Japan has recognized electronic signatures (or “eSignatures”) since 2000, with the passage of The Electronic Signatures and Certification Business Act. In most cases, eSignatures are granted the same legal weight as handwritten signatures.
Under Japanese law, a written signature is not required for a valid agreement or contract, unless the contract is subject to specific statutory form requirements. Thus, a contract is considered valid as long as the parties agree to its terms, whether they agree verbally, electronically, or using a physical paper document.
The eSignature laws in Japan recognize electronic signatures as a legitimate means of entering into an agreement or formalizing a contract.
As a close partner of the European Union, Japan has adopted the eSignature standards established under eIDAS regulations (EU Regulation No. 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market).
eIDAS defines three classes of eSignature:
- Simple electronic signatures (SES)
- Advanced electronic signatures (AES)
- Qualified electronic signatures (QES)
SES include any form of electronic signal associated with a natural person, including scanned or typed signatures. AES include data that is uniquely linked to the signer. QES are granted the same status as handwritten signatures, but they carry strict certification requirements.
Common eSignature use cases
Standard electronic signatures (SES) are legally valid and appropriate for most business and legal transactions in Japan. Common use cases include:
- HR documents such as benefits paperwork and new employee onboarding
- Commercial agreements including NDAs, sales agreements, and procurement documents
- Consumer agreements including new retail accounts
- Certain real estate documents such as purchase and sales contracts and lease agreements
- Agreements related to the transfer or assignment of intellectual property
Use cases where eSignature is not appropriate
Certain documents require a handwritten signature or formal notarization in Japan. These include:
- Voluntary guardianship contracts
- Testamentary documents
- Certain fixed-term real estate lease contracts
- Some government filings under a power of attorney
Technology standards in Japan
The requirements for digital signature technology vary significantly between countries. Japan follows a tiered eSignature model, which includes three classes of electronic signatures. The most secure—Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)—require independent accreditation by an approved certification body. The responsibility for accrediting QES vendors has been delegated to various government ministries.
The information on this site is for general reference and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be considered legal advice, nor should it be relied upon in any decision making process. Laws pertaining to electronic signatures vary by jurisdiction and may change quickly. Conga cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information on this site. Please consult with a licensed attorney, or other qualified counsel, for answers to any specific questions related to the use or validity of electronic signatures.
Last updated: 08/02/2021