Legal Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Comparison of Japan and the United States

Japan and the United States have taken distinct approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan has relied more on voluntary action by the public than on coercion to promote compliance with measures like vaccines and masking. The United States, by contrast, has increasingly relied on legal requirements at the federal and state/local levels for vaccination and masking (although these requirements have varied widely at the state/local levels). In the United States, legal mandates have generated political opposition and constitutional challenges. This presentation will compare the approaches taken by Japan and the United States. It will examine how each country utilizes its legal system to tackle a public health crisis like COVID-19 and also draw some broader comparisons between the two countries and their respective constitutions.