ways of thinking. I have benefited greatly from all these interactions, and I would like to recommend all these aspects to those planning a research stay at Bucerius.
You spent two years in Germany. How did you feel about living here? What was the biggest challenge in settling in Hamburg?
I was fortunate enough to spend my time in the very cozy and fun atmosphere at Bucerius while in Hamburg, and I felt well-integrated in Germany during my stay. The Hamburg people I met were very nice and open, and were always very friendly to me. This applies not only to Bucerius, but also, for example, to my roommates and supermarket employees. In Hamburg, you can also enjoy delicious food and, above all, eat delicious fish – this was very important for me as a Japanese person. The city also offers many different cultural activities, as well as beautiful parks and nature trails.
The biggest challenge came from the linguistic side. The differences in grammar and pronunciation between German and Japanese are so great that, unfortunately, it took me a long time to have a conversation with my colleagues, and to understand what was being said in lectures and seminars. However, my colleagues and friends were always helpful and friendly, and taught me any German words or terms I needed to know. Thanks to their help, I was able to overcome my difficulties bit by bit and improve my German.
I would like to thank all the people who helped me with everyday life and with whom I had so much fun while I was here. But my heartfelt thanks go especially to my supervisor, his secretary, his research staff, the auxiliary staff and the visiting scholars, who were all so nice and friendly to me, and with whom I had such a wonderful time. Without them I would not have been able to leave Hamburg with warm and contented feelings that I could not have anticipated at the beginning of my stay two years ago. I would like to say to all of them, “Ich komm bald wieder!” (I’m coming back soon!)