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Supreme Court Decision

On April 21st, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Jinja Honchō’s appeal. The court refused to hear the appeal, saying that there were no grounds for it. Thus, the decision of the Tokyo High Court is now final.

To quickly recap (Jinja Shinpō gave a whole page of the May 2nd issue over to a recap), Mr Inë, a department head at Jinja Honchō, accused the President and some directors of corruption over a real estate deal. He was fired for disrupting the good order of Jinja Honchō and bringing both the organisation and its president into disrepute, and he sued, along with a colleague who was demoted, asking the court to confirm that his firing was null and void.

The Tokyo District Court agreed with him. It said that, although his actions were, on the surface, grounds for dismissal, he was covered by the whistleblowers’ protection law, and thus could not be fired. Jinja Honchō appealed to the High Court, which basically agreed with the District Court, only modifying a few points of detail. Jinja Honchō then appealed to the Supreme Court, and they have now had that appeal dismissed.

This is an important result for a couple of reasons. First, it was an important test of the whistleblower law, which is quite new. It establishes that whistleblowers are protected even if they are wrong, and there was no corruption or wrongdoing, even if they use defamatory language in their whistleblowing, and even if they try to conceal their identity. These are all, in my opinion, good things, making the law quite strong and effective, and it is good to have them confirmed all the way to the Supreme Court. This precedent is likely to be an important one, taught in courses on labour law until the underlying law is changed.

That, of course, is more than a little embarrassing for Jinja Honchō, and this is the second reason why the result is important. There has been substantial and sustained internal opposition to Jinja Honchō’s approach to the case from the beginning. Quite a lot of people called for a settlement of the initial case, and the final appeal to the Supreme Court was controversial even within the Board of Directors, with nine in favour and six against. It has been bad for the reputation of Jinja Honchō in general, and bad for harmony within the Shinto world. What is more, it has now been established that the President and Board of Directors acted illegally in dismissing Mr Inë.

With excellent timing, one of the two annual meetings of the Oversight Council will happen in a couple of weeks. I predict that at least one of two things will happen.

The President and many directors will resign.

There will be “lively discussions” and a “full and frank exchange of views”.

No doubt the events will be reported in Jinja Shinpō, so I will post about the consequences.

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4 thoughts on “Supreme Court Decision”

  1. Wow, looking forward to future updates on this. I hope this results in a stronger, honest leadership for a positive long-term benefit that outweigh the current embarrassment. I also wonder how this may impact you personally, if at all. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. The personal impact is likely to be minimal, and entirely dependent on the wider impact. Which is still unclear.

  2. Aloha David! Fascinating. Thank you. I am student of Japanese organizational change dynamics and have had the opportunity to help traditional Japanese organizations (marine construction/esl schools/sake breweries etc.)make some pretty dramatic changes which were necessary for their future sustainability. My guess is that this court decision will help move forward important changes within Jinja Honcho. Very interested in reading about these type of management challenges within the world of Shinto. Shinto seems, in my perspective, to have major challenges/opportunities to leverage their current resources to help many Shinto current and future supporters to receive many more benefits for all involved. Vision/benefits for all involved need to be repositioned/clarified I think. Not a Shinto expert but looking at this as a foreigner/outsider who has Japanese organizational change experience and thinks Shinto has an opportunity to help even more people, better. With Aloha; Grif Frost, Hilo, Hawaii. Home of the oldest Shinto Shrine outside of Japan.

    1. Grif,

      Thanks for the comment! You’ve got a rather different perspective from most people reading this blog, I think. I also think that you are probably right, and the editorial in this week’s Jinja Shinpō, which I will write about soon, backs you up. There are definitely people thinking about fundamental changes in the structure. Of course, they also want to avoid fundamental changes in the things that are “really important”, so I do not expect fast change by business standards.

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